When researching this classic Italian dish, I learned that "puttana" means lady of the evening. And this quick-to-prepare and quick-to-eat dish is the one she would use to seduce her clients. The sauce is chunky, bold, and dramatic, as you might expect.


12 ounces spaghetti

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (reserve the juice)

¼ c. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tbsp. minced fresh basil, or 1 tsp. dried

2 tsp. minced fresh oregano, or ½ tsp dried

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

1/3 c. sliced Kalamata olives (about 12 pitted olives)

1 tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed

¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper, or to taste

1/8 tsp. salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese or crumbled feta cheese for garnish


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat; add salt, then the spaghetti. When the water returns to a boil, stir occasionally to separate the spaghetti. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package instructions, until the noodles are al dente.

While the spaghetti is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes with juice, parsley, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low; stir in the remaining ingredients.

When the spaghetti is done, drain well; return to the pot. Add the tomato sauce and toss over medium heat just until heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Advance Preparation

Covered and refrigerated, the sauce will keep for up to 2 days. Reheat and toss with hot freshly cooked spaghetti.

YIELD: 4 servings