“Second Date” Puttanesca

I’m about to let you in on a big secret. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my go-to dish when I want to impress someone. Usually, it’s early on in the relationship, we’ve gone out on a couple of dates, and we get to the “oh, hey, why don’t you come over and I’ll cook dinner for you” date. This is what I make. And there has always been another date.


Puttanseca has been around for a long, long time. As long, in fact, as the world’s oldest profession. According to legend, Puttanesca was the sauce that… uh, let’s call them “the ladies of the evening” of Naples would have slowly bubbling on the back of their stoves in brothels. The aroma of the sauce would attract customers, and provide the working ladies with a quick meal between customers.

Despite it’s chequered past, Puttanesca is a dinner made with a lot of love. Simple ingredients, Mediterranean-derived, married together for a long time. It’s  a very simple sauce. I usually make mine in the slow cooker so I don’t have to fuss with it too much, and I prefer to serve it on wide noodles like tagliatelle.

There are a lot of people that get wigged out by anchovies. They’re little fish, they have bones, and they have a very strong, salty flavor. But a little anchovy, like fish sauce in a Thai dish, can really add another layer of flavor to the dish. You’ll find anchovies in the deli department, nearer to the cheeses, rather than with the rest of the canned fish. They need to be kept cold. Or, you can buy anchovy paste in a toothpaste tube for max convenience. If you like your sauce spicy, add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.

Pasta a la Puttanesca


  • 1 medium-large onion, finely choppedPuttanesca ingredients
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped (yeah, you want it garlicky. Who cares, you’ll only be kissing each other!)
  • 1/4 cup of red wine
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes, or whole tomatoes you crush with your hands
  • 1/2-1 whole can of anchovies (you can chop them a little if you like, but they’ll melt into the sauce)
  • 20 or so kalamata olives, pits removed
  • 3-4 tbsp capers
  • 2-3 tbsp Chopped, fresh green herbs: Italian parsley, oregano and/or basil
  • salt and pepper to taste (I like to really giver with the pepper in this recipe)
  • cooked pasta
  • freshly-grated Parmesan


  • In a large, deep pot (like a dutch oven if you have it), heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 5-10 minutes, until they are soft. Add the garlic, stir well, and leave for 1-2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with wine.
  • Add the tomatoes, and season. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let it all go for a while, stirring occasionally. I will sometimes do this step in the crock pot, depending on how much time I have. If you choose this method, I’d leave the mix in the crock pot on low for about 4 hours. If you are making it one the stovetop, let it simmer for 1/2-1 hour. You’ll know it’s done when everything in the sauce is pretty uniform, but with chunks of tomato and flecks of onion still visible. It will also be a darker red colour.
  • Now add the anchovies, olives, capers and fresh herbs. Stir well, and let it go for another half hour or so.
  • Taste and season. The olives and capers and anchovies are quite salty, so you don’t want to season it too much up front.
  • Serve over pasta, garnished with freshly-grated Parmesan and a few fresh, shopped green herbs. And get ready for the next date!

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  1. Marianne says:

    I’m probably one of the few people who wouldn’t be impressed if this dish was cooked for me – all those olives and tomatoes? Eek! Good thing I’m the one who does the cooking in my relationship 😉

  2. Susan says:

    Yummy, this is a great dish. I am a bit of a novice cook and am looking for a simple dish I can prepare to impress a date I have next week. Its technically our third date and I decided to cook. I may have to give this one a try but miss out the story about the ‘ladies’ as it might give the wrong impression!

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