Pasta alla Pizzaiola Recipe from Puglia.

Pasta alla Pizzaiola Recipe from Puglia (Salentina).

pennoni pasta alla pizzaiola

Pennoni alla Pizzaiola Salentina.

Pasta alla Pizzaiola is a simple but delicious Southern Italian pasta recipe inspired by pizza marinara, hence the name! Although, most definitely of Neapolitan origin, slightly different versions of alla pizzaiola are traditional in Basilicata, Sicily and Campania. This recipe is the version from Salento, Puglia.

pasta alla pizzaiola recipe from Puglia

A little alla Pizzaiola history.

Many food historians say that pasta alla pizzaiola actually started as a meat sauce, the leftovers of which were used as a pasta condiment. Cooking meat in what is actually marinara pizza sauce was a way for poorer people to make low quality cuts of meat tastier and more edible. This dish was also very popular in the post war period when good quality meat was hard to come by.

ingredients for pasta alla pizzaiola recipe from Puglia

Although not an item on many restaurant menus, meat with pizzaiola sauce is still very popular in Southern Italy. The meat, which is traditionally veal or beef slices, is cooked in the sauce. And as mentioned above, many people use some of the sauce on pasta in order to have a two course meal.

cherry tomato halves, anchovies, garlic and capers in frying pan

This practice is popular among Southern Italians. For example, most Italians don’t eat spaghetti with meatballs. They serve the sauce with pasta as a first course and eat the meatballs separately as a main course or ‘secondo’. The same is true for recipes like braciole (beef rolls).

pizzaiola sauce in frying pan

Nowadays, there are also many alla pizzaiola recipes with other types of meat such as chicken or with fish, for example swordfish or tuna. Some Italians roll the meat into involtini or braciole. In addition, there are some veggies served this way. Potatoes alla pizzaiola is a traditional recipe in Palermo, Sicily.

pennoni pasta di Gragnano

Marinara sauce.

Over time, it has become popular to make alla pizzaiola specifically for pasta, without cooking meat as well. In Naples and the rest of Campania, whether made with meat or just for pasta, alla pizzaiola sauce is usually simply marinara sauce. This is a super simple sauce made with just olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and oregano.

pennoni pasta in sauce in frying pan

The name ‘marinara’ derives from the fact that marinara pizza was a popular food among sailors (marinai) during the 18th century. The ingredients were easily conservable and perfect for long sea voyages.

Different versions of pasta alla pizzaiola.

When making alla pizzaiola just as a pasta sauce, many Southern Italians add other ingredients. This version from Salento includes capers and anchovies. I also added some fresh mozzarella just before serving. It’s possible to bake pasta alla pizzaiola (al forno), which is what I did with the leftovers. So, I actually got two pasta meals out of one preparation! You can also choose to just bake this dish.

pennoni alla pizzaiola in oven dish with mozzarella slices
I baked the leftovers

I found a number of recipes that also included olives or parsley or basil or peperoncino (red chili). In my opinion, this is a recipe you can slightly play around with, as the Italians do. However, in general the basic sauce remains tomatoes (fresh and/or passata), a generous sprinkling of oregano and garlic.

Baked pasta alla pizzaiola
Baked pasta alla pizzaiola

The pasta

Traditionally, Italians eat pasta alla pizzaiola either with a long pasta such as spaghetti or bucatini, or with short penne or pennoni. Pennoni are giant penne. I used pennoni which were a pasta di Gragnano from a company called Il vecchio pastificio di Gragnano.

baked pasta alla pizzaiola
Baked pasta alla pizzaiola

As I have mentioned in other posts, Pasta di Gragnano is fantastic pasta from a town near Naples called, of course, Gragnano. There are a number of different pasta companies there. This pasta is made according to strict regulations and is really excellent quality. Look out for it when you’re shopping!

If you do try this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback means a lot to me!

Buon appetito!

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5 from 22 votes
pasta alla pizzaiola recipe from Puglia
Pasta alla Pizzaiola Recipe from Puglia
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins

This delicious pasta recipe from Puglia is based on pizza marinara sauce, hence the name! It can be served baked or not baked. It is simple to make but full of Mediterranean flavour! Make it vegetarian by leaving out the anchovies!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Puglia, Southern Italian
Keyword: alla pizzaiola, baked pasta recipe, marinara sauce, mozzarella and tomatoes, pasta recipe, penne, pennoni
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 400 g pennoni pasta (14oz) or other pasta of your choice
  • 500 g tomato passata (17oz) or canned peeled tomatoes
  • 12 cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 250 g fresh mozzarella (9oz) double the mozzarella if you plan to bake before serving
  • 1-2 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1-2 anchovy fillets (salted or preserved in oil) leave out for vegetarian option
  • 1-2 tsp oregano dried or 2-4 tsp fresh
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp capers (salted or preserved in vinegar)
  1. If using salted capers rinse under running water. If using cherry tomatoes wash them and cut into halves. Peel the garlic.

  2. Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt when it starts to boil and bring to the boil again.

  3. In a high-sided skillet or frying pan, sauté the garlic cloves, the anchovy fillets, the capers and the cherry tomatoes together with the olive oil. After a few minutes, once the anchovies have melted, add the tomato passata.

  4. Cook over a medium heat for about fifteen minutes. When half cooked, add salt to taste and sprinkle with the oregano, leave to simmer and flavor for 10 more minutes. Remove the garlic. 

  5. In the meantime, cut the mozzarella into small pieces and then cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. 

  6. Remove some of the sauce from the pan. When it’s cooked, drain the pasta and add to the skillet/frying pan with the sauce. Mix everything together well to distribute the sauce evenly. Plate the pasta after putting a nice spoonful of the saved sauce in the bottom of the bowl/plate.  

  7. Put some mozzarella pieces onto the pasta before serving.

To bake your pasta alla pizzaiola
  1. Transfer the pasta mixed with the sauce to a buttered oven dish. Cover the top with mozzarella slices and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C until the top starts to crisp and the mozzarella melts and browns slightly!

Recipe Notes

Traditionally,  pasta alla pizzaiola is made with long pasta such as spaghetti or bucatini or short pasta like penne or pennoni (giant penne) You can also use vermicelli or fusilli! 

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pasta alla pizzaiolapasta alla pizzaiola 2 ways

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  • Kelly Anthony
    May 31, 2019 10:17 pm

    This pasta alla pizzaiola recipe looks absolutely delicious. I love that it has simple ingredients but bursting with flavors.

  • Stephanie Simmons
    May 15, 2019 10:17 pm

    I love that this is inspired by pizza marina! It looks so incredibly delicious – just look at those yummy hunks of cheese!

  • Maman de sara
    May 14, 2019 1:07 pm

    I enjoy reading your post, especially when there is a little history behind the dish. That pasta looks absolutely delicious.

  • Mimi
    May 14, 2019 5:13 am

    I think I would love to see all versions of this delicious pasta! 🙂 I absolutely love all the ingredients, and it does seem like a great weeknight pasta, too!

  • April
    May 14, 2019 5:12 am

    I wondered if the name had something to do with it! So fun to know everything about the dish before making it at home – puts so much meaning into the process of cooking. Fantastic recipe!

  • Emmanuella Sjögren
    May 12, 2019 6:59 am

    Give me a fork and some chilli flakes please:-) I love anchovies and capers together. Yum!

  • Jeannette (Jay Joy)
    May 11, 2019 6:57 am

    I love the simple ingredients of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, and oregano. It looks deliv=cious with mozzarella.

  • Jenni LeBaron
    May 9, 2019 7:31 pm

    This sounds absolutely lovely! I love the big, fresh pieces of mozzarella and I bet the anchovies give this dish the perfect salty umami flavor.

  • Annissa
    May 8, 2019 6:18 pm

    I enjoyed reading about how Italians truly cook in their food! I had no idea that serving meatballs with spaghetti is the “Americanized” version. I’m definitely for altering herbs in the food as it’s cooking, though.

    • Jacqui
      May 9, 2019 11:35 am

      Thanks for you comment Annissa! Yes spaghetti with meatballs isn’t really an ‘Italian’ dish. In many recipes, Italians cook the meat in sauce but then eat the sauce with pasta and the meat separately!

  • Annissa
    May 8, 2019 6:11 pm

    How wonderful to learn about how Italians really cook! I didn’t know they didn’t serve meatballs with their spaghetti! I love that they alter their recipes on the spot, though!

  • Shinta Simon
    May 8, 2019 6:10 pm

    Love that you share the tradition and origins behind the pasta. Such an interesting story! And the pasta itself looks wonderful!

    • Jacqui
      May 9, 2019 11:36 am

      Thank you Shinta! I’m happy you like this pasta recipe! Many traditional Italian dishes have an interesting story or history behind them and I love sharing that info!

  • Sara Welch
    May 8, 2019 5:58 pm

    This will make a great dinner on busy weeknights! So savory and full of flavor!

    • Jacqui
      May 9, 2019 11:38 am

      Thanks Sara! Yes this is a great weeknight meal. You can also get two meals out of one preparation by baking the leftovers the following day!

  • Taylor Kiser
    May 8, 2019 5:16 pm

    This looks so delicious! Definitely needs to happen for dinner!

    • Jacqui
      May 9, 2019 11:38 am

      Grazie Taylor! I’m sure you’ll really enjoy this pasta alla pizzaiola when you make it!

  • Amanda
    May 8, 2019 3:41 pm

    Oh, wow, I just want to jump through my computer and dig into a big bowl of this pasta. That fresh mozzarella and flavorful marinara are calling to me.

    • Jacqui
      May 9, 2019 11:39 am

      Happy you like this recipe Amanda! I agree, fresh mozzarella and marinara sauce are a fab combo!

  • Danielle Wolter
    May 8, 2019 12:50 pm

    I can’t stop looking at that delicious cheese on top. This looks like such a simple but flavorful dish. Love the use of anchovies – I’ll bet they add a great flavor!

    • Jacqui
      May 9, 2019 11:41 am

      That cheese is mouth watering isn’t it Danielle? I love pasta recipes that are easy to make but super flavourful! Pasta alla pizzaiola is definitely on that list!

  • Stine Mari
    May 8, 2019 12:17 pm

    Oh yum! All the flavors to get that ultimate comfort food. When I make pasta sauce I tend to make too much and use the leftovers on pizza another day. Baking it also looks superb!

    • Jacqui
      May 9, 2019 11:42 am

      Thank you Stine Mari! Pasta sauce is a perfect cook once eat twice recipe! You can also freeze the sauce for later use!

  • Jere Cassidy
    May 8, 2019 2:43 am

    This giant penne looks good. And thanks for all the great info behind this dish.

    • Jacqui
      May 9, 2019 11:43 am

      Thank you Jere! I loved these giant penne! Can’t wait to use them again soon!

  • Adriana
    May 7, 2019 10:50 pm

    That sauce is the BOMB I made it and came out delicious. Thanks for always inspire us to cook with pasta

    • Jacqui
      May 9, 2019 11:45 am

      So happy you made and loved this sauce Adriana! There are so many fab ways to eat pasta here in Italy. I’m glad you feel inspired to try new pasta recipes!

  • Beth Pierce
    May 7, 2019 9:06 pm

    What a heartwarming and delicious meal! I will definitely make this for dinner this week! Yum!

  • Amanda Wren-Grimwood
    May 7, 2019 8:30 pm

    I love that you can use this sauce in so many ways and it’s nice to know how the Italians eat it too by using it in the starter and main course. Delicious!

  • Pam
    May 7, 2019 8:15 pm

    I love learning about the origins of recipes, especially those from cultures other than my own. This looks simple and delicious!

  • Andrea Metlika
    May 7, 2019 7:59 pm

    The pasta looks marvelous. Thank you for the story. I never knew about this.

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