Confident home cooking
Economical, Main Dishes, Pasta, Quick and Easy

Summer Puttanesca

by Nick

Let it be known! The Internet (or at least this corner of it) is not completely obsessed with cheese. At least I can assume that’s why the grilled cheese didn’t win the poll last week. You lovely readers went for a much more practical quick pasta sauce that was super easy to make and really flavorful.

I kind of messed up the sauce on this pasta from what the original directions were, but it turned out fine. The sauce gets a lot of flavor from chopped olives and capers and you can serve it with lots of different pastas. The original was served with campanelle, but I served it with rigatoni.

For about thirty minutes of work, this pasta is a fantastic weeknight meal!

Serves 4.
Prep Time
Total Time
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Summer Puttanesca

Summer Puttanesca


  • 1 pound rigatoni (or campanelle)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Fresh parsley, garnish

Helpful Equipment


1) Wash tomatoes and add them to the blender. Pulse until they are finely chopped but not pureed completely. Transfer the tomatoes to a mesh strainer and let drain for about five minutes. Use a spatula to press out as much liquid as possible.

2) In a small bowl, stir together minced garlic, anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, oregano, olive oil, and a pinch of salt.

3) In a large skillet or pan, add garlic mixture over medium heat and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Then add tomato juice and simmer until juice is cooked down. Then add tomato pulp and stir to combine.

4) Cook pasta according to package and reserve a cup of pasta water.

5) To finish sauce, fold in olives and capers. Toss sauce with drained pasta.

6) Season pasta with pepper (it probably won't need any salt). Garnish with parsley and Parmesan and serve immediately!

Recipe adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe.

Making the Sauce

Since tomatoes are in super-season at the moment, I highly recommend using fresh ones. To be honest, since the recipe calls for cherry or grape tomatoes you can probably use fresh at most points in the year since they are normally available.

If you can’t find any though, feel free to use a 28-ounce can of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. That would work just fine as well.

If you do use fresh cherry tomatoes though, just wash them and add them to a blender. Pulse them until they are finely diced, but try to stop before they are in a complete puree. I went a little to far…

Tomatoes blended...

Tomatoes blended…

Add the blended tomatoes to a mesh strainer and let them drain to separate the tomato juice and pulp. Because I over-blended mine, mine never actually separated. I basically made tomato sauce.

I wasn’t going to start over so I just used this and it worked out okay.

Overprocessed a bit!

Overprocessed a bit!

One of the things about a puttanesca sauce is that it has a lot of savory flavors. Even though it’s otherwise vegetarian, a good dollop of anchovy paste completely changes the flavor of the sauce. It makes it really deep and interesting. I don’t recommend leaving it out even if you don’t like anchovies. You can’t really taste the anchovies specifically, they just make the sauce really salty and flavorful.

Making the base...

Making the base…

In a small bowl, stir together the oil, garlic, spices, and anchovy paste. This is the base for the sauce and it brings some serious flavor to the party.

A worm of anchovy.

A worm of anchovy.

To start the sauce, add the garlic mixture to a medium-large skillet or pan over medium heat and cook for a few minutes until the mixture is fragrant. Then add in the tomato juice from the drained tomatoes and continue to cook down.

If you’re me and over-blended your tomatoes, you can just add all your tomatoes now.

Cookin' the garlic!

Cookin’ the garlic!

Ideally, you would add the tomato juice and tomato pulp separately, but what I did seemed to work okay also.

Adding tomato

Adding tomato

The Add-ins

The sauce is really savory as-is, but we are going to add even more savory ingredients to it to give it some body. Capers and olives does the trick.

If you aren’t a caper or olive fan, you can actually leave these out and the sauce is still really good, but simpler. Betsy doesn’t love olives or capers so I left them out for her and her version was still good.

The best add-ins.

The best add-ins.

Assuming you like olives and capers though, add them to your sauce and cook for a minute or two and then toss in your cooked pasta!

As your pasta cooks, reserve about a cup of the cooking water. If the sauce is too thick at the end, pour in a bit of salty pasta cooking water which will thin out the sauce some. I had to add about 1/4 cup to mine to get the sauce to the right consistency.

Pasta tossed.

Pasta tossed.

Serve this up as soon as you can garnished with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese!

Finished business.

Finished business.

For the time it takes to make, this is a really flavorful and wonderful sauce.

Are you a puttanesca fan? Leave a comment!