What’s cooking today: Olive, tomato and basil pasta

What’s cooking today: Olive, tomato and basil pasta
Tony Jackman’s black olive, baby tomato and basil pasta, in a Mervyn Gers pasta bowl. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Here’s something else you can do with that olive brine you’ve been storing in the fridge rather than throw it away: make it a core component of a pasta sauce.

For this quick and simple family supper, I used one of those little plastic sachets of pitted and sliced Spanish black olives. They’re pert and just the right size for melding into a pasta sauce. I use red onion a lot (you may have noticed) but if you can get shallots, they’d work perfectly. I find that the red variety is sweeter and gentler than the rather too pungent white onions, for a subtle sauce at least.


½ a packet of penne rigate, cooked al dente and drained (retain 1 ladleful of the pasta water) (or other pasta of your choice)

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped

200 pitted Spanish black olives, sliced

80 g black olive brine

Olive oil

Baby tomatoes

50 g blue cheese, chopped or crumbled

A handful of torn basil leaves

Grated Parmigiana Reggiano

1 ladleful of pasta water

Salt and white pepper


Put a big pasta pot on the highest heat, lightly salted, to cook the penne rigate in. Cook until al dente and drain, but hold back a ladleful of the pasta water to add to your sauce.

Sauté the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until softened. Add the halved baby tomatoes and cook gently for 2 minutes or so. Add the olive brine and olive slices and reduce it while the flavours develop, for a few minutes, stirring.

Stir in the crumbled blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add a ladleful of the pasta water. Cook gently, stirring, while the pasta water emulsifies with the sauce it has been added to.

Toss torn basil leaves through and serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. DM/TGIFood

Mervyn Gers Ceramics supplies dinnerware for the styling of some TGIFood shoots. For more information, click here.

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