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Favorite Pasta - Spicy Tomato Olive Penne

A while back I mentioned we have a go-to pasta recipe. When our usual recipe sources seem to fail us, and we just need one more meal to fill out the week, 9 times out of 10 we’ll default to this recipe. Taylor has this thing down, in fact, I’ve learned that it’s better just to let him do this one all by himself. I only get in his way. By the time the meal is done the kitchen is as spotless as when he started (don’t ask me how he manages to clean WHILE he cooks… it’s still a mystery to me).

One of the more interesting aspects of having a food blog is watching recipes evolve. This particular pasta recipe started out quite different, posted right here two and a half years ago. The basic concept is the same, tomatoes and olives with a bit of a kick, but the recipe has taken on a life of it’s own. Each time we make it it gets even better. The final product is a rich and robust pasta, somewhat similar to a putanesca, and incredibly satisfying. You know we like variety, and don’t often cook recipes multiple times, but this one is here to stay.

Ever wonder what happens to our food after the photo has been taken? Well, for the majority of pasta dishes, a boatload of parmesan gets dumped on top. Sure, a few shreds of cheese make for a pretty photo, but when it comes time to eat the darned thing, I’d like a side of pasta with my cheese, please. Case in point: I snapped this photo quickly after I realized that this recipe had changed so much it was worth posting again, aka after I had already dumped half the bag of parmesan on top of the pasta. Sorry if you can’t really see the dish underneath all that cheese. Olives? There are olives in there? Yeah, there are. Whatever. That’s reality right there.

Favorite Tomato and Olive Penne

Makes 4-6 servings.

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1 lb penne
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
3 tablespoons tomato paste (about half of a small can)
1/4 cup white wine
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the penne until it is very al dente (just barely undercooked – the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce). Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and cook, stirring, until the onion is slightly soft (don’t let the garlic brown). Add the cherry tomatoes and cook 3-4 minutes. Add tomato paste, white wine, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the penne, olives, and 1/4 cup parmesan to the skillet and toss to combine. Add some of the reserved pasta water and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until heated through and pasta is perfectly al dente. Serve with more cheese if desired.

All images and text © / Love & Olive Oil

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