Spaghetti alla puttanesca

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Spaghetti alla puttanesca
Pasta Puttanesca.jpg
spaghetti alla puttanesca
Alternative namespasta alla puttanesca, pasta puttanesca
Place of originItaly
Region or stateCampania
Created bySandro Petti (some dispute this)
Inventedmid 20th century
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsSpaghetti, tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, and anchovies (in Lazio).
Variationsspaghetti alla puttanesca with tuna

Spaghetti alla puttanesca (pronounced [spaˈɡetti alla puttaˈneska]; "spaghetti in the style of a prostitute" in Italian) is an Italian pasta dish invented in Naples in the mid-20th century. Its ingredients typically include tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, capers and garlic, in addition to pasta.[1]


Various accounts exist as to when and how the dish originated, but it probably dates to the mid-twentieth century. The earliest known mention of it is in Raffaele La Capria’s Ferito a Morte (Mortal Wound), a 1961 Italian novel which mentions "spaghetti alla puttanesca come li fanno a Siracusa (spaghetti alla puttanesca as they make it in Syracuse)".[2] The sauce became popular in the 1960s, according to the Professional Union of Italian Pasta Makers.[3]

The 1971 edition of the Cucchiaio d’argento (The Silver Spoon), one of Italy's most prominent cookbooks, has no recipe with this name, but two which are similar: The Neapolitan spaghetti alla partenopea, is made with anchovies and generous quantities of oregano; while spaghetti alla siciliana is distinguished by the addition of green peppers. Still again there is a Sicilian style popular around Palermo that includes olives, anchovies and raisins.[4]

In a 2005 article from Il Golfo—a daily newspaper serving the Italian islands of Ischia and Procida—Annarita Cuomo asserted that sugo alla puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot.[5] According to Cuomo, Petti's moment of inspiration came when—near closing one evening—Petti found a group of customers sitting at one of his tables. He was low on ingredients and told them he didn't have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry. "Facci una puttanata qualsiasi," or "throw together whatever," they insisted.a[›] Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers—the basic ingredients for the sugo, “So I used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti,” Petti told Cuomo. Later, Petti included this dish on his menu as spaghetti alla puttanesca. A general theme regarding this sauce is that it can be made quickly, in between other obligations. Hence the prostitute allusion.

Basic recipe[edit]

The sauce alone is called sugo alla puttanesca in Italian. Recipes may differ according to preferences; for instance, the Neapolitan version is prepared without anchovies, unlike the version popular in Lazio. Spices are sometimes added. In most cases, however, the sugo is a little salty (from the capers, olives, and anchovies) and quite fragrant (from the garlic). Traditionally, the sauce is served with spaghetti, although it is also paired with penne, bucatini, linguine and vermicelli.

Garlic and anchovies (omitted in the Neapolitan version) are sautéed in olive oil. Chopped chili peppers, olives, capers, diced tomatoes and oregano are added along with salt and black pepper to taste. The cook then reduces this mixture by simmering and pours it over spaghetti cooked al dente. The final touch is a topping of parsley.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

The dish is featured in The Bad Beginning from the novel series Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events as the dish the Baudelaire children prepare at Count Olaf's house. The dish also features prominently in the movie based on the novels, as well as the Netflix original series. Count Olaf is very upset that they had not prepared roast beef for him instead.[7]

It is also featured in the fourth part of the manga/anime series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Diamond is Unbreakable. In the "Let's Go Out for Italian" arc, the characters Josuke Higashikata and Okuyasu Nijimura visit a restaurant ran by head chef/owner Tonio Trussardi, the latter of whom is served the dish as his pasta course. Due to the remedial powers of Tonio's Stand, Pearl Jam, eating the pasta causes Okuyasu's body to reject two of his rotten teeth from his mouth, which are then replaced by two new ones.

Also in the movie "Rango," Johnny Depp's character is talking to Bean about her name and she says, "My daddy liked baked beans" to which he says, "Well I like a hearty puttanesca, but I don't think you'd appreciate the moniker!"

See also[edit]


^ a: In this usage, puttanata is an Italian noun meaning something worthless. It derives from the Italian word for whore, puttana.


  1. ^ Zanini De Vita & Fant 2013, p. 68.
  2. ^ The dictionary entry is cited in Jeremy Parzen, ‘The origins of Sugo alla puttanesca?’, Do Bianchi, 13 January 2008, an article which supplied a number of the sources used here.
  3. ^ ‘Sughi d’Italia: 1000 anni di pasta, 1000 anni di condimenti’ Archived 23 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Unione Industriali Pastai Italiani
  4. ^ Il nuovissimo cucchiaio d’argento, ed. by Antonia Monti Tedeschi, 6th edn (Editoriale Domus, 1971), pp. 220–221
  5. ^ Annarita Cuomo (17 February 2005). ‘Il sugo “alla puttanesca” nacque per caso ad Ischia, dall'estro culinario di Sandro Petti’. Il Golfo. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014
  6. ^ Recipe on the site for the Accademia Italiana della Cucina Archived 7 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Lemony, Snicket. The Bad Beginning. Helquist, Brett, (1st ed.). New York. pp. 41–46. ISBN 0060283122. OCLC 41070636.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)