Skip to Content

Low Carb Puttanesca Sauce on Spaghetti Squash

Low Carb Puttanesca Sauce on Spaghetti Squash
Home » Low Carb Lifestyle » Low Carb Dinner Ideas » Low Carb Puttanesca Sauce on Spaghetti Squash

Italian Puttanesca is bold, robust and salty – a perfect sauce for a bed of spaghetti squash or pasta. This recipe uses smoked tomatoes, but it is equally delicious with regular tomatoes that are not smoked.

Jump to Recipe
Bowl of Italian Puttanesca
Bowl of Italian Puttanesca

How to Make Pasta Puttanesca Pugliese Low Carb

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.

Kasper’s dish was called “Pasta Puttanesca Pugliese” and it sounded great but it was more of a fresh raw dish and I was looking for a warm cooked recipe. Her recipe was easy to modify and it turned out wonderful.

Since the ingredients were so robust, I decided they could handle the additional boldness of smoked tomatoes. The intense smokiness of the tomatoes paired well with the salty umami from anchovy fillets, black olives, and Romano cheese. 

Hard to go wrong with those ingredients.  It did my smoked heirloom tomatoes proud.

Now of course pasta is not low carb and this rich tomato sauce needs a bed of some sort of “noodle” to soak up all the goodness and give it some “chew”.

There are zucchini noodles and other alternatives available for low carbers, but I prefer spaghetti squash.

Using spaghetti squash as a bed of noodles allows a mild medium that won’t distract from the puttanesca sauce, but still has enough heft to add the desired texture. The slight squash flavor is a nice addition also.

I made a non-low-carb version using penne noodles, just to test the difference. It was good, but I actually preferred the spaghetti noodles. Here is what it looked like with penne.

Italian Puttanesca dinner with penne pasta
Italian Puttanesca dinner with penne pasta

I see Mark Bittman includes a version of puttanesca in his “How to Cook Everything“ book, but it does not include anchovies. 

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 smoky tomato vinegar will enhance the Puttanesca.

Low carb Italian Puttanesca

Bowl of Italian Puttanesca
This is a low carb version of the Italian dish of Puttanesca which is a rich tomato based dish with anchovies, olives, capers and spices generally served with pasta. This recipe uses spaghetti squash as the bed for this bold, rich Puttanesca.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Servings 5
Calories 229



  • 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 spaghetti squash If not low carb, use 1 lb of pasta of your choice
  • 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 (Alternatively, mash together with a mortar and pestle)
  • In a large skillet or dutch oven 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 baking the spaghetti squash (or cooking the pasta).
  • Bake the spaghetti squash in the oven for about an hour at 375 F. (Or cook the pasta in rapidly boiling water, stirring often, until there is no raw flour taste (about 7-10 minutes for penne). Using a fork, remove the strands of squash (or drain the pasta if using pasta)
  • Put the spaghetti squash strands (or the drained pasta) in a large pot and place over medium heat. Spoon most of the Puttanesca sauce into the pot and 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.


Low Carb Puttanesca on a bed of Spaghetti Squash - A Cooking Tutorial

Watch the Step by Step Video for More Details


Calories: 229kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 8gFat: 12gFiber: 7gSugar: 12gIron: 2mg
Did you make this recipe?If you tried this recipe, please give it a 5-star rating! To do this, just click on the stars above. And don’t forget to tag me at @dorothy_stainbrook_heathglen, if you share a picture on Instagram! You can also tag me at #heathglen!

Online Coaching

Although I am not currently taking clients for diet & health coaching, I have been a coach for many years with the online service called It is a great platform for all kinds of coaching – anything from specific diets, writing a blog, getting up early, or getting rid of that pesky procrastination.  

There are some wonderful coaches and the testimonials will tell you what you need to know.  Contact me at to get a referral to some of the tested, experienced online coaches on

If you’d like to start with a plan for a low carb or keto lifestyle, check out this detailed guide in ebook form. It may be all you need to lose weight on this lifestyle. Or it may be used as a supplement to one-to-one coaching.

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Freezing Tomatoes, Pesto & Sauces to Enjoy in Winter Dishes

Monday 9th of September 2019

[…] 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. […]

jill christensen

Saturday 17th of May 2014

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

Dorothy Stainbrook

Monday 19th of May 2014

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.

Korean Beef Rib Tacos and Recipe Roundup - The Heavy Table

Wednesday 16th of January 2013

[...] 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 [...]

Dorothy Stainbrook

Friday 11th of January 2013

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

Cyndy Crist

Thursday 10th of January 2013

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!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.