Recipe: Mary Susan’s Version of Pasta alla Puttanesca


Running on empty? Here’s a last-minute meal!

This is done from the heart and exact measurements are not necessary. The type of pasta can vary and it is all about what is in the cupboard!

One night, I came home from work and looked in the refrigerator and … well nothing … at least I thought that. I was determined to make a meal and I remembered a famous Italian dish called “Pasta alla Puttanesca.” There are many interpretations of how the famous name of this sauce evolved, but here is one. Some believe that it was a sauce created by a restaurant owner who had many guests come to his restaurant to eat late one night as he was about to close. He didn’t have enough of any one ingredient to make a meal for all the guests so he took everything out of his kitchen and put it together to make this legendary Italian pasta sauce. So, I went through my refrigerator and pantry and this is what I decided to put together:

  • (1) 12-ounce can white albacore tuna packed in water … or (2) 5-ounce cans Genova Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • All the zest of 1 large lemon, minced (I use a potato peeler, but remember no pith, which is bitter)
  • A large handful of fresh Italian parsley, minced (minimize stalk of parsley and use mostly leaves)
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons of capers
  • Approximately ¾ cup Parmesan cheese (I always keep Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand)
  • 2 cans of white Cannellini beans heated in microwave for 2 minutes, then drained before adding
  • ¾ cup of virgin olive oil — or fix to your liking
  • Sea salt to taste and fresh ground black pepper (or whatever is on hand)
  • 1 lb. of your favorite pasta cooked al dente

Note: When mincing a small amount of herbs, I like to use a Mezzaluna, which can be found at Crate & Barrel.


After draining the pasta, add all of the above and toss! Add a glass of white wine and a salad and you’re good to go!

This dish literally takes less than a half-hour to make. My husband loves it and I have since made it for other family members.


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