Pasta Puttanesca: Good Girls Guide to Bad Pasta

And no. I don’t mean sticky, gluey, undercooked, overcooked or otherwise inedible pasta. I mean bad pasta. As in “lady of the night” bad. Whore bad. Hooker bad.

Or as we they say in Italy … Puttana bad.

Yep. That’s right. One of Italy’s most famous pasta sauces gets its name from the run-around wife who, according to one of our Roman friends, would rush home after an elicit love affair and whip up an easy pasta sauce for her husband and children.

Sound crazy?

Well it might be. I tried to confirm the origins of this sauce with another Roman friend who said the name derived from the 1950’s when whore houses were a big business and a brothel’s madam would entice customers to their house with the promise of dinner … then dessert.

Diane Seed confirms this theory in her book Top 100 Pasta Sauces when she writes that “Italian housewives usually shop at the market every day to buy fresh food, but the (brothel employees) were only allowed one day a week for shopping, and their time was valuable. Their specialty became a sauce made quickly from odds and ends.”

Ahhh … Italians.

Well, even if you are a good girl, you can spice things up and make Pasta Puttanesca tonight for your friends, your husband … or your lover.

Here’s the deal.

(Serves two)
>> 1/2 pound of pasta
>> 1/4 cup of black olives
>> 1 tablespoon of capers
>> 1 large can of tomato sauce
>> Olive oil
>> Garlic


1. Boil pasta in salted water.

2. Lightly saute garlic in olive oil, then add tomato sauce and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Add chopped olives and capers (unless you are lazy like me-then you can just toss them in) and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

4. Add to pasta and serve without cheese.

* The original recipe calls for anchovies (1-3) but since I’m not a fan, I always omit them. If you like, grind them with your fork and add them to the olive oil before you add the tomato sauce.

Buon Appetito!

4 Responses
  1. joanne at frutto della passione

    Great story, I didn’t know the origins of the name!
    Funny, huh?
    .-= joanne at frutto della passione´s last blog ..Expats say the darndest things =-.

  2. I didn’t know the origin either, we love this dish, so simple, so tasty..

    We love all the ingredients, including anchovies…I always have all this in my cupboard..just in case !!
    Isn’t it a funny origin, either way? It was so obvious, yet I never thought of it!
    .-= Anne´s last blog ..Poppy….. =-.

  3. the anchovies “sotto sale” are THE BEST. You have to clean them but it takes a second. you only use one or two–it’s totally worth it. and when you melt them in the oil it just adds that little something…

    as for the origins of the name, jeremy (my fiance’) wrote this post a couple of years ago that suggest they may be quite different than we all commonly believe:

    who knew?

    Ahh, interesting. The world may *never* know! 🙂 Thanks for sharing his post.

    .-= tracie b´s last blog ..Vino in Dialetto, Vino in Poesia =-.

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