It’s embarrassing to admit that I first heard of Pasta Puttanesca in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events over 15 years ago. The movie shows orphan children making Pasta Puttanesca from random items they find in their kitchen. This includes pasta pieces left behind in a messy, unorganized kitchen drawer. It still looked great, and I wanted to make it. After reading a bit about this classic Italian dish, I loved the story and had to try it out for my blog.


Pasta Puttanesca means “whore’s spaghetti.” Because it is delicious and inexpensive… I am kidding. This simple dish is believed to have been a favourite of those who lived on the streets and had to work. It uses ingredients that were cheap and readily available in Italy in those days, such as tomatoes, olives, anchovies and pasta. You can learn more about the history and uses of pasta puttanesca.

These ingredients are not expensive in America today, but they can still be used to make a budget-friendly dinner. Budget Bytes style, the recipe sparingly uses the most powerful ingredients to pack a flavour punch but not increase the price.


Puttanesca sauce can be very salty. You’ll love Pasta Puttanesca if you like pickles, capers and other vinegar-based ingredients. This recipe is not recommended for those who don’t like salty-acidic flavours. Use a simple tomato sauce such as my 5-Ingredient butter tomato sauce.


This recipe is not for you if you are afraid of anchovies, as many people are. Anchovies are used sparingly in many Italian recipes to give a subtle flavour. This doesn’t make them taste fishy when used in small quantities. The anchovies are cooked until they disintegrate, leaving only a subtle umami flavour note. I promise.

What should I do with the leftover anchovies?

This recipe uses only three filets of anchovies, and the small tins have four times as many. You can save any leftover anchovies by placing them in a small sealable container. Add extra olive oil to ensure they are fully submerged. The anchovies can be kept in a container with oil for several months.

You can make extra puttanesca sauce to use with the extra anchovies. Or you can combine garlic butter and anchovies to make extra garlic bread. If you like the strong flavour of anchovies, they are great on salads and pizza.


After making this pasta puttanesca, you will likely have some leftover capers. You can store any leftover capers in their brine in the refrigerator for three months. You can make Chicken Piccata from your leftover capers. They’re great added to pasta, tuna salad, and deviled eggs.


Pasta puttanesca, a budget-friendly dish that uses inexpensive pasta, is full of flavour thanks to ingredients such as anchovies and olives.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 1 yellow onion (0.32)
  • 4 cloves of garlic ($0.32)
  • 3 anchovy filets ($0.39)
  • 1 28oz. 128oz. can of crushed tomatoes ($0.79)
  • 1/2 tsp dried Basil ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed pepper ($0.02)
  • 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives ($0.54)
  • 2 Tbsp capers (0.35)
  • 1 lb. spaghetti ($1.09)


  • Chop the onion and mince garlic. In a large skillet, combine the olive oil, onion and garlic with the anchovy files. Stirring occasionally, heat the ingredients on medium heat until they are tender and the anchovies are dissolved.
  • In a skillet, add the crushed tomatoes, basil, crushed red pepper and sliced olives. Mix everything and bring the sauce to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and then simmer the sauce, occasionally stirring while preparing the pasta.
  • Bring a large saucepan of water to boil on high heat. After the water has boiled rapidly, add the spaghetti to the pot and boil for 7 minutes. Before draining the pasta, reserve about 1/2 cup of the starchy water.
  • The cooked and drained pasta should be added to the puttanesca in a skillet. Mix the sauce with the pasta. Add a few drops of reserved pasta water to ensure the pasta is not too dry. Serve immediately


Serving: 3 oz. 3 oz.

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