Monday, 23 April 2012

Cherry Tomato and Olive Penne

Cherry tomatoes have got to be the cutest vegetable ever. So small and plump. They also happen to be some of the few tomatoes that still taste of something, and are therefore really great to make light pasta sauces with!

I always keep my eyes peeled for new pasta ideas. As much I love my old favorite sauces and enjoy preparing them over and over again, trying out new ones is so exciting (wow, that makes it sound like my life is so boring...)! I ran across this one browsing, and being crazy about olives, I just had to try it.

Having a variety of quick pasta sauces in your repertoire comes in handy on weeknights, and leftovers make simple and delicious lunches. This one strikes a lovely balance between the sweet cherry tomatoes and the tangy olives, and serves 4.

1 pound penne rigate
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 (5 ounce) can tomato paste
1/3 cup white wine
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes, to taste
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (optional)

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the penne until it is almost 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 the Parmesan (if using) 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 Parmesan if desired.

I used a combination of cherry and grape tomatoes, having both handy at the time. It made for a fresh and lovely plate of pasta, lightly coated in garlicky-tomato goodness. I guarantee olive-lovers with lick their plates and ask for seconds!

Serve it with a nice robust red wine, that will balance out the flavor of the cherry tomatoes and heighten the salty bites of the Kalamatas.

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