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Tortellini Puttanesca

Tortellini Puttanesca

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as ‘spaghetti in the form of a prostitute’ so just the title lends the dish to plenty of chuckles.


A restaurant special of the day description was easily entertained by Chef meeting with the front of the house before service, embellishing the title into a story for the wait staff suggesting there must be lots of married hot to-ma-toes running around in some small town in Italy, for the dish was indicated as one women could hastily prepare for the evening meal after their afternoon soirees with the men. There was no internet. No one could confirm the story.


The colorfully fresh and bold flavors of Spaghetti in the form of a prostitute was a hit as a special of the day.


It was certainly a way to entertain the back of the house, kitchen staff, for an evening wondering how the dish might be theatrically played out in any sort of description to unsuspecting diners, most everyone enjoys good storytelling after all eh. Oh Mama Mia.


With varying dates of truth relating to the invention of its preparation in Italy, it seems that Puttanesca did not even involve females, much less prostitutes, but rather a few guys showing up at a restaurant low on ingredients at the time, who were so hungry they engaged the chef to just prepare them any sort of dish. A version of this variation is what emerged. I’ll forgo the spaghetti today, we’ll just call it Tortellini Puttanesca.

Tortellini Puttanesca
Serves 4
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Total Time
45 min
Total Time
45 min
  1. 13 ounces tortellini, approximately 1 1/2 bags frozen tortellini
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  5. 1 can anchovies (approximately 2 ounces)
  6. 1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon set aside for garnish
  7. 10 plum tomatoes, chopped
  8. 1/8 cup red wine
  9. 1 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
  10. 2 tablespoons capers, drained, chopped
  11. 8 leaves fresh basil, rolled up, thinly sliced into strips
  12. coarse kosher salt
  13. fresh cracked black pepper
  14. fresh grated Parmesan cheese for topping each bowl
  1. Cook frozen tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions, drain, transfer to a large bowl and toss with some olive oil, keeping warm until Puttanesca sauce is finished. On low heat add butter, olive oil, garlic, and anchovies into a medium sized saute pan, cook for two minutes then sprinkle in the parsley, stirring and continuing to cook until anchovies have melted. Tumble in the tomatoes raising heat to medium temperature warming tomatoes through, pour in the red wine, continue cooking another 3-5 minutes, reduce heat to low and simmer until the mixture is still juicy but not watery, around 12-15 minutes or so. Stir in the black olives, capers and fresh basil leaves, reserving some strips of basil for garnish. Sprinkle in a couple pinches salt and some fresh cracked pepper, stir, check seasoning, cook another 3-4 minutes until all ingredients are well blended and hot. Stir three quarters of the sauce throughout the tortellini, topping with the remaining amount. Sprinkle over remaining basil leaves and freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, serve hot immediately.
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  1. Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    My Dad loves Puttanesca. This is perfect for him. Pinning for later and sending to my mom. Thanks, Peggy!
    Kelly recently posted…After I Do: Lessons Learned while Wedding PlanningMy Profile

    • Posted March 17, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Hi Kelly, Thanks so much! Hope your Dad enjoys. Loved seeing your post the other day, and that touch of fun inspiration you always share!

  2. TheKitchenLioness
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:25 am | Permalink

    Dear Peggy, we eat a lot of pasta at our house and we love all the ingredients that you used – I have never prepared a tortellini version of “puttanesca”, making it always with spaghetti but your version is a nice change to my usual routine. Nice bold flavors, great pasta and picture perfect presentation! I will send the kids over for lunch some day…
    Have a great Sunday,

    • Posted March 20, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Hi Andrea, thanks so much. The tortellini with the Puttanesca came by way of having 2 remaining bags of tortellini in my freezer which I am now clearing out after the winter, another version of using things up, lol. I did come across a complaint on such an idea though that tortellini should only be served with Bolognese or in broth, but nevertheless, I think the ingredients combined are not too far fetched at all, and worked in quite a complementary form. Thanks for stopping by and see you soon.

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  • Hi, I'm Peggy. Welcome to our Shared Table at Spiced Peach Blog!
    Subscribe here for my fresh, seasonal recipes with an international twist.