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Pasta Puttanesca - Pasta Putanesca with Crispy Pork Chops

Updated on November 21, 2011
Artist Jonathan Harris
Artist Jonathan Harris

I first heard of Pasta Putanesca when I read the Lemony Snicket books to my children - this is the dish the kids in the story came up with by emptying out the drawers and cupboards, and they called it "pasta with very few ingredients". That cracked me up and I invented my own version.

Then I learned the real story behind this incredibly simple Italian classic. Italian Ladies of the Evening would make pots of this sauce and place it in the window, where the aroma would attract customers. Daggone. Granted I've never tried that particular application, but I do know how hot apple pie in my kitchen brings in my brothers, friends and favorite neighbor, and how much yard work they'll do for it. What the hey - thought I'd see what Putanesca would do. This particular pot got me two loads of firewood, some plumbing work and an oil change, and nobody even had to get naked. So you can emulate what the Ladies' accomplished, without nearly as much work as they had to do.

I also wanted to take the basic pasta and turn it into a main dish. The pork is a terrific accompaniment to the punch of flavors in the sauce. This sauce's signature is the intense flavors - salty, briny, citrusy. Many versions use olives or artichokes. Throw them in if you like. Now don't wimp out and skip the anchovy - don't be a wuss. It melts into the sauce and gives an 'mmmmm' that is not the least bit fishy but can't be replicated with another ingredient. This comes together very quickly - throw on some sauteed asparagus or broccolini, some crusty french bread and you're a Batterie Bombshell. With clothes on.

The one big trick here is to assemble all your ingredients before you start to cook - it's called mise en place. Basically it's French for 'getting your act together." If you do this the whole recipe falls together like clockwork.


Part 1

Part 2

Putanesca Sauce

  • 3 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 1 anchovy filet
  • 3 Tbsp capers, drained but not rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme, or a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • several cranks of fresh black pepper
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp julienned fresh basil (or more is good!)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil


1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until fragrant, then add tomatoes, anchovy, capers, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and allow to reduce and the flavors to marry while you prepare the pork and pasta. Sauce will reduce some, and release the juices - that's exactly what you want.

2. Right before serving toss in the lemon juice and parsley - don't add the herbs early or they'll wilt and get icky and brown. Not lovely. Put it in the last minute.

1 Pound of Pasta - spaghetti, linguine - anything you have on hand, cooked, drained and held ready*

Pork Cutlets

  • 8 boneless pork loin chops
  • 2 cups Panko break crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil

1. Trim each loin chop, cutting into 2-3 pieces to create small cutlets about 2 inches in diameter. Place trimmed pork pieces between two layers of plastic wrap and pound with a wooden mallet until about 1/4 inch thick. Season each side with SOS.

2. Set up a breading station. I use pie plates. In one plate break eggs and add a couple tablespoons of water. Season liberally with 1/2 tablespoon each salt and pepper. In second pie plate put Panko bread crumbs, and season this as well with the remaining salt and pepper.

3. In a large skillet, heat a couple tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Watch getting the pan too hot so the breading doesn't burn. Working in batches so you don't crowd your pan (too much in the pan will crowd the pork and it will steam instead of getting brown and crunchy), dip each pork cutlet into egg mixture, then bread crumbs, then into the hot pan. Cook each cutlet for about two minutes per side, until pretty and golden. Transfer to a warm platter - I just put a platter in the oven on the lowest setting. Repeat until they're all beautiful.

To plate - put a mound of pasta in the center of the plate and top with the Putanesca sauce. Add a couple of the the pork cutlets, and sprinkle the top with the fresh basil.

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