In Italian, the word puttana literally means whore. The origins of puttanesca sauce are debatable. Historians cannot quite agree if the sauce had its spicy beginnings in the Spanish brothels (due to its name) or accidentally invented one night at Ischia restaurant in the 1950s. Either way, I like to call this sauce a hot mess. It is messy looking, delicious, and spicy. But, the best part: IT IS SUPER EASY to make! The sauce can be made in about 20-30 minutes.
There are a few basic ingredients common to all the variations of puttanesca; tomatoes, olives, garlic, chili peppers or flakes, and capers. In Lazio, Italy the sauce contains anchovies, in Sicily raisins are sometimes added, and the herbs often vary. When we make puttanesca, we like to add shallots, oregano, and basil to the basic ingredients. I love using fresh cherry tomatoes, but when they are not in season tinned Italian tomatoes are a great substitute. Puttanesca can be served over any type of pasta. Sometimes, we substitute oven roasted baby potatoes for the pasta. (I prefer the baby ones because they don’t need to be peeled!) Simply cut the baby potatoes into quarters, toss with olive oil, sea salt, and minced garlic and roast at 400 degrees F while the sauce is simmering.
Easy ingredients for the sauce!
A Hot Mess: Puttanesca Sauce
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 shallots minced
- 1 tbsp olive or vegetable broth
- 1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste
- 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or calabrian chilies to taste
- 2 cups fresh cherry tomatoes (or 28 oz canned)
- 1 700 gram jar of passata (strained tomatoes or pizza sauce without herbs)
- 1/2 cup mixed pitted olives chopped
- 2 tbsp capers drained
- 2 tsp basil
- 2 tsp oregano
- Heat oil or broth in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add garlic, shallots, 1/4 tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes. Cook 2 minutes.
- Add cherry tomatoes and cook 5 minutes or until they burst.
- Add passata, olives, capers, basil, and oregano.
- Simmer on low for 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.