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Puttanesca pasta 'la bomba'

If you like eating and making pasta, it’s hard not to love puttanesca. In a few short minutes, you can transform a can of tomatoes and a handful of pantry staples into a satisfying sauce. But why settle for “satisfying” when “life-affirming” is within your grasp? To get you there, I’ve used several HACKS and non-traditional additions to up the ante on the classic recipe. The result is a bigger, badder, more bombastic puttanesca.



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 anchovies, chopped + 1 tablespoon anchovy oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1 shallot, diced finely
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup pitted and halved olives
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Salt
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • One 14-ounce can cherry tomatoes or plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon harissa (or in a pinch, 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon best available aged balsamic vinegar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup fried breadcrumbs


  1. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, anchovies, anchovy oil, two-thirds of the garlic, shallot, capers, olives, and pepper. Cook for three minutes, stirring frequently, or until the garlic and shallots show the first sign of browning. 
  2. Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to directions—but keep it al dente. 
  3. Add the tomatoes, harissa, and balsamic vinegar to the sauté pan. Bring to a high simmer, then reduce heat and let simmer for five to ten minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and remaining garlic. Taste for salt and seasonings, and adjust if desired. 
  4. When pasta is done, reserve one cup of pasta water— which at this point should be starchy. Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot. Add the sauce, 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano, and half the parsley. Add the pasta water, two or three tablespoons at a time, incorporating it into the sauce and at the same time coating the pasta with the sauce. You may or may not use up all of the water. The goal is to have your pasta coated by the sauce—but not drowning in it. (Pasta continues to absorb water, even as it is being walked to the table. Learning how much water to add comes through trial and error—and taking note each time you make pasta.) 
  5. Transfer to individual pre-warmed bowls and sprinkle breadcrumbs, remaining Parmigiano, and parsley overtop.