Puttanesca Sauce

photography by Amy Albertson
Santa Barbara Halibut with Puttanesca Sauce
Haricots Verts and Black Caviar Lentils

photography by Amy Albertson
Puttnesca Sauce (large batch) with Nicoise Olives
(we couldn't use them at the wedding because of the pits)

Olives we loved Be sure to get the ones
marinated in the Napa Valley Cabernet

Puttanesca sauce is traditionally served with pasta. Supposedly it is named after "women of the night" because it is supposedly "quick and easy." There are a three different sources that claim the invention of the sauce so do a little google search to find out the origin of the name. The sauce takes about 10 minutes to make and by the time you're done boiling the water and noodles the sauce should be finished.

For me, it is the dinner we go to when I haven't planned anything or when I'm looking for something Vegetarian for Fridays during lent. All the ingredients are staples that keep in the cupboard for ages. The only thing I usually add is fresh parsley, but if you don't have it on had you can skip it. I LOVE capers and olives. So if you're not a giant fan like I am you may not want to put quite as many in your sauce.

I grew up cooking for a large family and has a husband who eats four times as much as the average person and then I'm a chef, so most of my recipes are large quantity. Quite a few couples have asked me to work on some smaller recipes just for 2-4. So I worked really hard to make this recipe for a 2-4 person serving. You can easily double it. Just remember when you double it you may not want as much garlic or capers as I do. Same with the chili flakes, adjust to your own taste.

For the wedding in October where I made the fabulous Gina Salad, we served fresh halibut with a deconstructed Puttanesca sauce. I made about 12 versions trying to find the best olives, the best tomatoes, etc. In the end I used heirloom tomatoes that I got from my private grower David Palmer. I oven roasted them and then made the sauce with the oven roasted tomatoes. So in the summer if you want to go above and beyond and have everyone flip out than do that. But if you want to make a quick pasta dish for your family on a Friday in winter then keep the staples for this dish always in your pantry.

I'm pasting a picture off of Mezzetta's web site for the olives I chose after going on a major taste test. I also like nicoise olives but the pits were a concern when catering. They sell the Mezzetta olives at World Imports and at some grocery stores. The brand is Mezzetta and it says Napa Valley Bistro Pitted Kalamata Olives Marinated with Herbs and Napa Valley Cabernet. And we tasted tons of capers and while I like all capers, especially the dried ones packed in salt, the winner in the puttanesca sauce were Star capers like you can buy at Costco. We did blind taste tests with a bunch of different brands of capers and those won even though I know they are a more common brand.

Again, this is most commonly served with pasta, but it is also terrific over pork chops, chicken or fish. And you can make it ahead and it lasts all week.


Olive Oil, 1 tablespoons
Garlic cloves, 2 minced
Diced Tomatoes, 1 14.5 ounce can (or 2 cups of oven roasted tomatoes in summer)
Red Pepper Flakes, 1/4 teaspoon or to taste
Kalamata Olives, 1/4 cup (about 11 olives)
Capers, 2 tablespoons
Anchovy Filets, 2 minced (optional. I love anchovies for their depth
of flavor but if you don't like them then skip them.)
Oregano, dried or fresh, whatever you have 1/4 teaspoon
Tomato Paste, 1 tablespoon
Italian Parsley, 1/2 bunch of a fresh head. chop leaves
Kosher Salt, to taste. You won't need as much if you put the anchovies in.

Artichoke Hearts, 4 chopped. (these don't really go in puttanesca sauce but my husband doesn't really like olives so he likes when I add the artichoke hearts to the sauce)

Start water to bring to a boil for pasta. Generously salt water with kosher salt. (Or skip pasta if you are making the sauce for pork, chicken or fish.

In a large saute pan, saute the garlic in olive oil. Add the can of tomatoes. Add the red pepper flakes, the olives, the capers, the anchovies (optional) and tomato paste. Add artichoke hearts if you like them. Add the fresh Italian parsley just before serving. If serving with pasta put fresh parmesan on top.

Maili Halme Brocke

Here is the link to the Black Caviar Lentils 

As for the Halibut, I will write a full recipe soon.  Basically I just rub the fish all over with either olive oil or grapeseed oil.  I sprinkle both sides of the fish generously with kosher salt.  I sear it in a hot pan on both sides.  (The thickness of your fish with determine how long you cook it.)  I cook the fish at the last minute and serve it immediately.


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