What Is Pasta Puttanesca And What Does It Taste Like?

Every pasta shape and dish seems to have a story. Pasta puttanesca doesn't appear to be any different, but what story you choose to believe is up to you. This pasta's siren song might be attributed to urban legend and Naples folklore which suggests ladies of the oldest profession in the world would whip up this quick and easy dish in between work. In fact, no one can write about Pasta puttanesca without discussing the translation of this pasta's name, and we aren't any different. This dish's rather sordid Italian moniker translates to "whore's pasta" or "in the style of the prostitute," (via The Guardian). Go ahead get the giggles out. It has also been aptly nicknamed pastitute by some witty individual.

Still, another tale suggests this dish wasn't created until the 1950s by the co-owner of the restaurant, Rancio Fellone, Sandro Petti. Petti was entertaining guests and found he had nothing in his cupboards to cook for them. The guests purportedly told him to make "puttanata qualsiasi" which means "make us whatever crap" you have. According to Annarita Cuomo who wrote about the incident, Petti told her, "All I had was four tomatoes, a couple of capers, and some olives So I used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti," (via DoBianchi).

Tomatoes form the base of Puttanesca sauce

But regardless of its origins, pasta puttanesca is a dish you will want to add to your dinner menu. What exactly is pasta puttanesca and what does it taste like? Pasta puttanesca is generally made with spaghetti, but no need to limit yourself. Almost any pasta shape will work. The sauce uses tomatoes as its base and garlic as the aromatic. Add in red pepper flakes, salty capers, anchovies, olives, and olive oil, and you have thrown together the perfect meal for any night of the week (via Delish). This pasta dish really has it going on in the flavor department. Savory and sweet, spicy and bold, pasta puttanesca packs a punch that will make your taste buds salivate with each slurpy bite. Serious Eats shares that you will want to set aside a few spoonfuls of the starchy pasta water to bind it all together.

When it comes to putting parmesan cheese on this dish, the jury seems divided. There are plenty of people who believe that it doesn't need it. One reviewer on Delish wrote, "No need to add parm to this pasta. The flavour is strong on its own." But Serious Eats disagrees and believes cheese works with this dish, even parmesan. Cheese or no cheese, pasta puttanesca is easy dish to make that the whole family will enjoy.