Pasta Puttanesca: Recipe, Uses and the making of a College Care Package!

At first, I thought I was starting to hear things. As the Auntie to two wonderful nephews, I’ve had many fun times over the years, but as they’ve gotten older, they naturally have friends and activities and lives of their own. To hear my elder nephew, who has perfected the art of retreat from family to the safe haven of other millenials, announce that he wanted to spend quality time with me was awesome. Then, to add that he wanted to learn how to cook before returning to school??? My reaction was something like this:

I had a veritable cookbook of ideas ready, envisioning a whole project of planning and pricing menus, building a week of meals around a single food item, you name it. Then, of course, reality set in: ‘Auntie,’ said a somewhat amused Reality, ‘School takes too much time, and I have work this Summer.’ As if he should be prioritizing things like school, jobs and having a future. This is Cooking we were talking about!!! 😏

Cooking lessons occurred on two lovely Saturday afternoons last Summer, focusing on the most important staple in a college student’s life: pasta! Our more successful result was our family’s recipe for Pasta Puttanesca. It’s an amazingly versatile and irresistible sauce. Some of the ways I’ve used it:

– tossed with white and whole grain linguine
– combined with whole grain linguine and veggie noodles
– as a pizza base
– baked with chicken or as a topping for chicken or fish
– spread on toasted baguette slices and shredded Parmesan for a tasty spin on bruschetta

My nephew likes the sauce so much, that I made him the care package you see posted above. I packed supplies for at least six batches in a pasta bowl. He has never liked tomatoes, except in the way kids will do (pulverized and sweetened into bottled ketchup and BBQ sauce) so I put in some roasted red peppers instead, they work just as well.

This is the recipe my family has enjoyed for years, and I hope it can bring your family some of the fun memories it’s done for us. ❤️


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small container anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on your taste)
3 cloves garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
3-4 cups chopped tomatoes OR 3-4 cups chopped roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons capers
20 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 pounds pasta, or 1 pound pasta and 2-3 cups veggie noodles


1. Place oil in large pan with anchovies and warm at medium heat, using a wooden spoon to crush the anchovies into paste.

2. Add in garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper, continue cooking.

(At this stage, you have a traditional Italian Aioli. You can stop here and toss this mixture into cooked pasta or steamed veggie noodles.)

3. If continuing from Aioli to Puttanesca, add in the capers, chopped olives and tomatoes/ roasted red peppers. Stir and cook until bubbling.

4. Taste and adjust seasonings, then toss into desired pasta.

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