Monday, December 5, 2011

pickle ball and olive•pasta

Owen loves pickles and I will use this fact to my advantage to make dinner time go just a little more smoothly.  Actually, calling capers pickle balls is not far off from the truth.  The little spheres that are commonly called capers are actually flower buds from the caper bush that are-- you guessed it-- pickled.
He loves olives, too, and insisted I add them to the title of the recipe.  So, with some direction from my preschooler, I bring you "Pickle Ball and Olive Pasta".
We had this for dinner last night, and Owen said, "This is the best dinner I've ever had!"  I'm pretty sure he has learned by now that it's to his advantage to flatter his mama, and I'm pretty sure this statement was a slight exaggeration.  But, I was not about to argue with him.  The four-year-old has spoken.  Brock and I thought it was maybe not the best dinner ever, but really good.  I was excited that dinner was so easy to make-- and of course, that Owen is finally starting to learn to flatter his mother.  Oliver was just excited about his bread.
This pasta has actually been a favorite of ours for years-- as evidenced by the condition of my recipe card (with notes scribbled all over and the original blue ballpoint ink faded nearly to oblivion in places).  It's about time I type it out, lest it be lost to me.

The veggies (etc):
  • A 14.5 to 16 oz package of pasta*
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ripe tomatoes (about 3 large tomatoes), chopped (about 2 to 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted, coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup capers (AKA pickle balls), rinsed
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste (I just add a pinch so it's not too spicy for the kids)
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 1/2 TBS dried parsley**
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

The love:
  1. Cook your pasta in boiling salted water until al dente and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a wide skillet and add the garlic, tomatoes, olives, pickle balls, pepper flakes or cayenne, marjoram and parsley.
  3. Simmer briskly for 10 minutes, until sauce has thickened a bit and tomatoes start to break down a little.
  4. Season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve immediately, topped with a little fresh grated parmesan.


* I use Barilla Plus pasta, which for some reason comes in 14.5 oz packages.  Maybe it's because this kind expands more than your average noodle when cooking-- it seems to be about right when substituted for a one-pound box of regular pasta.
**If you feel like getting fancy with the herbs, you live somewhere you can grow such things as marjoram and parsley, or you generally use a lot of fresh herbs when cooking, go for it and substitute fresh for the dried (use about 1TBS chopped marjoram and 1/2 cup chopped parsley).  Your pasta will probably taste that much better because of your valiant efforts.  But, if you're like me and are looking for a fast meal with a minimal about of washing and chopping, you cannot grow herbs more finicky than mint and chives in your garden, or you end up using a small amount of store-bought herbs and letting the rest of them go slimy in your vegetable drawer, stick with the dry herbs-- it'll still be pretty darn good.

Where credit is due:

In the very corner of my recipe card, in very small and faded print, I believe it says Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  A quick Amazon search and a glance at the cover photo have reminded me that this cookbook is by Deborah Madison.  My memory now tells me that although I haven't picked up the actual book in years, it's been a helpful one in the past-- and has obviously provided me with a recipe or two that I've tried, re-made and re-named over the years...

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