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Zucchini pasta alla Puttanesca

Ok, now this is probably going to come as a surprise to some people, but did you know that puttanesca literally means prostitute in Italian!? Thus, “alla puttanesca” means “whore’s pasta” – shocking, I know!

Puttanesca and zucchini | www.planticize.com

The dish, however, is actually just a bunch of leftovers from the Italian kitchen – like Bubble and Squeak in England, Pytt i panna in Sweden or good ole Hash in the United States. According to one story, some diners entered a restaurant on the Island of Ischia just as it was about to close for the evening. When they were told that there was nothing left to make a proper meal, they said that they were starving and would be happy to eat “any kid of garbage”. All that was left was some tomatoes, capers and olives, which the owner used to make a kind of sauce and served it over spaghetti. And so spaghetti alla puttanesca was born.

Zucchini pasta alla Puttanesca | www.planticize.com

But we’re not going to be making spaghetti, instead, we are going to spiralize some zucchini – one of my favorite pastimes! While you don’t need a dedicated spiralizer to make this (you could, for example use a julienne slicer, a potato peeler or even a lemon zester) I highly recommend getting one! I got mine a few years ago on Amazon, for around $10 and I’ve more than gotten my money’s worth out of it. Mine is a simple, no-nonsense spiralizer that turns veggies into either spaghetti or ribbon-shaped “pasta”.

Zucchini pasta alla Puttanesca | www.planticize.com

Most of the time I don’t even heat the zucchini pasta. For some reason I really like the contrast of the cool zucchini and the warm sauce or whatever I’m having over it. If you prefer it warm, I suggest gently tossing it in a warm pan or even putting it on a plate and microwaving it. However, boiling it is NOT the way to go, especially in it’s spaghetti-shaped form. Since it already has a high water content, it just disintegrates into a limp and lifeless mess. The thicker, ribbon-style zucchini is more forgiving, but I still wouldn’t let it anywhere near boiling water.

Zucchini pasta alla Puttanesca | www.planticize.com

As far as the amounts of veggies go, don’t worry too much about using exact weights or measurements, just add the things that need to cook the longest, first. The only really important thing is the tomatoes, which release water when cooked, giving the puttanesca mixture the necessary liquid. Rather than being a sauce, this puttanesca is thicker with chunky bits of delicious vegetables. (You can even throw in some more chopped tomato towards the end!) Another key element to adding a little more complexity to the otherwise subtle flavors, is the red pepper flakes. Be careful if you’re not a big fan of spicy heat, but don’t be to shy either! And feel free to use oregano as well as, or instead of basil. This is a dish that you can’t really screw up!

Zucchini pasta alla Puttanesca | www.planticize.com

So there you have it, simple, healthy, spiralized zucchini pasta puttanesca. A deliciously easy Italian dish that helps you get the most out of all your leftover veggies.

Zucchini pasta alla Puttanesca

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Serves: 4


  • Olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz (225 g) - eggplant, chopped
  • 4 oz (112 g) - mushrooms, chopped
  • 12 oz (350 g) - tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup (2.4 dl) - pitted olives
  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) - capers
  • ¼-½ tsp (1.25-2.5 ml) - red pepper flakes*
  • 1 handful, fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • salt/pepper
  • 1¼ lbs (ca 565 g) - zucchini, spiralized


  1. In a large, deep pan or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, stir and heat for 2 more minutes.
  2. Add the eggplant and cook for 5 minutes, Then add the mushrooms and tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Finally add the olives, capers, basil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper, stir, and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Serve on taop of spiralized zucchini, and garnish with fresh basil.

Additional Info

*Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes depending on your taste and how much heat you want. These are important to give the puttanesca more flavor, but of course you shouldn't overdo it if you are sensitive to spicy food.

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