Pasta puttanesca – the super simple recipe

Pasta puttanesca – the super simple recipe

While the real meaning of this dish’s name might be a bit questionable – “spaghetti alla puttanesca” is Italian for something like “spaghetti – whore style” – this is a dish that is environmentally friendly, but carries lots and lots of taste.

Okay, first a few words about the name and meaning. Sure, the literal meaning of puttanesca really is “in the style of a whore“. But the practical use of the word puttana is less offensive for the Italians. In Italy Puttana is used as the word “shit” in English, and the origin of the name of this specific dish might be more like “Pasta made of shit from my cupboard”. Don’t get us wrong – we are Swedes, not Italians – this is all according to this Slate article.

Plant based, with the addition of a tiny fish

So what makes this iconic pasta sauce suitable in a flexitarian’s repertoire? Well, first of all it is plant based, more specifically tomato based. The real taste enhancer  though is an animal, but one of the most environmentally safe animals to eat: anchovies. Sprat, herring, sardelle, whatever name you choose for this little fish, there is no shortage of it in our oceans, and the amount of fish per portion is very low.

In this case we are more concerned about the cheese. We chose to use both parmesan and mozzarella. These kinds of hard cheese types demands a large amount of milk, which is far from optimal, but significantly better than a meat based pasta sauce.

The anchovies together with the tomatoes and roasted garlic contributes to a high level of umami. Umami is called the fifth basic taste, together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness. Meat is often an excellent umami source. However, this dish is an example of almost vegetarian food with a lot of savory umami.

Pasta puttanesca - The Flexitarians
Pasta puttanesca – a lot of taste with very little animal.

The Recipe

Pasta puttanesca
Total Time
30 mins

A quick and simpla pasta dish with a lot of umami taste.

Servings: 6
  • 500 g pasta farfalle or any pasta of taste
  • 800 g preserved tomatoes
  • 1 can anchovies
  • 0,5 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white whine
  • 250 g mozzarella
  • 50 g parmesan
  • 3 tbsp capers
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 0,5 chili pepper
  1. Boil the pasta according to the instructions on the package.

  2. Heat up olive oil in a skillet.

  3. Add the anchovies to the hot oil and let the filets melt in the oil, while stirring.

  4. Chop the garlic cloves and add them to the skillet. Let them roast but not burn.

  5. Add one can of preserved tomatoes and white whine and stir.

  6. When the pasta is ready, add it to the sauce and coat the pasta completely.

  7. Tear the mozzarella down in chunks into the pan. Stir gently and let the cheese melt.

  8. Shave down the parmesan on top of it all. 

  9. Serve with sprinkled capers.

What to drink to Pasta puttanesca

The dish is rich in flavor with umami and acid from the tomatoes and saltiness from the capers and anchovies. This is best balanced by a fruity white wine, since a red can easily be too harsh.

A basic tip when matching wine and food is to choose a wine from the same country and preferably the region from which the dish originates from. The wines are often prepared to suit the local food.

The wine suggestion for this dish therefore comes from Italy and preferably from the area around Naples.

Three white wines:

  • Fortezza, Falanghina del Sannio, 2016
  • Corváia, Pinot Grigio, 2016
  • Lovine, Greco di tofu, 2017


  • Leitz eins zwei zero, Riesling.

If you still want to try a red wine, we recommend a medium-rich berry wine without too much harshness, such as a wine of the grape Barbera or Primitivo.

Pasta puttanesca - The Flexitarians

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