spaghetti alla puttanesca with ground beef

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a tomato-based pasta dish that originated in southern Italy. It includes a few of your traditional tomato sauce ingredients including olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes, but it also gets extra punch from black olives, anchovy fillets, and capers. In this recipe, I have added ground beef to make a more hearty main course, but you could serve this without meat or over roasted chicken breasts. I would recommend serving with a bold red wine to marry with the dynamic flavors of the sauce, such as an Italian Montepulciano. 


  • Olive oil (2 tablespoons)

  • Fresh garlic (1 tablespoon, finely minced)

  • Shallot (1 large shallot, finely chopped)

  • Ground beef (1 pound, preferably at least 20% fat for full flavor)

  • Salt (1 teaspoon)

  • Crushed tomatoes (1 large can, 28 ounces)

  • Red bell pepper (1 large, cut into very thin slices)

  • Black pitted olives (1 cup)

  • Capers (2 teaspoons)

  • Anchovy fillets (4-6 fillets, finely chopped; or you could use 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of anchovy paste)

  • Fresh basil (1 large bunch; reserve several leaves to chop for garnish)

  • Fresh Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup; reserve some for garnish)

  • Red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon)

  • Spaghetti noodles (2 servings) or zucchini noodles (make from 2 zucchini using a spiralizer)


  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil, garlic, and shallot over medium heat.

  2. Add the ground beef and salt. Cook until beef is cooked through (no more pink).

  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, red bell pepper, olives, capers, anchovy fillets or paste and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes.

  4. While the sauce is cooking, prepare spaghetti pasta noodles in a separate pot per the directions on the package. If using zucchini noodles, prepare the zucchini with the spiralizer tool (I use the Gefu)

  5. When noodles are ready to serve, add the basil, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes to the sauce and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. 

  6. Using tongs, add the cooked pasta noodles or the raw zucchini noodles and toss into the sauce until evenly coated.

  7. Serve in large bowls with additional basil and Parmesan cheese for garnish.