Pasta Puttanesca... kinda

What is the most comforting food? Chocolate. Okay, second most comforting food? Chocolate. Third? Pasta... Lately I have been itching to make a pasta dish, but I just didn't have the time to devote to some of the time intensive ones I read about in my cookbooks and magazines. I whipped this one up last night with all of the vegetables I could find that I thought would go well in a tomato sauce. While I have never had Pasta Puttanesca in a restaurant, I enjoy many of its key ingredients, so I decided to make my own spin on it.

Traditionally, the dish, which has a racy name when translated from Italian, is prepared with spaghetti and usually anchovies. I opted for the thinner angel hair pasta and chicken. I also added some ingredients that usually aren't common in the traditional dish, like carrot and celery. You can be really creative with this sauce based on taste preferences or using vegetables and spices you have on hand.

Begin by adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. You will be cooking the entire sauce in this skillet, so if you only have a small skillet, use a heavy-bottomed sauce pan.

To the skillet add 2 chopped carrots, 2 stalks of chopped celery, 1 diced medium onion, 1/2 cup of diced green pepper, and 2 cloves of garlic.

I love garlic so I added 4 cloves to my sauce. However, if you are only mildly a fan (shame on you!) you can stick with 1 or 2 cloves.

Let the vegetables cook until they are slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

After the vegetables have softened, add two cans of diced tomatoes (with the liquid), 1 tablespoon of capers, 1/4 cup of kalamata olives, and raw, cubed chicken.

When I prepared this, I had a can of "Italian Style" diced tomatoes on hand. Italian style is flavored with herbs like oregano and basil. You can use plain diced tomatoes, if you want, and flavor the sauce with some dried oregano and basil or italian seasoning.

If you don't have Kalamata olives, or don't like them, you can also use green or black olives. Kalamata olives have a distinct flavor and I feel that they really made the sauce.

I think the capers are an important addition to the sauce as well as the olives. Capers are tiny, firm, and have a briny flavor.

Cook the mixture until the chicken is cooked, about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

After the sauce has been cooking for about 15 to 20 minutes, prepare the angel hair pasta according to package directions. Reserve the pasta water after cooking.

If the liquid in the sauce appears to be evaporating, add some of the pasta water to the sauce. Continue to add water until the sauce reaches a desired consistency. Add salt and black pepper to taste. If you want to turn up the fire, add crushed red pepper flakes.

Serve sauce over pasta. Add parmesan cheese and parsley if desired.

Pasta Puttanesca


  • 1/2 lb.  Whole-Wheat Angel Hair Pasta (if you can't find whole-wheat, regular is fine)
  • 3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into large chunks
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Parsley, fresh or dried (optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. To the skillet, add the carrots, celery, green pepper, onion, and garlic. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. To the skillet, add both cans of diced tomatoes, capers, olives, and raw chicken. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes (the mixture should be at a constant simmer).
  3. After the sauce mixture has been cooking for about 20 minutes, prepare the whole wheat angel hair pasta according to package directions, reserving pasta water
  4. If the sauce mixture appears that there is not enough liquid, add a few ladlefuls of pasta water to the sauce mixture until desired consistency is reached. Add salt and pepper to the sauce mixture to taste.
  5. Serve sauce over angel hair pasta. Garnish with parmesan cheese and parsley, if desired.