A Thoroughly Unorthodox Puttanesca

I have served this dish to people who would rather gargle with Drano than eat anchovies, and I have almost patently had positive results. The fish sauce is very salty, and you may not need to season the sauce any further. Although a true puttanesca would never be served with Parmigiano, my family prefers it. The choice is yours.

Serves4 to 6



Total TimeUnder One Hour


Type of DishPasta


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 20 Liguria or Kalamata olives, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 pound dried Italian spaghetti
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. In a sauté pan large enough to hold the spaghetti, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic is just golden. Pour the tomato liquid from the can into your pot, and then gradually crush the tomatoes, pouring more liquid into the pot as you go. Bring to a boil, immediately turn the heat to low, and simmer until the sauce has become somewhat concentrated, about 20 minutes. Add the olives, capers, and fish sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes.

  2. While the sauce is cooking, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt the water, add the spaghetti, and cook for 2 minutes less than the recommended time on the package. Drain the spaghetti thoroughly and add it to sauce. Raise the heat to medium, toss the pasta to coat, and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve with extra crushed red pepper and—only if you crave it—a grating of fresh Parmigiano. I said it was unorthodox.


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