Indulge in the savoury flavours of our Vegetarian Puttanesca Pasta, a culinary masterpiece that combines the tangy goodness of capers, pungent garlic, and salty olives in a rich tomato sauce. The result is a quick and easy pasta dish that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more! Ready in just 25 minutes, this recipe is perfect for those who want to enjoy a delicious meal without sacrificing their precious time. Try our Pasta with Olives and Capers today and discover a whole new world of flavour! Simply a great recipe for busy days!
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What Is Pasta Puttanesca?
Pasta Puttanesca is a classic Italian pasta dish known for its bold and flavoursome ingredients. The dish typically consists of spaghetti or linguine tossed in a tomato-based sauce made with olives, capers, garlic, red pepper flakes (chilli flakes) and often anchovies. The combination of these ingredients creates a savoury and slightly spicy flavour that is both robust and satisfying. This dish is a popular choice for those looking for a quick and easy meal that is full of flavour.
Why Is It Called Puttanesca?
The exact origin of the name “Puttanesca” is somewhat debated, but one theory is that it is named after the Italian word “puttana,” which translates to “prostitute” in English. According to legend, the dish was a favourite of Italian ladies of the night who would quickly prepare it between clients. Another theory suggests that the dish’s pungent aroma may have attracted customers to the prostitutes’ establishments. While the origin story may be unclear, what is certain is that Pasta Puttanesca is a delicious and popular Italian dish enjoyed by many around the world.
Ingredients and Substitutes
Just a few simple ingredients are required to make this delicious Italian classic dish.
- garlic: we don’t recommend using garlic powder in this recipe. Fresh garlic works best.
- chilli flakes: chili flakes can be replaced with fresh red chilli pepper. If you don’t like things too spicy, discard of the seeds first.
- capers: with 2 tbsps of caper brine. The briny flavor does wonders for the sauce and also acts as seasoning.
- olives: we use everyday pitted black olives, but Kalamata olives or green olives will work in this recipe too.
- tomato paste: also known as concentrated tomato puree.
- tinned chopped tomatoes: we use a 100g tin to serve two.
- tenderstem broccoli (broccolini): also known as long-stem broccoli or baby broccoli in some parts of the world.
- pasta: long thin noodle-type pasta works best, but it can also be made with other types of pasta, like penne or rigatoni.
- lemon: juice only. We always recommend, freshly squeezed.
- parmesan: can be replaced with other hard Italian cheese, like Pecorino Romano or Padana Grano.
- fresh parsley: can be replaced with fresh basil.
Adjustments For Dietary Requirements
- PLANT-BASED: choose eggless pasta. As this recipe uses a vegan puttanesca pasta sauce, you can simply substitute the parmesan cheese with some delicious nutritional yeast for a vegan version! We love Engevita Yeast Flakes. Alternatively, use vegan parmesan.
- DAIRY-FREE: Similar to a vegan option, replace cheese with a dairy-free alternative in this vegetarian spaghetti alla puttanesca recipe.
- GLUTEN-FREE: This recipe works very well with gluten-free spaghetti (we like Rummo gluten-free pasta). For a lighter meal, you may use zucchini noodles (spiralised courgette) too.
Start by making a vegetarian puttanesca sauce. In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil. Tip in the garlic, chilli flakes, capers with brine, sliced black olives and a pinch of salt. Fry for 2 minutes on low heat. Add the tomato paste and chopped tinned tomatoes. Stir and leave to simmer on medium-low heat and reduce for 10 minutes.
If you reduce your sauce too much, just add a splash of starchy pasta water. Once the sauce is cooked, taste it and season it with salt and black pepper, if needed.
In the meantime, cook your pasta following the instructions on the packet, making sure to cook your pasta al dente (more tips on al dente pasta below).
As your pasta cooks, cut your tenderstem broccoli into thin long strips (resembling the long pasta shapes).
When the pasta is about 2 minutes away from being cooked, tip the broccoli strips into the pasta pan, cover with a lid and leave to cook for 2 minutes.
Drain the cooked pasta and broccoli and tip them into the puttanesca sauce and toss to combine. Finally, stir in the lemon juice and parsley.
Divide the pasta between bowls and scatter the grated parmesan on top.
Watch How To Make It
How To Cook Pasta Al Dente?
“Al dente” is an Italian term that translates to “to the tooth” in English. When used to describe pasta, it means that the pasta is cooked to be firm but not hard, with a slight resistance to the bite. Al dente pasta is not mushy or overcooked but still has a pleasing texture that enhances the overall dish. Achieving the perfect al dente texture can be a bit tricky, but it is important to get it right because overcooked or undercooked pasta can ruin the flavour and texture of the dish.
- Use a large pot of salted water: Using a large pan of water will ensure your pasta has space to cook evenly, and the noodles don’t stick to each other.
- Follow the cooking time on the package: Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions, but start checking for doneness a minute or two before the suggested cooking time.
- Stir the pasta often (especially at the beginning of the cooking process) to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other.
- Don’t rinse the pasta: Once the spaghetti is cooked, don’t rinse it with water. Do not add any oil either. This will remove the starch that helps the sauce adhere to the pasta.
Other Recipe FAQs
There are several pasta shapes that work well with Pasta alla Puttanesca, but the most traditional and popular choice is spaghetti. However, other long, thin pasta shapes like linguine, tagliatelle or bucatini also work well. The reason for this is that the tomato sauce with olives and capers can easily coat and cling to these types of pasta shapes, creating a delicious combination of flavours in every bite.
Additionally, short pasta shapes like penne or fusilli can also be used and work well in absorbing the flavours of the sauce. Ultimately, the choice of pasta shape depends on personal preference, but any pasta shape that can hold the sauce and add to the overall flavour of the dish would work.
For the sauce to stick to your pasta, it needs to have a starchy coating. If you are rinsing your pasta before cooking, it will remove the starchy coating and your sauce will slip off. Another reason could be adding oil to your pasta before you coat it in the Puttanesca sauce. We only recommend adding oil, if you cooked your pasta too early and don’t want the noodles to stick to each other.
What To Serve With Pasta Puttanesca?
This Pasta with Olives and Capers is a flavorful and hearty dish that can be paired with a variety of side dishes to create a complete meal. Here are some ideas for what to serve with Vegetarian Pasta Puttanesca:
- Garlic Bread: Serve some garlic bread on the side to soak up the delicious sauce.
- Salad: A simple green salad with a light dressing can be a refreshing complement to the bold flavours of the pasta. We love Courgette Ribbon Salad with it.
- Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables such as zucchini, aubergine, bell peppers or roasted cherry tomatoes can add some texture and variety to the meal.
- Antipasto Platter: An antipasto platter with cured meats, cheeses, and olives can be a great way to start the meal and add some additional flavours and textures.
- Grilled or Roasted Protein: Grilled or roasted chicken, shrimp, or tofu can be a great source of protein and add some variety to the meal.
- Wine: Pair the meal with a nice glass of red wine such as Chianti, which pairs well with tomato-based dishes like Pasta Puttanesca.
Storage & Reheating
Allow the pasta to cool to room temperature before storing it in an airtight container. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat leftover Pasta Puttanesca, place it in a microwave-safe dish and cover it with a microwave-safe lid to prevent it from drying out. Heat it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until it is heated through, stirring halfway through to ensure even heating. You can also reheat the pasta in a saucepan over medium heat, adding a bit of water or broth to prevent it from drying out. Stir frequently until the pasta is heated through. Avoid overcooking the pasta during reheating as this can cause it to become mushy or lose its al dente texture.
Other Tomato-Based Pasta Recipes
If you are looking for more delicious dinner recipes, similar to spaghetti puttanesca that the whole family will enjoy, try some of the following recipes:
Vegetarian Puttanesca (Pasta With Olives and Capers)
- 2 large garlic cloves crushed or finely chopped
- ½ red chilli pepper or ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
- 2 tablespoon capers with 2 tbsps of caper brine
- 10 black olives pitted, sliced into rounds
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (puree)
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
- 120 g tenderstem broccoli sliced into long thin strips
- 170 g spaghetti
- ¼ lemon juice only
- 20 g parmesan finely grated
- a handful or parsley, chopped optional
- Start by making a vegetarian puttanesca sauce. In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil. Tip in the garlic, chilli flakes, capers with brine, sliced black olives and a pinch of salt. Fry for 2 minutes on low heat. Add the tomato paste and chopped tinned tomatoes. Stir and leave to simmer on medium-low heat and reduce for 10 minutes. If you reduce your sauce too much, just add a splash of starchy pasta water. Once the sauce is cooked, taste it and season it with salt and black pepper, if needed.
- In the meantime, cook your pasta following the instructions on the packet, making sure to cook your pasta al dente (more tips on al dente pasta in the text above).
- As your pasta cooks, cut your tenderstem broccoli into thin long strips (resembling the long pasta shapes).
- When the pasta is about 2 minutes away from being cooked, tip the broccoli strips into the pasta pan, cover with a lid and leave to cook for 2 minutes.
- Drain the cooked pasta and broccoli and tip them into the puttanesca sauce and toss to combine. Finally, stir in the lemon juice and parsley.
- Divide the pasta between bowls and scatter the grated parmesan on top.