This vegan puttanesca pasta is simple but massively satisfying. The tomato sauce is emboldened by olives, capers, and miso. Fresh parsley and shredded nori give a bright pop and mild taste of the sea.
What inspired this Vegan Puttanesca
I’ve had and enjoyed regular Puttanesca several times in my life and really appreciate the simplicity and convenience of the dish. The idea is that you can take a few items you’ve got in your pantry and make a pretty tasty pasta sauce in not much time. In the original version, the olives, capers, and anchovies serve the purpose of elevating and enhancing the tomatoes and they do a pretty good job.
I thought this dish would be a good candidate for veganization because only the anchovy would need to be replaced. They type of canned anchovy used in puttanesca is known for its extreme saltiness and a bit of umami and taste of the sea. I opted for some more delicate replacements here. A mild miso and some shredded nori (the type of seaweed used to wrap sushi) add largely the same flavor elements in a way that is not overpowering.
If I had one complaint about the flavor of the original version, it’s that even a small piece of canned anchovy can overwhelm several bites of pasta with its saltiness. Since miso is easy to spread throughout the sauce, we can avoid this issue.
What makes this dish great
Simplicity – The sauce requires relatively few ingredients for the level of flavor you get from it. Prep is easy and quick and involves just slicing the garlic and chopping the olives, capers, and parsley. The nori can be shredded using scissors once you’ve finished cooking. And cooking should only take about 20 minutes, including boiling the pasta.
Big flavor – The dish has a few flavor enhancers including capers, olives, and miso. And they all work toward the same goal of making a flavorful savory tomato sauce. And the olive oil creates a rich, almost creamy mouthfeel.
The cooking process for Vegan Puttanesca
Making this dish is really straightforward. Once you’ve prepped everything, you start boiling water for the pasta. On another burner, you heat olive oil in a skillet, saute garlic, red pepper flakes, and capers. Once they’re browned, mix in the miso and tomatoes, combining everything and breaking apart the canned whole tomatoes. Cook the sauce a while to reduce. While the sauce reduces, boil and drain the pasta. Then stir the pasta, olives, and parsley into the sauce.A
Some cooking notes before you start
Spaghetti appears to be the most common type of pasta used with Puttanesca. You can use any type of long pasta you like, but keep in mind the boiling time. Pick one that needs no more than 10 minutes of boiling time.
Shown in the photos is angel hair pasta. This type has the shortest cooking time but requires more attention because it can easily be overcooked.
Regardless of the pasta you use, you’ll want to undercook by 1-2 minutes when you boil it, so it will be just cooked after being mixed in the sauce for 1-2 minutes.
The quantity of pasta can range from 8-16 ounces (250-500 grams) and this depends on your preferred pasta-to-sauce ratio. I like my pasta extra saucy so I only used 8 ounces (250 grams) when I tested the recipe. Feel free to adjust the amount of pasta based on your meal plan.
Miso can vary a lot in its potency and one way to judge the potency is the amount of sodium (saltiness) per tablespoon. The one I used in this recipe is particularly mild and contains about 450 milligrams of sodium. Some Japanese misos contain as much as 800 milligrams. Check your miso before adding it. If the amount is in the 500-600 range, you can reduce the amount of miso by a third. If in the 700-800 range, you can reduce the amount by half. You can always add more toward the end.
The photos show whole olives, but slicing them will allow better distribution throughout the pasta. Some olives are especially salty, so the flavor will be more even if you distribute them.
I recommend rinsing the olives and capers because they can be especially salty.
More Plant-Based Italian-Inspired Recipes
If you try this recipe out, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @gastroplant on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Vegan Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
- 8-16 ounces Spaghetti or other long thin pasta (250-500 grams)
- 4 cloves garlic sliced thinly
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 sushi-size (8x8 inch / 20x20 inch) sheet of nori shredded
- 1 Tablespoon miso or more or less, depending on intensity - see note
- 3.5 ounces pitted black olives sliced in half lengthwise and rinsed (100 grams)
- 2 tablespoons capers rinsed and chopped
- 28 ounces peeled canned tomatoes (800 grams)
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley plus more to garnish
- Boil the pasta according to the package instructions, but about 1 minute less than recommended. You want it to be firm because it will be cooked a bit more in the sauce. Reserve at least 1 cup of the boiling water for later use.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, pepper flakes, capers. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes until the garlic is very lightly browned.
- Add the miso and stir together with the ingredients. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes along with the juice in the can. Turn to medium heat Break the tomatoes apart with the spatula. Continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the pasta, olives, parsley, and spaghetti. Use a pair of tongs to stir well. Continue cooking until the pasta is perfectly al dente, 1-2 minutes. If the mixture becomes dry at any point, gradually add pasta boiling water and stir. The consistency should be saucy but thick enough to eat with a fork.
- Taste and season with salt and black pepper as needed. You may not need much salt since the ingredients are already quite salty.
- Serve pasta immediately, garnishing with nori and more parsley.