Linguine Puttanesca

Some nights a light, refreshing pasta dish is in order. Not tonight. Tonight I wanted something with punch and twang. I wanted capers, I wanted anchovies, I wanted olives – I wanted Puttanesca.

The anchovies and olives will add the salt to this sauce – the capers are pivotal – the piquant edge they add to the rich sauce is sublime.

Here’s what you’ll need

  • 8 anchovies – I used a can of anchovies in olive oil – this is fine for this dish but make sure you use the olive oil they are stored in
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced – I like this dish when I can see the garlic slices
  • 1 handful of black olives, chopped in half
  • 1 handful of capers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes – you can use fresh tomatoes if you like but really, with this dish a good quality can of tomatoes is more authentic (and better in my opinion)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Linguine.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, chilli and anchovies. Keep the oil on a medium heat – the garlic should cook and the anchovies should break down but the garlic should not brown. After a couple of minutes, add the tomato. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes and then start to cook your pasta.

I prefer dried pasta with this dish as it will have more bite. Cook the pasta in a large pan in a rolling boil with a decent twist of salt. If you want to add a splash of olive oil to the pasta by all means do so if you want to waste perfectly good oil – I really don’t see what adding oil to cooking pasta achieves. The oil will float on the surface and do nothing for the pasta. As long as you mix your pasta and sauce quickly enough, your pasta wont stick.

Cook your pasta until it’s just about done – it should seem slightly underdone bearing in mind it will continue to cook after you take it out of the water and add the sauce.

Add the olives and capers to the sauce and stir in. Now add the sauce to the pasta and mix.

Serve in bowls with a splash of decent quality extra virgin olive oil.

I don’t even bother with salt or pepper in this dish as the ingredients are full of flavour.

It doesn’t need cheese grating on it and I don’t think herbs add anything to it – this is a big, full-flavoured dish. Don’t try to refine it.

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By John Loydall


  • Oli says:

    Hi John,

    I’ve been looking through your recipes and I must say you have a beautifully presented blog. Clean and simple, all about the food. And your photography is outstanding. Do you do it yourself and if so what camera/lens do you use? Photographing food well is something I’d love to be able to do!

    Keep up the good work!

  • John L says:

    Hi Oli – thanks for the kind words. Yes, the photography is mine – I use a 5d MKII and just 2 lenses – the Zeiss 100mm makro planar and the Zeiss 35mm f/2. One of the reasons I set this blog up is to improve my food photography so I’m still learning. The only advice I can offer is – get your white balance right – you see so many food shots that have that orange tinge from normal ceiling lights – always looks bad. I normally try to shoot in natural light – normally a window light which is fairly diffused and then I use a reflector to fill from the other side.. Either that or I shoot outside when we have a decent cloud cover or I shoot in the shade. If you’re interested I have a photography site here:

    Thanks again.

  • Samantha says:

    This dish seems to be the perfect way to try out olives, anchovies and capers… all at the same time! Now I’m really curious to see how they go together…

    • John L says:

      Thanks Samantha – it’s a good old, rustic dish with loads of flavour – it’s not subtle.

      I also like to use this type of sauce on home-made pizza (with an ultra-thin base).

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