Pasta with Olive Tapenade: A meatless dish for even the most carnivorous
We’ve gotten into an unfortunate habit in my house of planning meals around what type of meat will be served. I could blame my meat-and-potatoes-loving midwest fella if I wanted to be particularly unfair, but I’m totally guilty of daydreaming my way through menu-planning around rich and hearty beef roasts, herb-rubbed chicken, and oil drizzled fish all on my own. You could say we really lean into a meaty winter menu.
While both of us are decidedly carnivorous, I feel like its nice to break up the week with a few meatless dishes that command their own spotlight. This Pasta with Olive Tapenade is one of my favorite ways to include a meatless dish on the dinner menu without sacrificing the heartiness that comes along with a traditional meat-centric dish. The meaty umami of the olive tapenade is the clear star of the show in this dish. When paired with a simple pasta, a good salty cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil it forms a simple but satisfying powerhouse.
What type of pasta is best?
I generally like to make this with a gluten-free spaghetti (you can use regular if you’re not gluten-free). My favorite options are the Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta, which I’ve easily found at several grocery stores (look for the purple bag), and Trader Joes Brown Rice Spaghetti Pasta. A thin pasta, like spaghetti, allows the olive tapenade to disperse more evenly than a wider noodle, but you can feel free to use your favorite shape. I also think this would be wonderful tossed in with a fusilli pasta because the olive tapenade would cling well to the spirals.
If you’re trying to stay away from grain and want to lighten the carb count of this dish up, zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash are the way to go. The latter being my preference because I feel that it holds up to cooking and reheating better than zucchini noodles.
A note for special diets
If you make this Pasta with Olive Tapenade with a brown rice spaghetti, as instructed below, this recipe fits gluten-free and low-fodmap diets. For those abstaining from grain altogether, or would like to lower their carb count, this dish can easily accommodate a Keto diet by subbing the pasta with a low-carb alternative such as zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
Pasta with Olive Tapenade
Yield 6 servings
- Cook pasta according to package instructions until it reaches al dente (firm when bitten) tenderness. For the brown rice pasta I use, I bring 4.5 quarts of water to a boil then add the pasta noodles. I don't bother salting my water because the olive tapenade is plenty salty for the dish. Boil for 12-14 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Gluten-free rice pasta has a tendency to stick together when cooking, so giving it a quick stir every couple of minutes helps prevent this without resorting to oiling the water (which every Italian grandmother will likely slap you for doing).
- Drain the pasta into a colander. I also like to give the pasta a quick rinse under fresh warm water because it can help remove some of the excess starchiness that gluten-free rice noodles often have.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive tapenade and stir, cooking for about 2 minutes to allow it to get a bit of direct heat before adding the pasta.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the pasta and stir to combine.
- Sprinkle in 1 cup of the shredded parmesan cheese and stir to combine, then turn heat off.
- Serve warm with a sprinkle of the remaining parmesan cheese and parsley on top.
Serving Size 1/6 of the pasta
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 25 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Cholesterol 20 mg
Sodium 1165 mg
Total Carbohydrates 63 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Protein 13 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.