The Primal Italian: Spaghetti Puttanesca (GF, Primal, Vegan Option)

2012 August 10

Hi Folks!  This is a re-post from my trip to Italy last year,  in preparation for a Gluten Free Italian cooking class I’m doing next week (including home made gluten free pasta!) …  I’ll be at DiVino Wine Studio Aug 13-  in case you are curious. :)



After spending 5 amazing weeks in Italy (*sob*  I sit at home as I write this… lol),  I decided I just had to share all my recipes… BUT. Yowzers… so many photos, I didn’t know where to begin… So, I decided I’d do a little weekly feature to spread it out a bit.  All of these recipes are traditional, with adaptations for various diets.  That way, EVERYONE is happy :)

Once a week or so I’m going to be posting a recipe or two from my travels.  They will always be authentic, and (bonus)  along a primal, gluten free, or vegan theme.

This week its the traditional Spaghetti Puttanesca! And, how to make your own home-made dried olives… delicious… stick around!


In case you missed some of my past entries, here are the Italian recipes we’ve done so far:

Past Italy Recipes

Roasted Peaches in Red Wine Reduction

Fennel, Orange, Black Olive Salad

Tuna Green Bean Salad

Roast Peppers and Sausage

Risotto with Zuchini and Lemon

Figs in Red Wine



Now, on to today’s recipes! I’m going to give you a quick recipe for dried olives first, and then, on to the putttanesca!


Home Made Dried Olives

My zia Maria is known in our family for being a terrific cook.  Her recipes are always simple and delicious- she has a natural instinct with combining flavours with such a great effect.  Her home made dried olives are one of these terrific concoctions.

Upon entry to zia Maria’s appartment just outside of Rome,  she proudly showed me a bowl of her home made dried olives. I was intrigued.  Slightly chewy,  a bit salty,  strong olive flavour that paired perfectly wiht a strong red wine and sharp parmesan cheese with prosciutto at lunch that day.  They were fabulous.  She would simply  lie them in the sun with salt, and then later pack them in oil.  Brilliant.  They brought such a terrific kick to her spaghetti sauce,  my mind started spinning  with a few ideas.
As soon as I got home, I gave it a shot, and heavens- it worked!  Here’s how you do it.   (btw, in sealed jars covered in olive oil, I bet these would make a great Christmas or hostess gift!)
Home Made Dried Olives


1 cup of kalamata olives

2 cups (or more, if needed) coarse sea salt


1- Get about a cup or so of organic kalamata olives (they’re less likely to be preserved with sulfites).  (btw, try getting pitted olives. Its a bit laborious to try to cut the pits out of dried olives when they are done!)

2- Cover the bottom of a small corningware dish or baking dish with about an inch of coarse sea salt.  Lay the olives over top, and then cover them with about another 1/2 inch to an inch of more salt.  Place in your oven at about 200 degrees or less, over night.

3- The next day, pull out the baking dish and let it cool on its own.  The olives should be dried but not brittle (even still, they will rehydrate when you cook).  Perfect!  Ready for roasting with potatoes or chicken or assorted vegetables… or of course, for your puttanesca!


Are you ready?  You’re about to learn how to make Puttaneeeeeeesca! Here we go with recipe #2 Spaghetti Puttanesca

Spaghetti Puttanesca

First of all– A very important point about the recipe- if you can, use dried olives.  The flavour is wonderful and really perks up the dish.  However, the darn things are expensive-  so you can always make your own the day before using the recipe above.   I personally use spaghetti squash for this recipe, however, if you have a preferred pasta or GF pasta, go ahead and use it.  Also, a note to my vegan friends-  the vegan option for this dish is equally delicious.  I promise I won’t ever do a ‘vegan option’ if it means offering a less beautiful dish.  It bugs me when people do that for GF options so I won’t do that here for meat-free options.  That being said- if you are meat free- please use the dried olives. The flavour is important!

So does anyone know the story behind this dish? No? Yes?  Puttanesca is basically the “sluttification” of pasta.  No jokes! This dish was said to be a quick  “in between customers” fast dish for the  LadiesoftheNight.  So I figure if they can pull off a great dish, so can we ;)

One last note- if I am making this for dinner, I’ll cook the squash in the morning so all I have to do is toss it with the sauce at night. Cause lord knows I am in no mood to wait for roasting a squash when I’m hungry!  I just turn on the oven when I wake up, pop in the squash at 375, and when I’m ready for work about an hour later, the squash is done and I slice it open to cool and put in the fridge for later.


Un-Spaghetti Puttanesca


  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (dear paleo friends, please, no coconut oil on this one!!)
  • 3-4 anchovies (they melt, I promise!)  Vegan: omit.  Sub in 1/4 cup roasted walnut pieces at end of recipe.
  • 1 generous pinch hot pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup or generous handful dried black olives cut in half (or fresh if you want)
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  1. Put your spaghetti squash in to cook an hour in advance- pierce the skin and roast at 375 for 50-60 min.
  2. If you are using pasta instead, put salted water on to boil, and add the pasta to cook while you prepare the sauce- pasta and sauce will be ready at the same time.
  3. Squash the garlic clove so its split but not in tiny pieces.  Add to a skillet with the anchovies and olive oil on low heat.
  4. Simmer till the anchovies dissolve (I actually use more but not everyone is a fan), and the garlic clove starts going golden.
  5. Add in the hot pepper flakes, tomatoes,  and olives.  Simmer until the tomatoes break down- about 5 min or so.
  6. Turn up the heat and add in the white wine- simmer till its reduced a bit and then add in the capers.  Vegan: add in your walnuts now. Toss with your cooked squash.  If you are using pasta,  add the drained pasta with 1/4 cup cooking water to the skillet and let simmer together about a minute or so. Done!! For my primal friends- if you want extra protein, toss in 1/2 tin of good quality tuna packed in olive oil. Delicious.


Travel Notes about Ladispoli

  • Ladispoli? Where the heck is….  Ok, look, its not Rome.  Its a small city outside Rome.  But its very important to me, because this is the home of my late zio Corrado Melone (a link to his picture),  a well known artist  in the area, and his wonderful wife my zia Maria, and cousins Paola and Franco.  Cousins are of course a loose-ish term since everyone is a cousin sooner or later ;)   My zio was the maternal first cousin to my grandmother, so technically, its a long ways away.   I love the melone family :) (hi guys!!).   There are so many times I feel like we speak a similar language- I can’t explain how or why.  They are wonderful people, full of artists and a slightly rebellious streak and beautiful dark eyes that is so Typical Melone is such a terrific way.
  • So I think one of the best parts of my weekend with zia Maria and my cousin Paola was the simplicity of sitting around the table at lunch, surrounded by zio’s paintings covering all of the walls, and talking about who resembled whom and remembering favorite stories.  Beautiful.
  • One thing that I often worry about when visiting family when travelling is my ridiculous diet.  It stresses me out.  Try explaining to an italian you don’t eat flour? augh. The imposition it causes….  so when I walked into zia’s house and I saw pasta cooking on the stove for lunch, instantly  I panicked a bit.  Do I eat it anyhow and get sick? Do I tell them I can’t have it?   I nervously pulled my cousin Paola aside and said “uhh… cugina,  I don’t think I can eat lunch…” To which she replied  “Nonsense! I told you I read your blog! We bought you gluten free pasta!”.  (I can’t tell you what was more touching,  that she cared to read this little blog or the fact that she was way ahead of me and made sure I wouldn’t get sick.  I almost cried.).
  • Dinner out– Ladispoli is right on the sea…. so check out some of the fun dinner out … ahh fresh seafood. happytimes.

    Antipasto- Octopus salad with fennel and mozzarella di buffala



    Secondo- grilled white fish with a potato/ lemon/ chicory cake


    Out for dinner right on the ocean! Paola, me, and friends.

    Me and Zia Maria at the train station before i left… “Alea i’m going to pretend to look at something far away because i like the way my profile takes a better picture than my face, ok?” “Ok zia” (chuckles)  


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