A simple and pantry friendly vegetarian or vegan puttanesca that’s easy to pull together and in minimal time. Garlic, pepper flakes and capers infuse their pungent flavors in a rich tomato sauce while Kalamata olives offer texture and more briny goodness. This spaghetti alla puttanesca is vegetarian or vegan and easily gluten free.
I wish I could say this vegetarian spaghetti alla puttanesca recipe was inspired by a trip to Naples, overlooking the Italian countryside while sipping a bottle of wine. But no, rather, it was inspired by my husband, years ago when he requested it for dinner in our Texas kitchen. Ha! A rare thing, his request, so I got to work.
This was when I was eating fish, and so I whipped up a puttanesca recipe that included anchovies. It was flavorful and absolutely memorable. So simple and easy, it became a recipe I made on regular rotation.
Pasta puttanesca is a classic Italian dish invented in Naples. This simple recipe is greater than the sum of its parts, culminating into a salty, briny and garlicky combination that’s simply comforting and so satisfying.
Vegetarian and Vegan Puttanesca
To keep this recipe vegetarian and vegan however, I’ve omitted the anchovies that are included in some traditional recipes and opt for vegan Worchestshire sauce to keep that umami flavor apparent. I gleaned this idea from a recipe and olive tasting class with Divina, maker of fine olives and antipasti, some years ago. I’ve been making it this way ever since.
A Pantry Friendly Recipe
Simple ingredients and quick to pull together, this vegetarian and vegan puttanesca is perfect for busy nights when you want big flavor and little effort. Share with a hearty salad and crusty bread and dinner is ready in no time!
How to Make Spaghetti Puttanesca
The key ingredients in spaghetti puttanesca include olive oil, garlic, capers, chili or red pepper flakes, olives and tomatoes. I opt for pitted Kalamata olives for ease and canned diced or crushed Muir Glen tomatoes, but San Marzano are quite nice too. Here’s a summary of how to make this simple pasta puttanesca sauce recipe (see full recipe in recipe card below):
- First, saute garlic and chili flakes in olive oil for just under 30 seconds, then add the capers and olives. Saute for just a few minutes.
- Second, pour in the tomatoes, and drizzle in the vegan Worcestershire sauce and olive brine. Simmer.
- Next, while the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta.
- Last, toss sauce and pasta together.
Since the flavors improve with a little rest in the fridge, leftovers are quite nice, if there are any!
A Few Recipe Notes
- For ultimate ease, look for pitted Kalamata olives.
- For a vegetarian and vegan pasta puttanesca sauce be sure to use a vegan Worcestershire sauce. I like Annie’s or The Wizards.
- I love a hearty sprinkle of Parmesan* over this sauce. If dairy free or vegan, look for vegan parmesan or DIY vegan parmesan.
- Gluten Free? Yes please! Use gluten free vegan Worchestshire and gluten free pasta. My favorite gluten free brown rice pasta is from Jovial.
More Pasta Recipes to Love
- Lemon Garlic Veggie Orzo
- Orecchiette Pasta with Kale and Capers
- Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
- Cauliflower and Lentil Bolognese
Vegetarian Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
- 3 Tbs Olive Oil
- 4 Plump Cloves of Garlic smashed and chopped small, I like about 2 Tbs
- 1/2 tsp Chili Flakes or more to taste
- 2 Tbs Capers non pareil, drained
- 1 C (125g) Kalamata Olives pitted and halved, 1 Tbs brine reserved
- 1 28 oz (793g) Can of Crushed or Diced Tomatoes I like Muir Glen or San Marzano
- 2 tsp Vegan Worcestershire Sauce gluten free if needed
- 10 oz (285g) Pasta of Choice gluten free if needed, I like Jovial
- Parsley or Basil for sprinkling
- Grated Parmesan Cheese *optional, for sprinkling
- Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
- Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add a big pinch of salt to the water and bring to a boil while you prepare the sauce.
- Meanwhile, in a large 3.5 quart saute pan with high sides, add the olive oil, garlic and chili flakes over medium heat. Sizzle and saute until garlic releases its fragrance and is softened but not browned, about 1-2 minutes. It can burn easily so adjust the heat down as needed.
- Stir in the capers and olives, and saute for about 1-2 minutes on medium low heat, or just until the garlic is lightly golden and the flavors have a moment to marry.
- To the olive mixture, pour in the tomatoes, reserved olive brine and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer on medium to medium low heat for about 15-20 minutes adding a few tablespoons of pasta water to loosen the sauce, if desired. It will thicken as it cooks.
- While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions or until al dente. Drain the pasta while reserving a small cup of pasta water.
- Add the drained pasta to the sauce. Stir to coat the pasta. Add a few generous grinds of fresh ground pepper and taste for salt (I add a heavy pinch in this recipe). Serve with more fresh ground black pepper, fresh parsley or basil and parmesan if using.
- Store in a lidded container, in the refrigerator for up to three days.