Vegan Spaghetti Puttanesca

Feed your inner saucy minx with this scandalously delicious puttanesca, sans anchovies.

According to the dictionary on my MacBook (a highly reliable source that has gotten me through many a paper), puttanesca sauce was developed by Italian prostitutes who needed a quick and tasty meal in between clients. Thank you, working gals of Italy! I have no idea if this is actually true, but believing it may add a little mystique to your dinner, so why not?

Savvy Italian prostitutes may not have whipped up this speedy and flavourful sauce, but you certainly should! It is one of the fastest and easiest tomato sauce recipes I know and it packs a punch, thanks to briny olives and capers along with the usual suspects of garlic, basil, tomatoes, onions and wine. I used to make it with anchovies and a wee bit of gorgonzola, but I honestly think it is every bit as good without.

This recipe is another one I honed during my stint living with my Italian second family. It is one of those recipes that isn’t measured and everyone’s version tastes just a bit different. I love how every cook’s food somehow has a distinct flavour, even if the ingredients are the same.

Today, I measured the ingredients as I went but usually I just eyeball it. So please use this as a blueprint and let your inner Italian prostitute guide you.

Vegan puttanesca sauce over brown rice spaghetti. Food styling and photography by Jack.

This sauce doesn’t take much longer to cook than the time it takes to boil your pasta, making it a great weeknight dinner.


2 tbsp olive oil (or less if you’re watching your fat intake)

1 white onion, diced

1/2 a jalapeño, seeded if it is a hot one

1/4 cup red wine

3/4 cup canned sliced black olives, drained

1/4 cup capers, drained

2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (optional)

4 cloves garlic, minced

680 mL can Hunt’s plain tomato sauce

28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

Brown rice spaghetti (I use Tinkyada brand)


Heat olive oil on medium-low. Add onion and jalapeño. Fry, stirring, for 15 minutes until softened. Lower the heat if the onions are browning. This should be a gentle process.

When onions are softened, turn heat to high. Add the red wine and stir constantly until the liquid has reduced and the alcohol has evaporated. Turn the heat back to medium-low.

Add the capers, olives and fresh basil. Fry for 5 minutes.

Put your pasta water on and boil the noodles while you do the following steps.

Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add Hunt’s and diced tomatoes. Cover and simmer while your noodles are boiling.

Taste for salt. I did not need to add any, thanks to the saltiness of the capers and olives.

Serve over brown rice pasta and sprinkle with a little nutritional yeast (a delightful and vitamin-packed alternative to parmesan).

Buon Appetito!

Serves 6. Or 2 with leftovers. 



Filed under Condiments and Sauces, Dinner, Pasta

2 responses to “Vegan Spaghetti Puttanesca

  1. LOVE puttanesca, and had no idea about the working girls of Italy. I love it even more now! I used to make a raw version from the “Green Chefs” SO good. I’m going to try your version tonight!

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