Pasta with Olives and Pistachios
Although I cook pasta all year round I find that I tend to cook it more frequently in the fall and winter seasons. Not that I think of pasta as winter food but in the summer I like to take full advantage of the beautiful fresh vegetables that you find at the markets and finding myself cooking with a variety of summer potatoes for the starch component of dinner. We are now nearing the end of summer here in our northern part of the continent and it put me in the mood for pasta so I am taking a break from fresh vegetables and cooking a simple pasta for dinner. I cooked the pasta as usual, al dente, and tossed it with olive oil, bread crumbs, chopped pistachios and a few marinated Italian style green olives. Couldn’t be simpler and yet quite full of flavour. I used fresh pasta from Mercato, which is always delicious, but a dried pasta would be just as good, just cook it for the requisite amount of time to make sure it is cooked just right.
I have two pasta secrets: herbed crumbs and herbed oil. When I start cooking pasta (and any other time, really), I make an herbed oil to drizzle over the pasta before serving. It adds flavour, colour and a bit of spice. I keep the oil in the fridge in a glass jar and bring it to room temperature before using. In this recipe you don’t have to make the herbed oil as this is already built into the recipe, but it is useful to have on hand. The oil is also good drizzled over a bean soup or other soups in the winter. I also make herbed bread crumbs and keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. With these two I can whip up a delicious pasta in minutes without needing much else. See recipes below.
1/2 lb spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon italian seasoning
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup pistachios, chopped
1 cup green olives, pitted and halves
Herb oil for drizzling (recipe below)
Optional: 1/2 cup grated parmesan
Put oil and Italian seasoning in a small skillet and place on low heat to warm up the oil and infuse it with the seasoning. Turn off heat if the oil begins to sizzle
Cook pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until barely al dente. Drain and toss with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the herbed crumbs and mix.
Add parsley, pistachios, olives and parmesan.
Serve immediately with extra grated parmesan and a drizzle of herbed oil if you have it.
1 cup good quality olive oil
1 cup chopped mixed herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano etc.)
A few hot red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
A strip of lemon zest
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and warm over gentle heat for about 5 minutes.
Pour into a clean glass jar, cover with plastic and poke a few holes through the plastic with a knife. Let sit overnight on the counter. The next day you can strain the oil, discarding the herbs, or leave them in and refrigerate for a few days. Bring back to room temperature before using.
This oil is perishable because of the fresh herbs so use within a few days.
A useful crumb mixture to sprinkle on cooked pasta or use as a topping for baked pasta dishes. Make a large batch and keep in the freezer for last minute preparation. You can crush half and keep the other half in cubed form to add to salads and soups.
4 cups bread cubes made with a day old bread
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or 1 tablespoon each thyme and rosemary and a pinch hot pepper flakes
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Place bread cubes in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning or herbs.
Place in 375℉ oven and bake until bread is golden, stirring once or twice.
Remove from oven and let cool. When cool place in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or place in food processor together with parsley and pulse a few times to chop roughly.
Store in a freezer bag in the freezer or use immediately.