Pasta Puttanesca

The name is an embarrassing Italian joke. “Puttanesca” means “in the style of the prostitute.” Since the ladies of the evening are not known for their prowess in the kitchen, it must be about something else. A look at the ingredients may suggest what was going on in the mind of the man (it was undoubtedly a man) who came up with this name.

All this notwithstanding, pasta puttanesca is a marvelous dish for those of us who enjoy big flavors. It’s the best Italian dish I know involving fresh tuna.

Pasta puttanesca.

Pasta puttanesca.

  • Chef Andrea’s fish marinade
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-6 dashes Tabasco
  • 2 lbs. fresh yellowfin tuna, cut into one-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (preferably sea salt)
  • 1/4 cup Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pitted calamata olives
  • 12 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
  • 12 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 4 anchovies (preferably white anchovies), finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. capers
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 lb. penne pasta, cooked al dente

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a shallow bowl. It won’t blend completely, but don’t worry about that. Marinate the cubs of tuna in this for about 90 seconds, tossing it around to coat well. Remove the tuna and let the marinade drain off. Save the remaining marinade to serve as a condiment to this dish on the side.

2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the tuna cubes, Italian seasoning, and salt to the skillet and sear the tuna, shuffling the cubes around every thirty seconds or so for about two minutes. Remove the tuna and set aside.

3. Add the wine to the skillet and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add all the other ingredients except the tuna and the pasta. Cook until everything is heated through, then add the tuna.

4. Turn off the heat. Add the pasta to the pan and toss everything around to distribute the sauce ingredients.

Serves four.

2 Readers Commented

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  1. Len Vadal on October 30, 2015

    Pasta Puttanesca Recipe- never saw this recipe incorporating fish. Sounds and looks good, I need to try it.
    Maybe the recipe with fish for these ladies of the evening was for “high end ladies”.

    Thanks for sharing recipe, Len

  2. Todd on August 30, 2017

    Actually, sauce for pasta alla puttanesca traditionally uses these ingredients: olive oil, anchovies, garlic, tomatoes, capers, olives, and red pepper flakes. Rome’s working girls seldom had access to refrigeration or the money for fresh tuna. The sauce could be quickly prepared (5-10 minutes) while the pasta was boiling — “between clients,” as some witty cookbook writers put it. The recipe for Chef Andrea’s fish marinade does sound delicious but, as Len wisely suggests, is better suited to “high end ladies.”

    I never thought of this recipe as something the ladies of the evening cooked, but as a dish whose flavors put one in the mind of a cheap roll in the hay.