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Smothered Pork Chops in Italian Puttanesca Sauce

Smothered Pork Chops in Italian Puttanesca Sauce
Home » Italian Recipes » Smothered Pork Chops in Italian Puttanesca Sauce

Puttanesca was once considered a humble Italian dish, made with common pantry ingredients. The sauce is typically made by combining tomatoes, capers, garlic and olives, with optional ingredients like red pepper flakes or anchovies into a bold, robust “gravy”. This briny sauce is typically served over pasta (often spaghetti), but it also pairs beautifully with proteins, as in this recipe for smothered pork chops.

Pork chops in a skillet smothered with puttanesca sauce.
Pork chops smothered with puttanesca sauce.

Jump to: RECIPE | What is Puttanesca | Ingredients & Substitutions | Illustrated Step by Step

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What is Puttanesca Sauce?

Food historians agree that puttanesca was created in Naples in the mid-20th century. The story on exactly “how” it came to be a classic Southern Italian dish is debated (of course), but the history of puttanesca is interesting if you want to read more and maybe even take a side.

A classic puttanesca sauce combines anchovies, olives, garlic, chile flakes, tomatoes, and capers and I use all of those ingredients in the recipe card below. If you don’t care for anchovies, just leave them out. You will still have a very robust, flavorful sauce.

It comes together quickly and can be prepared in the time it takes to brown the pork chops. Cook the chops and sauce all together for 10 minutes and you have an exquisite, hearty low carb dinner.

Ingredients & Substitutions

The key ingredients are tomatoes, capers, olives and garlic. Frequently you will see puttanesca made with anchovies, basil, onions and a little vinegar. These are the puttanesca sauce ingredients in the recipe below, followed by the addition of four pork chops.

Ingredients for an Italian puttanesca sauce.
Ingredients for an Italian puttanesca sauce
4 thick bone-in pork chops on a plate.
Thick bone-in pork chops


  • Olives: I love kalamata olives but be sure to get them pitted. Regular black olives can be used also but they are not as briny and full-bodied as kalamata
  • Tomatoes: Get the best canned tomatoes you can find and add a couple of homegrown tomatoes if they are in season. If fresh tomatoes are not in season, add a little bit of sugar to the sauce
  • Pepper flakes: Red pepper flakes are not very spicy, but they add a touch of spice to the sauce. If you like the heat, opt for some powdered chipotle peppers or powdered cayenne
  • Capers: These come in small and large sizes. Both work, but the small ones are more concentrated in flavor and are usually preferred
  • Anchovies: Many people say they don’t like anchovies, but the umami flavor they add is important to the dish. The fishy flavor is hidden and most people have no idea what the secret savory ingredient is! I use anchovy paste out of convenience, but chopped tinned anchovies are fine.
  • Parmesan: This is optional but will add to the savory, umami taste of the sauce. It is particularly important to use if you don’t use the anchovies or have access to fresh basil
  • Pork chops: Opt for the thick chops with the bone in. Thin pork chops just get overwhelmed in the hearty sauce. If you do use thin chops, decrease the cooking time as they will cook very quickly and become tough.

Illustrated Step by Step

Here are the six steps to bringing this low carb dinner together in 30 minutes. Detailed directions and measurements are in the recipe card below:

Red peppers, salt, garlic and basil leaves in a mortar and pestle
Step #1: Use a mortar and pestle to grind together red peppers, salt, garlic and basil leaves
Chopped onions caramelizing in a dutch oven.
Step #2: Caramelize chopped onions 5-7 minutes over med heat.
Caramelized onions and basil garlic mixture in a dutch oven.
Step #2: Add the basil-garlic mixture to the onions and cook 2 minutes to blend
Puttanesca sauce simmering in a dutch oven
Step #3: Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and simmer 20 minutes
4 pork chops browning In a cast iron skillet
Step #5: Brown the pork chops in a little oil over high heat.
Pork chops in a skillet smothered with puttanesca sauce.
Step #6: Add the putanesca sauce to the skillet and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

While you’re in the Italian frame of mind, try this other breathtaking, colorful sauce of pepperonata (stewed sweet peppers) on pork chops.

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Pork Chops Smothered in Puttanesca Sauce

Pork chops in a skillet smothered with puttanesca sauce.
Italian puttanesca is a hearty, robust sauce paired with braised pork chops for a perfect Fall dinner.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 100


  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves tightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 28 oz plum tomatoes canned San Marzano
  • 2 fresh tomatoes if available
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste or two anchovy filets, chopped
  • ½ cup kalamata olives pitted & coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons capers
  • 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar or a homemade tomato vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 thick pork chops I like bone-in and thick
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated optional


  • 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)
    ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 3 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 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- 10 minutes.
    Add the garlic-herb mix and cook an additional 2 minutes.
    2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 medium onion
  • 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 pork chops are cooking
    28 oz plum tomatoes, 2 fresh tomatoes, 2 teaspoons anchovy paste, ½ cup kalamata olives, 2 Tablespoons capers, 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1 Tablespoon tomato paste, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • In a couple of tablespoons olive oil, brown the pork chops over medium-high heat until golden (about 3-5 minutes). Flip them and brown on the other side.
    When chops are browned, add the puttanesca sauce to the skillet with the pork chops, cover and simmer for about 5-10 minutes, or until pork chops are cooked through.
    4 thick pork chops
  • 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.
    1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated


Calories: 100kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 4gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 1011mgPotassium: 755mgFiber: 5gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 2525IUVitamin C: 40mgCalcium: 61mgIron: 1mg
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