Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca is a light and simple Italian recipe that’s loaded with delicious veggies and herbs. Freshly squeezed lemon completes the sauce and adds a zing to this fresh pasta dish.

If you love Italian food and simple recipes, you’re in the right place! This Puttanesca recipe is in good company with a variety of meals on the site, like Easy Bolognese Sauce and Pasta Carbonara.

Pasta puttanesca in a skillet topped with fresh arugula

Pasta Puttanesca Recipe

This Pasta Puttanesca is a light pasta dish loaded with cherry tomatoes, black olives, spinach, arugula and capers. The freshly squeezed lemon and the liquid in your sauté pan act as the sauce for this dish, making it very light and fresh. Feel free to add your favorite pasta sauce, if you would prefer a more saucy dish, but I personally love it just like this. Some Pasta Puttanesca recipes call for anchovies, but I decided to leave those out. If they’re your thing, chop up a few and stir them in.

Doesn’t this just look delicious? That’s because it is! It’s a totally guilt free pasta dish with loads of fresh ingredients. Keep in mind capers are salty, so you shouldn’t have to season this recipe with much salt. With all of that garlic, the olives and capers, this dish really packs a flavor punch. It is so easy to make and healthier than most pasta dishes, especially if you go with whole wheat pasta. It just might become one of your favorites too.

a large skillet filled with fresh pasta puttanesca

How to Make Pasta Puttanesca

Let’s talk about just how easy this pasta recipe is to make. For the full list of ingredients and instructions, scroll down to the printable recipe.

  1. Start by cooking pasta. I typically will use spaghetti (I’ll swap between regular and whole wheat varieties), but you can use just about any pasta you like or have on hand. Be sure to save a few tablespoons of the cooking water to help make the sauce later.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil and saute some garlic, red onion and capers. Add some cherry tomatoes and black olives for several minutes. We’re building layers of flavor here for our sauce.
  3. Finally add some spinach and/or arugula. I like to use a mixture of both, but you can also just toss in whichever is your favorite. I’m quite partial to arugula with it’s spicy, peppery bite. It only needs a minute in the pan before adding the pasta, so I would suggest draining your pasta and having it at the ready before adding the lettuces.
  4. Toss the cooked pasta with the veggies in the pan, along with the reserved pasta water. Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice and serve hot.

pasta picked up with tongs from a large skillet

What to do with leftovers

Leftovers should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. Add a tablespoon or two of water to rehydrate the pasta. Freezing is not recommended.

serving suggestions

  • Red pepper flakes sprinkled over and tossed with the pasta will add a fiery kick to the robust saltiness in this dish. Add it sparingly if you’re not in the mood for a little heat.
  • Grate some fresh Parmesan to pair with the salty capers and olives.
  • Serve a crisp green salad on the side and if you’re feeling especially rustic, a hearty loaf of Italian bread.

I don’t like something in this recipe, what should I do?

If there’s something in a recipe that you don’t love, that’s a great opportunity to make it your own. Don’t like capers? Try some sliced green olives. no cherry tomatoes? Use chopped Romas instead.

A white bowl full of pasta puttanesca

For more great pasta dishes, try these:

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Social media image of Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca is a light meal of fresh pasta with lemon juice, tomatoes, spinach and arugula and a robust saltiness from capers and olives.
Course Dinner
Servings 4 servings
Calories 266kcal


  • 3 cups cooked wheat spaghetti
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
  • 2 1/2 cups spinach and arugula mix
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 3 Tablespoons capers
  • 1 cup black olives
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • Salt peper and red pepper flakes


  • Boil water in pot and add spaghetti noodles. Cook until al dente. Reserve 3 Tablespoon of cooking water and drain the rest.
  • While noodles are coking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add minced garlic, red onions and capers and sauté for approximately 2 minutes.
  • Add halved cherry tomatoes and black olives to pan. Sauté for approximately 4 minutes.
  • Add spinach and arugula mix and cook for approximately 1 minute.
  • Add cooked spaghetti noodles and the 3 Tablespoon of reserved water.
  • Continue to cook for an additional minute or until spinach and arugula leaves wilt.
  • Remove from heat and squeeze lemon over pasta and season with a little salt and pepper.
  • Mix well.
  • Sprinkle with a desired amount of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Enjoy!


Calories: 266kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 7gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 703mgPotassium: 240mgFiber: 7gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 610IUVitamin C: 26.2mgCalcium: 67mgIron: 2mg


You’ll also love this Healthy Festive Nacho Dip!

a bowl of pasta puttanesca with text over the photo

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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