How to make Missy Robbins' spaghetti alla puttanesca from her new book, 'Pasta'

Robbins shared a classic recipe from her new cookbook.

October 26, 2021, 8:30 AM

If there's one chef synonymous with pasta, it's Missy Robbins.

The 2018 James Beard best chef New York City winner joined "GMA" to discuss her new cookbook that's appropriately titled after her fan-favorite dish -- "Pasta."

Check out her full recipe below.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Pasta with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers, and Anchovies

VIDEO: How to make the perfect pasta recipe
VIDEO: How to make the perfect pasta recipe

"This dish, the story goes, was popularized in Naples, where the women of the night used its aroma to lure men into the brothel. Puttanesca by that name is fairly new—dating only to the mid-twentieth century, but the dish itself goes back much farther, likely at least to the nineteenth century. In fact, a near-exact version of the dish (missing tomato) appears in Ippolito Cavalcanti’s Cucina teorico-practica as vermicelli with oil, anchovies, olives, capers, and parsley," Robbins wrote alongside this recipe. "Given that the book also contains the first mentions of pasta being sauced with tomato, it’s not much of a leap to puttanesca."

"The briny, garlic-forward aroma of the sauce is certainly enough to lure anyone, anywhere, even against better judgment. To me, the flavor of Naples is puttanesca, a true assault of pungency and salinity that is as outspoken and frenetic as the city itself. Naples is not a place you go to relax, and puttanesca is not a pasta you serve to folks looking for an innocuous taste of Italy," she said. "In that spirit, my take on the dish is meant to showcase the intensity of each ingredient, rather than cooking them into submission."

Yields: 4 to 6 servings

For the puttanesca sauce
75g or 1/3 cup olive oil
50g / 10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
62g or 10 to 12 oil-packed anchovy fillets, very finely chopped
3g or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried red chili flakes
30g / 2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 large (794g / 28 oz) cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
140g / 1 cup pitted Taggiasca olives, cut into quarters
32g / 3 Tbsp small salt-packed capers, rinsed
624g or 1 pound and 6 ounces extruded spaghetti


To make the sauce, place a heavy sauce pot or Dutch oven over low heat. Add the olive oil and garlic and gently cook until aromatic but without color, 10 to 15 seconds.

Add the anchovies and stir to incorporate. Cook, stirring, until they start to dissolve into the oil, about 30 seconds.

Add the chili flakes, followed by the tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until the oil takes on a reddish hue, 30 to 45 seconds.

Add the tomatoes and their juice and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to medium-low and cook at a slow simmer until the rawness of the tomatoes is cooked out and the flavors have melded, 30 to 45 minutes. You are not looking to reduce the sauce.

Remove from the heat and add the olives and capers and stir to incorporate. Season with salt q.b. (Go easy, as olives, anchovie, and capers provide a lot of salinity.)

Measure out two and a quarter cups sauce and set aside. Transfer the remainder to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for another use.

To finish, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water.

Add the spaghetti to the water and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, place a large sauté pan over low heat. Add the sauce.

Using tongs or a pasta basket, remove the pasta from the pot and transfer to the sauté pan. Turn the heat up to medium. Toss for 1 to 2 minutes to marry the pasta and the sauce. If the sauce begins to tighten, add a splash of pasta cooking water to loosen. When the pasta is properly married, it will cling to the sauce and have a glossy sheen.

Divide the pasta into bowls.

Note: Be sure to soak the capers in cold water before using, refreshing the water every 15 minutes or so, until they are briny but not salty, about 2 hours.

Reprinted with permission from "Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy's Greatest Food" by Missy Robbins and Talia Baiocchi, copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.