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Italian Cooking - Orangy Roughy Puttanesca and Pasta

Updated on August 30, 2014
The islet of Nisida near Naples, Italy.
The islet of Nisida near Naples, Italy. | Source

Puttanesca Sauce with Fish

Said to be named after prostitutes in and around Naples, Italy who had little time for meals between clients, the name Puttanesca is often disguised in "polite" society.

Many Italian restaurants refer to this dish on their menus as the mild mannered Pasta Alla Bella Donna, as does Italian Sensation restaurant in Maryland. They describe their dish as Spaghettini in marinara sauce with black olives, capers, and anchovies.

The thin spaghetti cooks very quickly, indeed. In fact, if you microwave this pasta, only about 4 minutes are required – It’s almost faster than Ramen noodles. Perhaps it is the equivalent of Ramen in Italian cuisine history.


Some older Italian and Sicilian Immigrants have told stories about the restaurants in the old country that kept a pot of pasta sauce, which they called gravy, on the stove all day long. At the end of the evening, the restaurant owners would give the sauce to the prostitutes for a quick and inexpensive pasta meal. Zucchini was often in the sauce in those times and one version of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca still includes tuna.

In college, I used to make macaroni and cheese with tomatoes, tuna, and onions, and sometimes black olives - and had no idea how close to this traditional dish I was steering. The truth in good food may come out in its own version in various cultures around the world.

Naples Area, Italy

Actually, the fish is orange only after death. Living, it is brick red..
Actually, the fish is orange only after death. Living, it is brick red.. | Source

Orange Roughy

This is a deep sea fish that has reduced in numbers somewhat worldwide.It was regularly called a "slimehead" until the 1970s, wh it was renamed to encourage fishing. How is it on th edge of being over-fished. However, this fish may live up to nearly 150 years.It looks a bit prehistoric.

Orange Roughy Puttanesca Recipe


  • 1 Lb skinless orange roughly fillets or your favorite type of white fish. If frozen, thaw it.
  • 1 tsp crushed oregano – fresh if you have it
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Medium onion, cut into 8ths (cut quarters in two)
  • ¼ Cup sliced black olives – Italian if you can get them
  • ¼ Cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 2-3 Cloves garlic, minced
  • Hot cooked orzo (pasta)


  • Rinse fish well and then pat fillets with paper toweling to remove excess moisture. Cut the fish into four portions and sprinkle each with half of the oregano and half of the pepper on one side only.
  • Using a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil and then carefully place in the fish with the seasoned sides down.
  • Cook 2 minutes, turning after about 70 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes, onions, olives, broth, capers, garlic, and the rest of the oregano and pepper and stir.
  • Bring the skillet to the boil and immediately reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer 5-6 minutes or just until fish becomes flakey to the touch of a fork.
  • With a slotted spoon, place each fish portion onto a large serving dish.
  • Boil t4h skillet broth uncovered, for approximately 2 minutes until thickened.
  • Pour contents of skillet over the fish portions and serve with hot cooked pasta.

A suace with zucchini added.
A suace with zucchini added. | Source
New Zealand Orange Roughy, Wild Caught Frozen 2 Lb.
New Zealand Orange Roughy, Wild Caught Frozen 2 Lb.

A firm-fleshed fish with a mild flavor.


Orzo Pasta

Compared to a United States Quarter for size. This is rainbow, or multicolored, orzo.
Compared to a United States Quarter for size. This is rainbow, or multicolored, orzo.

Cook Time

  • Prep time: 25 min
  • Cook time: 10 min
  • Ready in: 35 min
  • Yields: 2 to 4 Servings
5 stars from 1 rating of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Italian Olives

Italian Olive Salad 32 OZ
Italian Olive Salad 32 OZ

Twenty-five percent of the olives grown in the world are grown in Italy.


Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Serves 2 to 4 people

After chopping vegetables, this dish takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.


  • 4 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Medium onions, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 1/4 Cup minced parsley leaves
  • 1 Pound Italian tomatoes, chopped, with the juice
  • 4 Anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 6 Mediterranean black olives, chopped
  • 2 tsp prepared capers
  • 8 oz spaghettini or thin spaghetti – this is very quick cooking
  • 2 Tbsp grated Romano cheese


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and warm it.
  • Add garlic and the red pepper flakes and stir 20 seconds
  • Add parsley and stir for 10 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes and juice, stir, and cook 1 minute.
  • Add anchovies, olives, and capers, stir and cook 2 minutes.
  • Salt a pot of water for pasta very well over medium high heat.
  • Cook spaghettini al dente (just a few minutes), drain, and place in a large serving dish.
  • Add sauce and toss.
  • Sprinkle the surface of the spaghetti with grated Romano. [Some italian immigrants relate that chopped parsley should be used in place fo the cheese, but you can do it either way.]

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Sauce and Pasta

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 Recipe
Calories 280
Calories from Fat90
% Daily Value *
Fat 10 g15%
Saturated fat 2 g10%
Unsaturated fat 4 g
Carbohydrates 6 g2%
Fiber 2 g8%
Protein 2 g4%
Cholesterol 4 mg1%
Sodium 240 mg10%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.
Black, or ripe, olives.
Black, or ripe, olives.

Comments and Experiences

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    • Ekuaze Godfrey profile image

      Ekuaze Godfrey 7 years ago

      great it is good ingredeint i love them all

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      This looks yummy!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Now I have to go make some :)

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

      I used to make something similar in my college days with either ourzo or rice, sometimes noodles. Couldn't often afford tuna (big treat), but the basic tomatoes, onions and (a few) black olives were always there.

      Thanks for the memories ;)

    • Philipo profile image

      Philipo 8 years ago from Nigeria

      Very delicious I guess.

    • lisadpreston profile image

      lisadpreston 8 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      This sounds wonderful. I must try it. I love the history behind the dish. Interesting! thank you.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for the comments! - Try these dishes during the holidays when you are pressed for time. I have to go get some olives!

    • motricio profile image

      Mauricio Rodriguez 8 years ago from Bogota DC, Colombia

      Thnx for the recipe! i love Italian food! =)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for another recipe to make a difference in the cooking.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Sounds great, Patty. I love orzo....although I've never had colored orzo. I've never even seen it.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      These are delicious, too. And I still like the tuna added. Thanks for all the comments!

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image

      Hmrjmr1 8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      As always Patti a great recipe well presented! Love the story that goes with this dish!

    • kerryg profile image

      kerryg 8 years ago from USA

      Yum, sounds delicious! Thank you for answering my request!

    • Bieberella profile image

      Bieberella 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Yum. Will have to give that a try.