In a hurry for dinner?Pasta is your friend. This pasta dish with olives, tomatoes, and capers (or pasta puttanesca) has a slightly racy name. Nobody really knows why. One theory says the dish was popular with the ladies of the evening because it was easy to cook and the ingredients were cheap.Another says that the sauce’s aroma helped lure in customers.
Whatever the reason, it certainly is budget friendly and you can make it in about 20 minutes.
Whoever is responsible created a dish that’s packed with flavor. There’s pungent little bits of garlic, slightly briny capers, and Niçoise olives.
Capers, in case you don’t know, are the buds of a Mediterranean plant that are picked and then pickled (try to say that three times fast).I always thought Niçoiseolives were a variety, but I found out today that they’re really called Le Calletier.Niçoise is just the method of curing them.
I adapted this recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. They suggested using whole canned tomatoes, and then squeezing them out and chopping them up. That’s too messy for me. You can use crushed tomatoes, purée, or even tomato sauce in a pinch.
Traditionally, this recipe also includes anchovies.However, I am a fish wimp. The strongest fish flavor I like is salmon.Also, anchovies were $32 a pound.Nope. Not happening. Nuh uh.
The other great thing about pasta puttanesca is that you can use canned tomatoes, jarred capers, dry pasta, and spices you probably already have sitting on your shelf.
The source of this recipe for chicken with olives and tomatoes will probably surprise you. It’s a North African recipe from a Jewish cookbook. You probably think of lox and bagels and matzo balls when you think of Jewish cuisine, but it’s really far more varied than that. This is just one example. My recipe for Moroccan chicken and bean soup was adapted from the same cookbook.
This recipe looks a bit complicated, but it really isn’t. The flavors of the chicken, olives, garlic, and a bit of ginger make it rich and delicious (with a hint of spiciness). It’s not a quick meal though, so save it for when you have more time (or on a weekend).
Try to use pitted olives, it will make the whole thing much easier!
North African chicken recipe with olives, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger. It's probably not what you expect from Jewish cuisine!
1T olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 chicken thigh
2T pureed tomatoes (or tomato sauce)
tiny pinch powdered saffron
3/4 C water
5-6 green pitted olives
squeeze of lemon juice
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Cook them until they wilt.
Add the garlic and the ginger and stir thoroughly.
Next add the chicken, turning it regularly, and cook for a minute or two until they get slightly brown.
Add the tomatoes and the saffron to the pan..
Season with salt and pepper (not too much salt, because the olives are salty)
Pour in the water (it should just cover the chicken)
Cook on low heat for about 30 minutes.
Turn the chicken every ten minutes or so and check to make sure the water hasn't evaporated. Add more water if necessary.
While the chicken is cooking, heat some water in a small saucepan. When it comes to a boil, add the olives. Cook for 30 seconds or so. Then drain them and add to the chicken mixture.
Cook for another 10 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and the coriander and serve.
A note about the saffron. I realize it's hideously expensive. Someone brought me a container of saffron threads rom the Middle East (where it's dirt cheap), so I don't mind so much. The powdered version is a bit cheaper though.
Soak this in a bit of hot water before you use it. Saffron adds a flavor that’s hard to describe, as well as beautiful reddish-yellow color. Use it for Moroccan dishes (like this one), or for Indian food. Just a tiny bit will do the trick.
Buying pre-pitted olives saves a lot of time (and waste). Use this for this chicken dish, serve them with an antipasto platter, or put them in pasta. Or, add some olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, and marinate them. Serve that with a cheese platter.
This is part cookbook and part travel diary. The author includes brief histories of the communities that created the dishes, and how they adapted local cuisine to suit religious restrictions. There’s recipes for the expected kugel, split pea soup, and chopped liver. But then it goes off to Spain, Baghdad, and India. From there you get leek meatballs, eggplant fritters, chicken with rice croquettes, borekas, lamb with raisins and almonds, and pumpkin kofta curry.
This penne with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives recipe is fairly hands-off, simple, and delicious. And, of course, it’s just one serving!
It also allowed me to make some progress using the enormous jar of sun-dried tomatoes that’s been in the back of my fridge forever! Add some pasta, a bit of feta cheese, olives, and a few leaves of fresh basil, and you get a tasty lunch with only a few minutes of real work. (I have a basil plant growing in my window, so that basil was really fresh).
The feta was leftover from making a feta and spinach omelette, so it also helps toward my goal of not wasting anything. I just hate having a couple of tablespoons of sauce, or a few random bits of fruit or vegetables turning into a science experiment.
Now, on to more tasty mental pictures.
Since the tomatoes are dried, you’ll have to start by heating them and softening them up a bit. You can do this overnight (if you’re organized), or just start them a few minutes before you start boiling the water for the pasta.
Once the tomatoes are soaked and the pasta is cooked, the rest of the recipe takes only a few minutes to prepare. Just cook the garlic, toss the remaining ingredients in the saucepan you used to cook the penne and heat them up with the pasta.
Since the entire meal only uses one pot, it’s also easy to clean up afterwards. I don’t have a dishwasher, so easy cleanup is good!
The nice thing about sun-dried tomatoes is that they do last a long time (if you happen to have bought a giant jar because the price was great). In addition to pasta, you can toss them on pizza, mix them in with eggs, add them to pesto, or put them in meatloaf.
My mom only eats black olives and my dad only likes green ones. I never really liked olives of any kind that much until I tried these. They were set out as a bar snack (of all things). They are bright green, mild, and don’t taste sour or briny like most olives do. They’re great with this pasta dish, and also marinated in olive oil with slivers of garlic and rosemary (which is how the bar served them). Delicious and great for a wine and cheese cocktail hour (either just for you or for company).
More Single Serving Recipes with Pasta or Feta Cheese
After a rather chilly spring, summer is suddenly here in full force. It’s hot, it’s sticky and I do not want to stand over a hot stove for one second longer than I have to. Time for salads, pasta, and as little use of the stove as possible. So, with that in mind, today’s dish is a simple, but delicious summer pasta served with green olives and feta cheese.
I ate it hot, because I was hungry and didn’t want to wait for it to cool, but I suspect it would work just as well cold. It would probably be great for a picnic pasta salad, as it’s easy to make and there’s no mayonnaise to worry about.
It’s easy to make too. Just boil the water, cook the pasta, and chop up a few ingredients.
I confess that while I put measurements in the recipe, I didn’t really measure. I just tossed it all together. Something like this doesn’t really have to be all that exact. It’s tough to go wrong unless you overdo it on the dressing.
1/4 feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small pieces
1 T olive oil
generous squirt of lemon juice.
4-5 grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
Boil the water and cook the pasta.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a bowl. Add the olives, basil, and feta cheese.
Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together in a small bowl and pour over the pasta mixture.
Add the tomatoes.
Toss the pasta to coat it and combine all the ingredients.
I prefer green castelvetrano olives, but you can use black if you like them better. I add the tomatoes last to stop them from cooking (since I don't like freshly cooked tomatoes). If you aren't bothered by that, add them when you add the cheese.