Friday, November 13, 2009

Call Me Crazy

The craving came on strong. I wanted olives and I wanted them bad. Nothing compares to that briny, bitter, sour burst of rich oil-soaked heaven. At least that was the way I was feeling last night. I had just come home from seeing the movie Precious (yes, good, good, go) and needed to fix a quick dinner from the contents of the fridge (a familiar theme, but isn't this always the way?). I knew I would find some olives in there, I buy them in large quantities for the parties I cater. Fairways has my favorite olive bar these days with their huge selection. I found the end of a container way in the back shelf. Relief!
I mixed black and green olives to build up a really strong olive flavor

When I think olives I immedialty think pasta. I decided to make a really garlicky-olivey oil base to dress the spaghetti. The other find from the fridge was a handful of tiny sweet bell peppers that I have been seeing in the markets lately. I think one of them was a red jalapeno pepper which suited me perfectly.
These sweet red and yellow peppers are really cute. I stuff them with cheese and bake as an appetizer. The one jalapeno in the back got mixed in by my happy mistake.

I chopped the peppers up small, along with an onion and plenty of garlic and started to slow cook it all in the olive oil. Ok vegans, turn your heads for a minute, I then added a tin of anchovies (yeah!) and the olives, roughly chopped, and let it all cook down while I cooked the pasta.

I found the jar of capers I pulled out of the fridge after I had finished cooking. I would have put them in to intensify the sour briny flavor.

The finish was a big splash of white wine and a ladleful of pasta water to loosen everything up. I even ran outside to my backyard in the rain, in the dark, to pick a few straggling basil leaves. Mix the drained pasta with the olive sauce to coat completely. Top with grated cheese. So so so good!

Spaghetti with Olives and Garlic

1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper or 6-8 small bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 cup olives, chopped
2 Tbs. capers chopped
1 small tin of anchovies (optional), chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped or torn
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 lb. spaghetti, cooked al dente

Heat olive oil, add garlic, onions and peppers and cook on a medium low heat so they simmer, for about 10 minutes until vegetables begin to soften and turn golden. Add the olives, capers and anchovies if you are using them, and continue to cook, allowing all the ingredients to soften and mush up a bit, another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in boiling water for 6-8 minutes. Before draining the pasta scoop out a ladleful of the cooking water and add to the olive mixture. Add the white wine and simmer another minute or two. Add the chopped basil and stir in the drained pasta. Toss in the pan to coat the spaghetti with the sauce. Top with grated cheese and serve.

serves two

This actually happens to be one of my favorite pastas to make, and one which I make frequently. I always welcome the addition of the anchovies! I'm in love with the whole anchovy, caper, olive combination. I always like to add something spicy to the mix, as you did in this situation. I love fresh spicy peppers, but if I don't have any on hand, I just add some crushed red pepper. The only other thing I do differently is I add cheese that is shredded or shaved because I like the gooeyness it provides! I've never added mixed olives - can't wait to incorporate that tip! And the chopped onion! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I am also thinking of the perfect wine. Look for a Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which is named for and produced almost exclusively from the Tuscan city of San Gimignano in the province of Siena in Italy. Right now, we are selling a lot of Cesani Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which for $9.99 is a great bottle of wine. Typically, Vernaccia produces wines which are elegant, and full of white fruit flavors. Delicate aromas of citrus and almond abound, with the wine offering crisp, fresh flavors. The wine can be powerful and full-bodied with a wonderful richness as well. I think the round fruit flavors are a great match for this pasta dish. The exotic fruitiness will be a great counter-balance to the saltiness of the dish. As my stomach growls, I sit here pondering when I will have the next opportunity to try out this sure-fire combination!


  1. I totally get the olive craving: ho boy, do I get it. And I like the spaghetti recipe. Usually, I just do a simple oil and garlic version when we crave something basic, but this is a nice variation. What I don't get is "Precious." It sounds so dark and depressing, yet you're not the first person to recommend it. So I guess I'd better whip up some spaghetti and head for the movies.

  2. Precious is a beautiful story, well acted and very moving. It is uplifting and satisfying. It's like "To Sir with Love" for this generation.

  3. sorry, that last comment about Precious was from me Deborah. I am signed in on line as Alan. oy. He has not seen the movie either because he thinks it will be too depressing, but it is not. really.

  4. Ahh, the addition of anchovies. How could you? I do really miss the small things when I choose meatless meals: Vietnamese fish sauce and Anchovies, I think, are indispensable.

  5. Yes I agree, it is hard to find a meatless replacement for those ingredients. Olives, capers, miso all bring a rich saltiness that approximates the fish flavor, but there's nothing like the real thing!


Thank you for your comment. Spammers have forced me to now review every comment before publishing. So please bear with me as I read through your comment. Thank you for visiting the blog!