What Does Puttanesca Actually Mean?

You might have heard of spaghetti Puttanesca, shrimp Puttanesca, or other such varieties, but if you’ve stopped yourself from ordering it because you don’t exactly know what it entails, you’re not alone!

Puttanesca is a type of sauce that usually has tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, capers, and garlic. There are variations that don’t follow those guidelines exactly, but in general, you can be that anything Puttanesca will at least have some nice olives.

This dish is actually not so old. It was created in Naples in the mid 20th century, although no one knows exactly how the sauce got its start.

There is a story that some people came into a restaurant right before close begging the owner to make them something and calling him a foul name in the process. The chef only had a few tomatoes, capers, and olives, as the legend goes.

The bad word the customers used, puttanata, could be the root for Puttanesca, but no one knows for sure.


Nevertheless, Puttanesca is such a delicious meal to make. A fun way to deconstruct is to make a sheet pan version that has cubed bread, red onion, cherry tomatoes, whole black olives, and garlic. Roast it for about 10 minutes and then add in the shrimp and roast for another 8 minutes. Serve right off the platter and enjoy!