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Penne Pasta with Spinach, Grape Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives, by Beverly Hicks Burch

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Pasta and olives are two big favorites with my Tall & Handsome. There isn’t an olive he’s met and hasn’t loved (I can deal with this kind of competition) and he pretty much feels the same about pasta.

So, a while back when I found a pasta recipe on Cooking Light that had some of his favorite ingredients and some of mine, I knew the recipe had a green light for my legendary tweaking and Bevizing. Very few recipes pass this way without my tweaking. Much like a shade tree mechanic tinkering with cars, I haven’t met a recipe so far that I can’t resist doing the same to, usually with thumbs up results.

A couple of things about this recipe: the beauty is found in fresh ingredients. I’ve long been an advocate of having a home kitchen herb garden. This year due to the crazy spring and summer we had here at the Burch house, there was little time or opportunity to plant a lot, but I insisted on having fresh basil! In a pinch, I will use bottled minced garlic, but I prefer fresh. Kalamata olives (used in this recipe) in our house are like the roasted red bell peppers – food sent from Heaven. Olives are an extremely healthy food. Kalamata olives are Greek and usually packed in a salty brine or red wine vinaigrette or a combination of both. As a result, they can be very salty and high in sodium. The solution? As with most salty olives, you can rinse the olives with plain water. Some people recommend soaking the olives up to 30 minutes to remove as much excess salt as possible. I rinse my olives well under cool water before using.

So, keeping that in mind, I increased the increased the amount of olives in the recipe (rinsed of course). The original recipe called for using reserved water the pasta was cooked in, but I just find that lacking in flavor and “starchy” so I use low sodium chicken broth for a richer flavor.

This recipe can be easily doubled.

Penne Pasta with Spinach, Grape Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives

8 oz. uncooked penne pasta

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1 cup low sodium chicken broth, divided

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

20 pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped (can use more to taste)

4 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish 

1. Cook pasta in boiling water without salt or oil for about 8 minutes. Pasta should be al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds.

3. Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth, salt, pepper and olives. Cook for about 6 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break down stirring occasionally.

4. Add cooked pasta and the remaining 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth and simmer for 2 minutes.

5. Next, stir in spinach and basil leaves and cook 2 more minutes or until leaves begin to wilt.

6. Serve in pasta bowl or plates and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Serve with your favorite hot bread.

Penne Pasta with Spinach, Grape Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives B

Enjoy!!    

© 2014 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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