Summer Puttanesca

Puttanesca Sauce - This is a quick but very flavorful puttanesca sauce made with fresh summer tomatoes, olives, and capers! Ready in about 30 minutes!


Summer Puttanesca

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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. This Puttanesca 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!

Summer Puttanesca

Serves 4
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This is a quick but very flavorful puttanesca sauce made with fresh summer tomatoes, olives, and capers! Ready in about 30 minutes!

Recipe adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe.


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


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!

Puttanesca Sauce

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 in this Puttanesca Sauce.

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! Puttanesca Sauce
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 for Puttanesca Sauce
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 Puttanesca 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 - Puttanesca Sauce
Adding tomato

The Add-ins

This Puttanesca 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 with our Puttanesca Sauce
Pasta tossed.

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

Finished business. Puttanesca Sauce from Macheesmo
Finished business.

For the time it takes to make, this Puttanesca Sauce is really flavorful and wonderful.

Are you a puttanesca fan? Leave a comment!

10 Responses to “Summer Puttanesca” Leave a comment

  1. I love Puttanesca myself. I learned Puttanesca in a more simpler fashion. Wash the olives and capers, and slice the tomatoes. (I sometimes use sliced sundried tomatoes instead.)

    Sweat butter, olive oil, garlic, crushed chili, and anchovy paste. When the garlic is golden, add the pitted olives, capers and tomato slices. Simmer the sauce for a few seconds, stirring over high heat. Cover pasta with the sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Mix and serve hot.

    This way I can have the Puttanesca on the table in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta. In the case of spaghetti, that’s 11 minutes.

      1. I was taught to do it so long ago. Ha Ha. I believe you wash the brine off the two so you can control the salt in the sauce. Each brand of capers and olives is packed differently, so there is no way to tell if an otherwise good sauce would be ruined by the brine left on the capers and olives.
        Hope that helps!

  2. Made this tonight – it was seriously tasty, thanks so much! (I deliberately made your “mistake,” too lazy for straining, etc.)

  3. Very clear recipe! We made the Cook’s Illustrated recipe which wasn’t clear (to us) about using a separate bowl for garlic, olive oil and anchovy paste so ended up having those ingredients in the drained liquid from the tomatoes. Another “mistake” that turned out great! We had it all raw, and if ya love garlic, it was terrific. Then made it again keeping ingredients separate, warming up garlic, olive oil, etc.

    Third time tonite should be the charm!

  4. I orignially made this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated early September, and I was thrilled as the only delicious Puttanesca I had ever eaten was at Bricco’s in NYC. I was astounded at how delicious my first turn was at making this famous pasta dish. Somehow after several attempts looking for the “torn-out” pages of Cook’s Illustrated Puttanesca recipe I looked for it again this afternoon, and finally just went on-line and searched for it!

    Can’t tell you how happy I was to find it, and tonight, we had the BEST Puttanesca pasta I’ve evern eaten! Thank you so much! By the way, I use spaghetti instead of rigatoni. I used the blender and strainer for the tomatoes, but I did this two days ago putting the tomato juice and pulp in separate covered containers in the fridge for today’s continued use of receipe. Made everything go so much more quickly and efficiently as a result!

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