Pasta Puttanesca with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

‘Puttanesca’ is a simple, quick, affordable pasta sauce that originated in Naples. The story is that the women would make this pasta in the brothels, wafting the beautiful aromas into the streets to entice men into their, er, places of business. This story makes perfect sense: the capers and garlic sautéing with peppers and basil? If I walked past a brothel that smelled as gorgeous as my house when I was making this sauce, I might have to wander inside to check it out too…

Pasta Puttanesca Tomatoes

This one’s a little different, though, because I’m using heirloom cherry tomatoes, which I raved about last week in my Kicked Up Quinoa recipe. These smaller, more fruity tomatoes add a burst of freshness and intensity that make this a totally unique pasta sauce that’s still (hopefully) just as worthy of the brothels. 🙂

Pasta Puttanesca

Makes 4 servings


  • 16 oz whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chili
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Puttanesca Frying

Step One

Begin boiling a pot of water. Then slice the garlic and chili, add them to a large hot skillet with a little splash of olive oil. Tear up 2 handfuls of basil and add this to the pan with about 1/4 cup of capers. Let this sauté for a while.

Step Two

While you’re enjoying the beautiful aromas of the sautéing ingredients from step one, take your time slicing the cherry tomatoes in half and throw them in the pan. Toss everything together and let it continue cooking. About this time, add the spaghetti to the pot of boiling water.

Puttanesca Sauce

Step Three

When the spaghetti is al dente and the tomatoes are cooking beautifully, put this all together. Don’t drain the pasta – simply use a pasta spoon or tongs to transfer the wet pasta into the pan with the tomato sauce. This carries over some of the pasta water that’s necessary to complete the sauce. On high heat, toss everything together in the skillet for one final minute to bring all the flavors together.

Transfer to serving bowls, ensuring you get even amounts of ingredients in each, and drizzle any remaining liquid from the pan over each dish.

Buon Appetito!

Puttanesca in Pan

Puttanesca Fork


Leave a Reply
    • Ha. I know Puttanescas typically have olives, but I took some liberties with this one 🙂 (like the cherry tomatoes). I thought about the olives but it just didn’t seem to fit right with the cherry tomatoes, in my opinion. But feel free to add olives to yours! 🙂

  1. Just want to say, always love your recipes, simple and delicious. Good meals don’t need too many ingredients at once and it allows the chance to enjoy each single ingredient fully.

  2. Made this and absolutely loved it. Shared with non vegan friends and family and they now come to your site for recipes and inspiration as well. I never make a grocery list without checking here for recipes first now. Your food is so delicious and really got me out of a rut of the same ol stuff and not eating enough. 🙂 Thanks a million!

    • Wow, that’s so great, Tara! Thanks so much for making, sharing, and commenting. I’m thrilled that you like the recipes and I’ll keep them coming 🙂

  3. I love this recipe. I might recommend holding off on adding the basil until a minute or two before adding the pasta, to help keep more of the basil’s flavor! Thanks for the wonderful dish!

    • Thanks, Alex! You’re definitely right about that. Basil loses some mojo as it cooks, and I don’t know why I added it so soon in these photos. It might even be better to add it in the last 30 seconds just so it warms enough to release all its flavor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kicked-Up Quinoa and Black Beans

The Easiest Banana Oat Cookies