In honor of World Pasta Day, Italian cooking legend Mary Ann Esposito shares a sneak peek at a recipe from her new book, Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy, coming Nov. 1, 2018. Reserve your copy today! Here is Mary Ann’s recipe:

Credit: (C)2018, Mary Ann Esposito (recipe) & John Hession (image)

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a bold and spicy tomato-laced dish. The term puttanesca causes huge arguments among Italian cooks who claim that it was a word in reference to, shall we say, the red-light districts of southern Italy! I leave the discussion to them. What gives this sauce its extra punch is the combination of ingredients that go into it: hot red pepper, salty anchovies, plump olives, and briny capers.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper paste

2 heaping tablespoons chopped anchovies in olive oil or anchovy paste

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup coarsely chopped green olives (10 to 12), plus a few whole for garnish

⅓ cup pitted oil-cured black olives (8 to 10), cut in half, plus a few whole for garnish

2 tablespoons capers in brine, drained

2 cups halved cherry tomatoes or coarsely chopped canned plum tomatoes

⅔ cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 ounces plain or whole-wheat spaghetti or chickpea pasta

Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for sprinkling


Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and cook the garlic until it begins to soften. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the anchovies and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the green and black olives, capers, and tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the tomatoes start to shrivel. Raise the heat to high and add the wine, allowing it to reduce for a couple of minutes. Stir in the parsley, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm while the spaghetti cooks.


Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until the spaghetti is al dente. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Add the reserved water to the sauce and stir over low heat to blend. Add the spaghetti and toss well with the sauce. Garnish with whole olives and serve in bowls with Pecorino Romano cheese sprinkled on top.

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Top Regions: World Pasta Production
  • Central & South America 21.0%
  • North America 14.4%
  • U.E. 33.6%
  • Other Europe 19.4%
by volume in tonnes - 2017

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