This spicy pasta puttanesca comes together lightning fast with just a handful of ingredients. An intensely flavorful vegan dinner that tastes like it came from a restaurant, and is easy enough for a weeknight!
Pasta puttanesca is one of my favorite pasta dishes. It has so much going for it! I mean, it’s pasta. That alone scores big points. And it’s got tomato sauce. Plain old pasta with tomato sauce is plenty to keep me happy. But then you’ve got lots of punch flavor additions to make a super zesty, flavor-packed sauce!
What is Puttanesca Sauce?
Okay, this is where it gets awkward. “Puttanesca” literally translates to “prostitute.” There are various theories as to how it got that name.
Whatever the case, it’s delicious! Think of puttanesca as a light tomato-based sauce, with a few extra ingredients for amazing flavor:
- Garlic. Extra garlic is always a good thing if you ask me!
- Olives. Traditional puttanesca sauce uses Gaeta olives, but I substituted Kalamata, simply because they’re way easier to find.
- Capers. For even more salty, zesty flavor.
- Red pepper flakes. Puttanesca sauce packs a nice kick, thanks to these.
- Fresh basil. For a delicious finish.
How to Make Pasta Puttanesca
Start by heating up some olive oil in a large pot. Add your garlic and let it cook for just a minute. Be careful! Garlic will burn very quickly, so be sure to stir it continuously and watch it closely.
Now add some tomatoes (crushed and diced), olives, capers, and red pepper flakes.
Bring the sauce up to a simmer and let it cook for just 10 minutes. Fresh basil goes in last, followed by a bit of salt and pepper.
Ladle your sauce over pasta and dig in!
Pasta Puttanesca Tips & FAQ
- Can this dish be made gluten-free? Yup! Just use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
- Is puttanesca sauce spicy? It has a bit of a kick, thanks to the red pepper flakes. For a milder version, leave them out.
- Leftover storage: I recommend storing the pasta and sauce separately, if possible. Each should be good in a sealed container in the fridge for about 3 days. The sauce is also freezer-friendly.
- Vegan Parmesan cheese makes a great topper for this dish.
- If you love this recipe, try my vegan polenta puttanesca. The sauce is almost exactly the same, but instead of pasta it’s served over slabs of pan-fried polenta with dairy-free ricotta!
Weeknight Pasta Puttanesca
This spicy pasta puttanesca comes together lightning fast with just a handful of ingredients. Tastes like it came from a restaurant, and easy enough for a weeknight!
- 1 pound dried linguine pasta (or another variety of dried pasta)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a dash
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28 ounce or 800 gram) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14 ounce or 400 gram) can diced tomatoes
- 3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- Salt, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions. Drain the pasta into a colander, return it to the pot, and toss it with a dash of olive oil.
While the pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a large pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place it over medium heat.
When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook it for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, until very fragrant.
Stir in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes.
Raise the heat and bring the sauce to a boil. Lower the heat and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens up a bit.
Remove the pot from heat and season with black pepper and salt to taste. Stir in the basil.
Ladle the sauce over the pasta and toss. Divide onto plates and serve.