Pasta Puttanesca

  • By Jackie Sun
  • April 13, 2014

Weeknight Meals via @cooksmarts: Pasta Puttanesca #recipeThis week’s Facebook #WouldYouRather post was neck and neck, as Pasta Puttanesca and Turkish Meatballs vied for the free recipe spot. It was a close call, but our vegetarian pasta dish claimed victory in the end.

No surprise here! This rustic meal is made hearty with sauteed cauliflower, and each bite consists of pasta, tomatoes, capers, and olives.

“It was so ridiculously good! Flavorful, but not heavy. Can’t wait to make again!” -Lauren

Pasta Puttanesca #recipe via @cooksmartsThis Italian dish’s name, puttanesca, means “worthless.” It came about when a chef was scrounging around his pantry for ingredients to make a tomato sauce, and all he could find were tomatoes, capers, and olives.

But this dish is anything but worthless. We keep it light and healthy by adding veggies, but filling and hearty enough to keep you feeling full.

“Loved the cauliflower and olives! Great pasta.” -Katherine

This dish can be tailored to your liking, so if you are not an olive or caper fan, no worries! Try subbing with artichoke hearts, frozen peas, or spinach.

Prepping Smarts:

Save on time and prep your veggies beforehand. Here’s how:


How to Chop Cauliflower

Cauliflower is such a tasty vegetable to cook. See how easy it is to prep here.


How to Chop Cilantro or Parsley

Learn how to chop parsley using the 'pivot-and-fan' chopping technique with this short video.

Equipment Smarts:

This sauce pan with a pour and strain lids makes it easy to cook and strain pasta.

Buy this 3 quart sauce pan from Calphalon on Amazon
Saute your veggies and toss with pasta in a saute pan, which is great for many uses.

Buy this 5 quart saute pan from Cuisinart on Amazon

For more kitchen and equipment and tool smarts, visit our ‘Essential Kitchen Cookware and Tools’.

For More Smarts:

Capers are berries that are typically pickled, have a savory flavor, and found in Mediterranean cooking. You can find them in the section with the pickles or where other Italian items are sold.

Pasta Puttanesca

Author: Jess Dang
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Today, we use this traditional sauce over pasta and sauteed cauliflower. If you’re just not that into olives and capers, omit them and try for artichoke hearts, frozen peas, or spinach.
  • Ingredients
  • Garlic – 3, minced
  • Cauliflower – 1 head, chopped (use more if you want more veggies)
  • Parsley – a few sprigs, chopped
  • Olives – 1 cup, sliced (Use less or omit if you’re not an olives fan or sub artichoke hearts)
  • Pasta – 1/2 lb. (like penne, fusilli)
  • Cooking oil – 2 tbs.
  • Diced tomatoes – 1 28 oz. can, drained
  • Sugar – 1/2 tsp.
  • Capers – 3 tbs.
  • Parmesan cheese – 1/4 cup, grated
  1. Garlic / Cauliflower / Parsley / Olives – Prep as directed. (Can be done up to 4 days ahead)
  1. Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Salt heavily (that water should taste like the ocean!) and add pasta. Cook according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add cooking oil and then cauliflower with a dash of salt. Saute for 4 to 6 minutes. Then add in garlic, tomatoes, sugar, and capers. Cook until cauliflower is tender, 2 to 4 more minutes.
  3. Add cooked pasta and olives to pan. Toss to coat.
  4. Top pasta with chopped parsley and parmesan cheese.


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