November 15, 2007

Quinoa Puttanesca

by IsaChandra

The first time I had pasta puttanesca I was waitressing at a restaurant in Park Slope. A fellow waitress told me that it was the pasta that Italian whores ate. She was always saying things like, “I spilled ketchup all over my tits,” and pronouncing “mimosa” in a really suggestive way. I just figured she was telling me that so she could say the word “whore” while slurping down linguine, but it is actually true, pasta putanesca is the pasta of whores. And I can see why.

If you’re anything like me you always have a gigantic thing of capers and olives in your fridge (not to mention great bone structure and an impressive unicorn collection.) Puttanesca is a really quick way to put together a complex tasting – passionate even – dish with pantry staples. Succulent, salty and a little spicy, the ingredients and method are simple enough that you can prep it, cook it and clean up after yourself in a leisurely 30 minutes, and then get back to the matter at hand, whether that be sex with strangers for money or updating your blog.

I’m always on the look out for ways to incorporate quinoa and other grains into my lunches, so it’s pretty brainless to just make a traditional pasta sauce and toss it on a grain instead. I like to make a big batch of quinoa at the beginning of the week and store it for a few days. If you don’t have a few cups of cooked quinoa around then see directions below* and start your quinoa before starting your sauce.

Quinoa Puttanesca – The Quinoa of Whores

Serves 4

2 to 3 cups cooked quinoa

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

generous pinch each tarragon and marjoram

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped (sliced in half is great)

1/2 cup capers

20 ounce can crushed tomatoes

fresh black pepper

Preheat a sauce pot over medium heat. Add the oil and garlic and stir for about a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add herbs, spices and wine; cook for about a minute.

Add olives, capers and tomatoes. Cook for about 15 minutes. You can serve either by scooping quinoa into individual bowls and pouring the sauce over it, but my way is to just mix everything into a bowl together and reserve a little sauce to pour over my serving, because I like it extra whore-y. There is no rosemary in the recipe, but my food porn was looking a little naked so I garnished it with some.

For some reason, Jason Das named all the capers in the photo on my FlickR, so if that thought entertains you then you can go check that out.

*Mix one cup dry quinoa with 2 cups water, bring to a boil then lower heat and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until grain is tender and water has been absorbed.

  • November 15, 2007 at 1:58 pm: AsstroGirl

    I’m working on liking quinoa… maybe this will help.

  • November 15, 2007 at 2:34 pm: jd

    I am soooo buying olives for this. Me and marinara sauce and quinoa work well together.

  • November 15, 2007 at 3:21 pm: Gwenlet

    So, this’ll make people want to pay me for sex, right? I could use a side hustle.

  • November 15, 2007 at 3:23 pm: pattrice

    Kalamata olives!?! No, no, no! True puttanesca is made with oil-cured olives. They are what give it its characteristic and unique flavor. Change the olives to kalamata and you’ve just got another spaghetti sauce.

  • November 15, 2007 at 3:24 pm: pattrice

    Omigod I can’t believe I just challeged Isa on a matter of food. The chutzpah! But, really, I feel very strongly about puttanesca.

  • November 15, 2007 at 3:48 pm: Jason

    Don’t feel bad, pattrice!! Isa has no respect for accuracy or authenticity in ethnic food. She is the Wes Anderson of vegan cooking.

  • November 15, 2007 at 4:08 pm: Village Vegan

    I love puttanesca. I really, really, really love it. I was sick the other day and the only think I could eat was a big bowl of it. No pasta, just the sauce. Um, yeah.

    And I’m so glad that you use 1/2 cup of capers, too, not 2 tbsp like some of those namby pamby recipes out there.

  • November 15, 2007 at 4:20 pm: Steph

    when I was a kid my grandma told me that puttanesca was italian for ‘prostitute’. it always makes me laugh now.

  • November 15, 2007 at 4:35 pm: IsaChandra

    Ouch, Jason! That hurts to the core of my being.

    Pattrice, I get what you’re saying but most of us don’t have oil cured olives laying around our boudoirs.

  • November 15, 2007 at 4:53 pm: kim

    ILLUSIONS, Isa. Tricks are what whores do for money.

  • November 15, 2007 at 5:01 pm: Jason

    I’m sorry that I hurt you.

    Also, this looks delicious. Puttanesca is already one of my favorite things to make (though I’m sure yours is better). I’ve used kalamatas to make mine but will pick up some oil-cured olives to try next time.

    I like how the quinoa has absorbed all the red cause you premixed. I would’ve just sauced on top.

  • November 15, 2007 at 5:42 pm: pattrice

    Even since learning about puttanesca, I always have oil cured olives — so easy to find, Cento or Sun of Italy brand in the grocery store — on hand. It’s the interplay between them and the capers that is so distinctive. Kalamata olives are much closer in nature (taste and texture) to the capers, so you wouldn’t get the same complex contrast of two salty bits that are similar but completely different.

    And, I’ve since discovered when working them them into other dishes, the oil cured olives provide an intense burst of the umami taste that people find in meat/cheese and often miss in vegan food.

  • November 15, 2007 at 5:47 pm: Carla

    Looks yummy, and would go nicely on top of Millet too I would think.

  • November 15, 2007 at 5:54 pm: urbanvegan

    I think you should rename it Quin-HO-a

  • November 15, 2007 at 6:06 pm: IsaChandra

    Jason – shove it

    pattrice, we can’t all live in rural Maryland, cured olive capital of the world.

    Carla – it would and it does!

    uv – g1

  • November 15, 2007 at 7:22 pm: pattrice

    Seriously, are oil cured olives hard to find in Brooklyn? I grew up in Baltimore, which has a big Italian-American population and Sun of Italy brand products in every grocery store. But I learned about puttanesca while living in Michigan and found oil cured olives in every grocery store there. And, yah, they’re in just about every grocery store here in rural Maryland too. Quinoa, on the other hand…

  • November 15, 2007 at 10:42 pm: Lauren

    I love you. Someday, I hope to have a unicorn collection that rivals yours. This is maybe my favorite post ever.

  • November 15, 2007 at 11:37 pm: IsaChandra

    pattrice – they aren’t hard to find, but the are hard to find jarred so i don’t ALWAYS have them.

    Lauren- you can’t “have” a unicorn collection, you have to earn it.

  • November 16, 2007 at 12:37 am: Bo-naners

    Is there another name for kalamata olives? I can’t ever seem to find them at my grocery.

  • November 16, 2007 at 12:38 am: Bo-naners

    (And this puttanesca looks phenomenal, by the way.)

  • November 16, 2007 at 1:34 am: bazu

    HOW? how do you pronounce mimosa suggestively??

  • November 16, 2007 at 2:46 am: Lauren

    Mimoooosssssa, while rubbing an ice cube over your lips and down your cleavage.

  • November 16, 2007 at 11:17 am: IsaChandra


  • November 16, 2007 at 1:18 pm: FootFace

    Wait. It doesn’t mean “pasta of whores”? I always thought, you know, puttanesca was like “puta” in Spanish.

    Well, not “always,” maybe.

    Or ever.

  • November 16, 2007 at 1:58 pm: has no tatoos

    I never cared for capers (taste reminiscent of some dental work chemical) UNTIL I had Puttanesca. Now I crave it all the time. I have been using kalamata olives… will look for oil cured.

  • November 16, 2007 at 4:57 pm: B.A.D.

    olives are gross, what do non-Italian whores eat? I need a contingency plan for when this Bac falls through.

  • November 16, 2007 at 10:56 pm: wingraclaire

    Looks delicious and I’ll definitely make it!

    Just a note to anyone who’s going to run out and buy the sauce in the jar as a convenience food…. the commercial stuff is made with anchovies! (Found out the hard way….)

  • November 17, 2007 at 12:00 am: DEBT

    Now I crave it all the time.

  • November 17, 2007 at 2:30 pm: foof

    Isa I made it through life AND Vcon testing and have still never had a caper.

  • November 17, 2007 at 6:24 pm: sockbuttons

    I want to make this real bad. Do you think if I sub red wine for the white that it would taste as raunchy?

  • November 18, 2007 at 12:19 pm: Jody (vegchic)

    Looks awesome Isa. Sometimes I make quinoa in sauce instead of pasta too!

  • November 18, 2007 at 10:45 pm: IsaChandra

    sockbuttons – red wine would be really yummy. I just always have white so it shows up more often in my recipes.

  • November 19, 2007 at 1:52 pm: debya

    I take umbrage with you making a dish with two of my least favorite things in the world: olives and capers. I appreciate you not making dishes with double-parkers and pocketless pants, though.

  • November 19, 2007 at 5:14 pm: raspberrycomplaint

    I was quite entertained by the naming of the capers. And I like puttanesca. And unicorns. So I guess I just like this post in general.

  • November 19, 2007 at 10:56 pm: smoothie

    i have everything to make it! wooohooo! i know what i’m gonna have for lunch tomorrow!

  • April 3, 2010 at 12:58 am: Felix

    This a little bit funny. I found your site via search engine a few moment ago, and luckily, this is the only information I was looking for the last hours.

  • January 7, 2011 at 3:33 am: Rachel

    I made this tonight with whole wheat linguine (out of convenience) for my parents. I try to go to their house and cook a vegan meal once a week. Recipe was delicious! My mom LOVES capers, pretty perfect. And my dad even commented about the Italian way of cooking the sauce, and then dumping in the pot of noodles and tossing it around. Thank you! Another successful/impressive vegan meal.

  • January 20, 2011 at 10:36 pm: Priya Mahadevan

    I made a a stir fry ish with Quinoa not too long ago –
    I am very excited to try this one!

  • February 2, 2011 at 5:11 am: Radish

    What kind of caper name is Lithophayne? For an olive, maybe, but a caper? I think not.

  • February 4, 2011 at 1:06 am: TofuRocks

    This sounds awesome and I will try it for dinner.

    BBQ Pomegranate Tofu (Vegan w/ a Vengeance) also goes with quinoa beautifully.
    This is one of my all time favorite recipes and a major comfort food for me. THANK YOU, ISA for teaching me how to prepare tofu and sharing all these awesome recipes. You are my hero.

  • February 9, 2011 at 3:26 am: Melissa

    This is so easy, so good, and definitely one of my favorites meals! Thank you!

  • March 4, 2011 at 8:59 pm: Juliebug

    This was delicious. It has a kick (I’m new to quinoa and puttanesca). I was looking for a quinoa recipe that didn’t serve it as a side dish and this was it. You’ve gotta love olives though! And tomatoes. (Thankfully I love both).

  • March 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm: Melissa - Miss Blue Sky

    I am a purranesca fan, but don’t always want the heaviness of pasta, so when I saw this recipe I knew I wanted to give it a go, though I was skeptical that quinoa would give it enough bulk so that it wasn’t just a bowl of sauce. I made this dish last weekend and have had it for lunch several times this week. It’s DELICIOUS and, I think, a really sassy way to get my quinoa on. This will be a staple recipe for me, thanks so much for another winner! xo melissa

  • April 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm: ArcoVeg

    This was easy to pull together and ever so tasty. I am a HUGE kalamata olive fan, so I love the salty deliciousness of the sauce. Thanks so much Isa!

  • November 29, 2011 at 4:31 am: Dynomysus

    This has been my ‘go-to broke-ass’ dish for quite some time. So Goooood! If you like it extra whore-ey, I recommend plying this recipe with more cheap booze. That’s when she gets really saucy… ahahaohohohooooo!! I *kill* myself!! Aidez-moi… ;D

  • December 19, 2011 at 2:19 am: Rachel

    Yum. Of course my carnivore husband has some suggestions for additions…but I love it just the way it is!

  • January 26, 2012 at 11:41 pm: JMO

    Puttanesca actually means ‘in the style a whore would make’ and is so named because in Italy, women of the night were only allowed to do their grocery shopping once a week on a specific day, to keep them from crossing paths with housewives and starting fights. They had to buy ingredients that would keep for an entire week because of this, thus capers, olives, canned tomatoes.

  • March 24, 2012 at 3:36 am: lilyredcloud

    I finally tried this. It is first quinoa dish i have liked and I lived five years in the Andes! I’m sure I will be craving this on a regular basis!

  • May 1, 2012 at 2:17 am: Maria

    Delicious puttanesca. I have made it several times with all kinds of olives, and different wines. But I also have to add that my Sicilian family lore has it that it’s called puttanesca … because it’s fast, easy, and cheap.

  • May 8, 2012 at 1:34 am: Brooke Thompson

    This is the best recipe EVER! WOW, so freaking delicious– thank you!!

  • June 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm: Kendra

    I love this recipe. Reading through the comments made me love YOU! Way to handle all the know-it-all posts. You rock

  • February 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm: Jenny

    Would white wine vinegar work in place of the white wine at all? I already have pretty much all of the ingredients except for that, and there’s an awfully bitter wind outside that’s working very hard on keeping me indoors. If white wine vinegar won’t work, are there any other suitable substitutes? Thanks!

    • February 19, 2013 at 10:34 pm: IsaChandra

      I would just skip it and use broth instead. Add a little lemon juice if you think it could use the acidity.

  • June 17, 2013 at 8:10 pm: yvonne

    You’re picture has kidney beans but the recipe does not…? I’m a little confused. Looks god with the beans…but is it necessary since quinoa already is a source of protein.

    • June 17, 2013 at 9:14 pm: IsaChandra

      Those are olives!But beans never hurt anything :)

  • November 18, 2013 at 12:14 am: Estef

    This recipe is AMAZING!! Aside from the fact that it is so easy to make. It tastes heavenly. I <3 quinoa! Love all your recipes! You are truly a talented and awesome human being! Keep on rocking!

  • March 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm: Faith

    I have been making this puttanesca but instead of serving it over quinoa, I serve it with roasted eggplant and sliced baby portobello mushrooms. Delicious!!!! Dumb question though… The only canned crushed tomatoes I can find are 28oz rather than 20, so that’s what I’ve been using. Would it be way better if I used a little less tomatoes?

  • October 10, 2014 at 10:15 pm: Renee

    I tryed this when a coworker made it. I loved it. Im Italian and never heard of it. Im going to make it myself. She gave me the recipe, but it was worded a little different without the sex and whore talk. But who cares this is great.