Monday, May 31, 2010

Mediterranean Pasta Dish

Dedicated to John, my life partner and soul mate

Serves two.

1/2 lb Angel Hair whole wheat Pasta or Linguine
1 small package (6 oz) sun dried tomatoes
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
a dozen or more pitted Greek or Mediterranean olives
2 garlic cloves – very finely chopped
½ large can whole peeled tomatoes with half the liquid
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
Fresh basil leaves – approximately half the leaves from a stalk
4 oz pan toasted pine nuts
Freshly grated Romano cheese

In a medium size bowl mix sun dried tomatoes, olive oil and chopped garlic cloves. Allow mixture to marinate for at least one hour. If preparing the day before, refrigerate, as fresh garlic in a liquid should not be exposed to room temperature for long periods due to rapid bacterial growth. Treat garlic in any liquid as a very perishable item. When tomatoes soften a bit in the olive oil add canned tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces with liquid, ground pepper, and olives. Prior to serving, cover tomato mixture with plastic wrap and warm in microwave on low.

Cook pasta according to directions on package. Transfer to a colander. Drain and rinse. Return to pot with a few TBLS olive oil. Stir and keep warm over low setting on stove.

Toast pine nuts in a dry iron or heavy frying pan over low heat, stirring or turning nuts constantly to prevent burning. When nuts begin to darken slightly remove immediately from pan, as pine nuts tend to burn quite easily. Place hot pasta in large serving bowl. Mix in microwave-warmed tomato, olive, garlic and oil mixture along with fresh basil leaves. Top with toasted pine nuts and plenty of freshly grated Romano cheese.

This main dish takes little time to prepare, although many of the ingredients may not be staples in your larder. It makes wonderful leftovers, as well.

Serve with a tossed salad, warm Italian bread smothered with garlic butter, a favorite red wine, and fresh fruit for dessert, such as cut up kiwi, pineapple, and strawberries. Oh, and some cold champagne or bubbly fruity white wine with the fruit is quite nice.

©Wilma Carolyn Johnson Short

This recipe evolved over time. I have always been partial to the immense variety of vegetarian cooking. I find the flavors to range from delicate to tangy, sweet to spicy, and always with many interesting textures. I had heard my colleagues in the teachers room discussing the pesto they made, so I went to the grocery store, came home with the proper ingredients and made some in my food processor. Without any recipe I improvized using olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, fresh basil, and Romano cheese. We had it over pasta and went gaga over it. At some point I decided not to mix the pesto ingredients, but to try them individually on their own merit. With that came the addition of tomatoes and olives. I find the individual flavors uniquely compliment each other. Substituting regular spaghetti for angel hair or linguine works just fine. I particularly enjoy the the way angel hair pasta becomes saturated with the flavors of this particular dish. Sometimes I mix whole wheat pasta with regular (white wheat) pasta for the visual interest it provides. When doubling the recipe I recommend 3 garlic cloves instead of 4 . Garlic has a way of multiplying its strength exponentially.

I purchase my ingredients for this dish at Whole Foods because I can find everything there with the added bonus that they carry organically grown food. They even have pasta made from organically grown wheat! It has become a “once in a great while dish” because of the expense, but it is a special treat. This is one of those meals to which John says, “Wow!” when I serve it. I recommend trying to find the ingredients at your local grocer in order to save many pennies.

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