Dr. Karl’s Kitchen: Pasta Puttanesca

Sex Worker Spaghetti? Relax, it’s a family recipe… 

“Puttana” is Italian for “whore” – no wonder! Puttanesca sauce is so good it’s scandalous (it’s also cheap, quick and easy). Legend has it that this sauce was created by Italian courtesans who needed a quick meal that could go together fast between clients. More than likely, though, the name is a nod to the dish’s spirited flavor palette and the savory, unctuous experience of eating it.

Extremely fragrant – spicy on the tongue! – this Neapolitan pasta dish will fill your mouth with burst after burst of pungent tang in a nest of briny, slippery noodles. Serve it with your garlic breath and call it a day.

Please do as Dr. Karl says and not what he does.

Pasta Puttanesca

The sauce is, obviously, the star here. Feel free to swap out the traditional spaghetti for any other variety you prefer. Note: this recipe is calibrated towards middle-of-the-road American tastes. When Dr. Karl is feeling frisky, he doubles the spices (and you should too).  Buon appetito!


1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 anchovy fillets, chopped*
1 (28-oz.) crushed tomatoes
1/2 c. kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 c. capers
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
1 lb. spaghetti
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Directions: make the pasta while cooking all the other stuff in a big pot for a while. Put it all together. Eat.

OPTIONAL SECRET INGREDIENT: Lemon zest. Many recipes omit this final touch but for others this flavor can be a “linchpin” that grounds all these wildly contrasting flavors.

*VEGETARIANS: Omit anchovies and replace with umeboshi paste, soy sauce or seaweed pearls from Ikea. You can also just increase olives, capers and garlic by about 50% (to taste).


About Karl Von Lichtenhollen 66 Articles
Dr. Karl Von Lichtenhollen is a doctor and fellow of the Applied Knowledges at Blödsinn Universität in Munich, Germany (1973). He was born and raised in the Nether Regions area of Holland, near Tainte, which he refers to fondly as a "Dutch Wonderland." Dr. Lichtenhollen once shared a houseboat in Amsterdam with the cast of a geriatric production of HAIR, inspiring his famous essay, "That Which I Cannot Unsee." He is a three-time recipient of the "Iron Feather" award. His hobbies include ascots, Highland wool sweaters and his pipe. He has a cat.

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