salmon puttanesca, in pan

Currently obsessed with Puttanesca, whether tossed with pasta, cooked with wild king salmon, spread onto flatbread, massaged into my temples… whatever. Puttanesca is always some ratio of garlic, anchovies, olives, and capers in tomatoes. This is a good starter recipe for Puttanesca, from which you can make adjustments to suit your taste. I almost always amp the garlic and anchovies. And the olives and capers. And the red pepper and salt. So in the end, I am basically making anchovy olive caper stew. It is delicious.

Recipe for SALMON PUTTANESCA below, cooking Notes and shopping Resources follow.


suggested wine pairing: my favorite Italian red grape, Sangiovese, which makes the familiar Chianti and Rosso di Montalcino; I love this Rosso di Montalcino, though it’s a little hard to find in stores.

serves 4


for Puttanesca Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced razon thin
6 oil packed anchovy filets, chopped
1 tablespoon + more to taste crushed red pepper
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
½ cup olives, pitted and sliced length-wise
2 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
for Salmon:
4 6-ounce pieces of salmon
chopped fresh basil and parsley for garnish


Heat olive oil in a pan with high sides over medium-high heat.

Add garlic and stir until just fragrant. Add anchovies and crushed red pepper to pan. Using your stirring spoon, smash anchovies with garlic and red pepper into the pan.

Pour tomatoes into pan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil (you might have to increase stovetop heat temporarily), then turn down the heat to simmer. Stir in sliced olives, capers, and dried oregano. Season with about ½ teaspoon salt to start, then taste and adjust. You may not need too much salt if your anchovies, olives and capers are salty.

If you are making SALMON PUTTANESCA: Add 4 4- to 6-ounce pieces of salmon to pan, cover pan, and cook until salmon flakes apart easily, about 15 minutes.

If you are making PASTA PUTTANESCA: Cover pan and cook Puttanesca sauce for 15 minutes. Add cooked pasta to pan, gently toss with sauce, then serve.

Garnish with chopped fresh basil and parsley.

pasta puttanesca

Cooking NOTES and Ingredients RESOURCES

  1. Garlic. You can use any form of garlic for Puttanesca, chopped, simply smashed (might need slightly longer cooking time), but I like slicing garlic cloves super thin so they “melt” with the anchovies into the tomatoes.
  2. Olive Oil. I used this olive oil that’s pretty widely available, though it is not organic.
  3. Anchovies. I use this jar of anchovies for everything. If you are sensitive to anchovies, you can leave the anchovies out of the recipe, but you kind of miss the point of what Puttanesca is. Your choice.
  4. Tomatoes: I used a box of Pomi Italian tomatoes because that’s what I had in the pantry. If you use whole canned tomatoes, just throw the tomatoes into the pan with the juices and crush them gently with your cooking spoon. There is no need to make Puttanesca sauce super-fine; it is meant to be somewhat “rustic.”
  5. Olives. My favorite olives are the bright green, relatively mild, buttery Castelveltrano olives, but use whatever you like, green or black. Kalamata olives are more intense; California ripe olives, which I used in these pictures, are milder. Starting with pitted olives is easier, but if you already have whole olives, just lightly crush them with the side of your knife, and pit them by hand. You don’t need to chop the olives any more than that.
  6. Capers. Use the small, non-pareil capers in liquid brine. If you use capers in dry salt, soak the capers in plain water for about 15 minutes. This store brand is organic.
  7. Oregano. I use an organic dried oregano that looks like this, on the stems, but any very good organic dried oregano works. If you use fresh oregano, triple the amount.
  8. Salmon: Wild king salmon is my favorite, and is generally in season May-September. In Los Angeles, I get my seafood from Santa Monica Seafood. As of publication of this post, Whole Foods seafood deartment has fresh (not previously frozen) wild King salmon for $26.99/pound. If wild king salmon is not available, substitute almost any other firm fish.
  9. On salmon serving sizes: I generally allot 6-8 oz (half a pound) of salmon for each serving, which amounts to two pounds total for this recipe. Eight ounces is actually a pretty large serving, and most people will not eat that much because of all the other delicious little things on the table. However, leftover cooked salmon will keep for about three days in the refrigerator, or frozen for a few weeks, and is great for adding to your lunch and dinner grain bowls.
  10. All other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can’t find what I need at the farmers’ market.
  11. Advance Cooking. You can make the Puttanesca sauce in advance. It will keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container for about three days. However, the recipe comes together so quickly, there’s no need to do anything too far in advance

salmon puttanesca plated


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