accolades from Saveur, Culture, Good Food Awards, Urban Famr, and Wine Spectator

Italian Pasta Puttanesca with Smoked Tomatoes

Every time I open the freezer door I see the beautiful heirloom tomatoes that I smoked and then froze last year, just waiting for the perfect dish.  Smoked tomatoes have an intense aroma and flavor, and I wanted to use these in a dish that would be bold enough to hold up to their unique flavor. Italian Pasta Puttanesca was the perfect recipe – robust, bold, and salty. This rustic dish is full of umami and equally delicious with regular tomatoes that are not smoked.

Pasta Puttanesca Pugliese
Pasta Puttanesca Pugliese
Low carb spaghetti squash topped with an Italian Puttanesca sauce
Puttanesca sauce served over low carb spaghetti squash instead of pasta

For all things Italian my first inclination is to go to Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s recipes, so I went back to one of her earlier cookbooks that focused on Italy’s Farmhouse Kitchens, The Italian Country Table.  A recipe for a vibrant, spicy “streetwalkers pasta” (aka prostitutes pasta) sounded like a good starting place for something bold, except that I did want a cooked dish for dinner rather than raw.  No problem.  Using Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s “Pasta Puttanesca Pugliese” as a starting point, it was easy to adapt it to my dinner needs.

Turned out wonderful!  The intense smokiness of the tomatoes, the salty umami from anchovy fillets, black olives, and Romano cheese,  and the bitter crunch of endive.  Hard to go wrong with those ingredients.  It did my smoked heirloom tomatoes proud.

Alternatives to Using Smoked Tomatoes

This dish is excellent with regular tomatoes, so don’t feel that you need to purchase smoked tomatoes or smoke your own. It was just a twist I wanted to try.

If you do want the smoky tomato flavor you can also purchase a Smoked Tomato Vinegar (aka shrub) from our store. Just a 1/4 cup of this vinegar will enhance the Puttanesca.

Dinner of Italian Pasta Puttanesca Pugliese with penne
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Italian Pasta Puttanesca

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 5
Calories 505kcal


  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves tightly packed
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 28 oz peeled, plum tomatoes
  • 2 fresh tomatoes if available
  • 2 tsp anchovy paste or two anchovy filets, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olives pitted & coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 3 tsp smoked tomato vinegar alternatively use 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. pasta I used penne, she suggested orecchiette pasta
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated (can use Romano cheese)


  • With a sharp knife, mince together the basil, garlic, and hot pepper flakes with the coarse salt and set aside.
  • In a medium to large pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic-herb mix and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the remaining 6 ingredients through the pepper and simmer until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced (about 15 – 20 minutes). This can simmer while the pasta is cooking.
  • Cook the pasta in rapidly boiling water, stirring often, until there is no raw flour taste (about 7-10 minutes for penne). Drain into a colander
  • Put the drained pasta back in the pot and place over medium heat. Spoon most of the Puttanesca sauce into the pot (you do not need to use all of the sauce, just cover the pasta with as much sauce as you like and stir). Cook a few minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Taste for seasoning, and garnish with some chopped basil and grated parmesan or romano cheese and serve. Place small bowls of extra sauce, and extra cheese to pass around for individual tastes.



Calories: 505kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 12g | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 9g

This was the first time I had heard of Puttanesca.  Do you have a version that is similar?  I see Mark Bittman includes a version in his How to Cook Everything book, but it does not include anchovies. 

Dinner plate of Puttanesca with smoked tomatoes
Dinner plate of Puttanesca with smoked tomatoes


  1. […] Of course, tomato sauce is a classic use of end-of-the-season tomatoes, and it freezes well. For the recipe for a bold, robust tomato sauce called Puttanesca, click here. […]

  2. jill christensen on May 17, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    I have a stovetop smoker. What wood do you use?

    • Dorothy Stainbrook on May 19, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      Jill, I have a smoker that uses wood pellets and I usuallly use hickory because I like that profile, but go wild with any hardwood and it will be good.

  3. […] Korean beef rib tacos (above); Osso Buco; ham and cheese pull-apart bread; karahi lentil soup; pasta puttanesca with smoked tomatoes; socca with squash, kale and Italian sausage; lemongrass and corn soup and pozole […]

  4. Dorothy Stainbrook on January 11, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I’m surely going to have to smoke some more tomatoes this year…it made a huge flavor difference. Seems puttanesca has a legend regarding prostitutes surrounding it!

  5. Cyndy Crist on January 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I’ve made pasta puttanesca a number of times. One recipe I’ve used has you “cook” the sauce in the hot summer sun. I don’t remember the details, but it’s a good and easy way to make it when local tomatoes, basil, etc., are at their best. Using smoked tomatoes sounds yummy!

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