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Vegan Puttanesca Pasta

Vegan Puttanesca Pasta

An authentic puttanesca pasta is made using anchovies. And, I won’t lie, it’s delicious. I do love that salty-fishy rich flavor, but at the same time I wondered if it could it be made without anchovies. The answer: You bet!

I’ve kept the recipe authentic, using traditional puttanesca ingredients — olive oil, tomatoes, chili flakes, olives, capers and parsley — but instead of anchovies, I’ve swapped them for sliced sun-dried tomatoes, another umami packed ingredient.

I just want to add here that 10 years ago you couldn’t pay me to eat, let alone enjoy any of those aforementioned ingredients. But not anymore, I am in love. I find it so cool how your palate changes the more you expose it to different flavors. This doesn’t happen overnight, so keep trying new things!

If you’re curious about expanding your palate, try this book.  It’s a helpful guide for experimenting with flavours.  Simply pick an ingredient that you like, and the book will suggest something that compliments it – you’ll find that the paired ingredient has the potential of being enjoyable – expanding your palate!…but this only works if you have an OPEN mind :)

The best advice I can give when making a recipe with so few ingredients, like this one, is to splurge a little and use the highest quality ingredients you can afford: the best pasta, tomatoes, olives, etc.

I’ve tested this recipe with both green and black olives — both taste awesome. What doesn’t taste awesome is sliced olives out of a can; save those dry little rings for nachos. For this sauce you want big, buttery olives, preferably unpitted. Unpitted olives not only taste better but they are so easy to pit.

This sauce is very rich, packed with salty, savory flavors, so it pairs well with something bitter. Think green — arugula salad, sautéed rapini, steamed broccoli, shaved Brussels sprout salad. Basically anything green will act as a palate cleanser and cut through the richness of the sauce; and greens are good for you.  If you need a greens recipes, try this one: Sautéed Rapini with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes

I like linguine pasta for this recipe because the sauce coats the noodles so well. And don’t be shy with the olive oil either. If you’re worried about calories, eat less pasta and have a bigger portion of greens on the side. The olive oil adds flavor and richness, making the sauce slippery on your lips.

Vegan Puttanesca Pasta

Serves 2


1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 pound linguine
1 (28-ounce can) whole tomatoes, drained
15 black olives, pitted and halved (about 15)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes pack in oil, sliced
2 tablespoons capers in wine vinegar, drained
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in a large frying pan over low heat, cook until garlic is soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
  2. When the water is boiling, add 2 teaspoons salt and the pasta; stir to separate pasta and cook according to package timing. Drain, saving 1 cup pasta water, and set aside.
  3. Crush canned tomatoes by hand, and add to pan with garlic along with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, red chili flakes and remaining salt.
  4. Simmer sauce gently over medium-low heat until sauce has reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup reserved pasta water and cooked pasta; heat until pasta is well coated in sauce. Adjust seasoning, and a garnish with fresh parsley or basil.

Vegan Puttanesca Pasta Tips

–Remembering to reserve pasta water is key: The starchy pasta water helps to loosen the sauce and at the same time help it to stick to the noodles. If you have trouble remembering, place a measuring cup in a strainer in the sink. When you go to drain the pasta, the measuring cup will help you to remember to scoop out some pasta water before it goes down the drain.

–Use capers in wine vinegar brine. There’s no need to rinse them; the vinegar brine adds to the recipe.

–If you’re knife isn’t sharp, sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil can be challenging to slice. Instead use scissors.

–You could use a full pound of linguine in this recipe, but I prefer a saucy pasta; so I’ve only used 1/2 pound of pasta.

–Crushing whole canned tomatoes by hand can be messy. I always seem to squirt tomato juice across the white walls of my kitchen. To save your walls, place the drained tomatoes (saving the tomato juice for another recipe) in a deep bowl in the sink, and slowly squeeze the tomatoes.

–To pit an olive, place the olive on a hard surface and squish it down with your thumb. The flesh of the olive will loosen its grip on the pit.