Generally served with pasta, this sauce is a spicy mélange of tomatoes, onions, capers, black olives, anchovies, oregano and garlic, all cooked together in olive oil. A dish on a menu described as alla puttanesca signals that it's served with this sauce. The name puttanesca is a derivation of puttana, which in Italian means "whore." According to one story, the name purportedly comes from the fact that the intense fragrance of this sauce was like a siren's call to the men who visited such "ladies of pleasure."
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.