Anna Maria Maiolino’s Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Anna Maria Maiolino, Por um fio (By a Thread), from Fotopoemação (Photopoemaction) series, 1976/2006 © Anna Maria Maiolino

  • 5 June 2020

Italian-born artist Anna Maria Maiolino’s shares a recipe for a personal twist on spaghetti alla puttanesca, a deeply flavorful dish made with readily available and affordable ingredients. Like the thread in Maiolino’s work above, ‘Por um fio (By a Thread),’ the pasta has connected many generations—not only in the eating but also in the competitive speculation about its history and curious name (‘spaghetti made by ladies of the night’).


  • 500 g #5 spaghetti

  • 300 g chopped peeled tomatoes

  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 cloves of garlic

  • 1 branch of parsley

  • 1 very small red hot chili pepper

  • 150 grams pitted black olives

  • 8 salted anchovy fillets canned in oil

  • 1 can of natural tuna in oil

  • 1 tablespoon capers

  • a pinch of black pepper

  • Salt to taste (be careful with the salt, as the sardines and capers are already salted)

Preparing the sauce
Gently heat the olive oil in a saucepan and slowly fry the sliced garlic. Add the red chili pepper while the garlic browns, (remove the chili pepper before adding the tomato if you do not want a very hot sauce). Next, once the garlic is golden, add the chopped peeled tomatoes with a pinch of black pepper, the parsley branch and leave on medium heat for 15 minutes. Lower the heat and add the sliced pitted olives, tuna, all five anchovies chopped, the tablespoon of capers, washed in advance, and let it cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add salt only at the end if required. Remove the parsley branch with a fork and discard.

Cooking the spaghetti
Heat a large saucepan full of salted water. Cook the pasta al dente.  Strain the spaghetti and place in a serving dish. Add the sauce and sprinkle a spoonful of fresh chopped parsley on top. Serve and enjoy!

*** This dish is meant to be eaten without parmesan cheese ***

Tip for those who don’t know how to eat spaghetti with only a fork, as Italian etiquette requires, without using a spoon or cutting it: To easily twirl the spaghetti on the end of the fork, separate a few strands from the centre of the plate and take them to the side. Twirl the small amount of spaghetti around the end of the fork to form a small mouth.