Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fusilli Pasta with Olives, Orange Zest, and Goat Cheese

I know, I know. This one's a hair unusual. And if you don't like olives or goat cheese, well, you might as well skip this one altogether. That said, I highly encourage anyone who hasn't tried Cerignola olives to go out and pick some up to try with cocktails or as part of an antipasti tray. These fat, meaty Italian nuggets are so mellow and mildly sweet, you'll be surprised they're olives at all. Lovely outcasts, they are.

To add contrast to the flavors in this pasta, I added Moroccan black, oil-cured olives. They couldn't be more in your face and flamboyant - tiny flavor bombs, but with a slightly bitter kick, so if you've never had them, try them first. If you can't quite handle the thought of them in your pasta, use kalamata instead. I consider kalamatas as the 'blue jeans' of olives. Classic and eternally loveable.

This is an easy recipe, more assembly line cooking than actual cooking, with one caveat. Pit the olives earlier in the day and set them aside in the fridge so you can just dump them into the cooked pasta. Pitting olives when you're hungry is a guaranteed ticket to the ER.

Fusilli with Olives, Orange Zest, Goat Cheese, and Pine Nuts

1 box fusilli pasta (1 lb)
small handful of sea salt or kosher salt to season your pasta water
Zest of 1 orange
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
14 cingale olives, pitted and quartered
20 black oil cured olives, or kalamata, pitted and sliced in half
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup + 2 tblspns toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, stripped from the stems
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes for heat (optional)
Sea salt

Heat a large pot of water over high heat for your pasta. Bring to a boil, stir in salt, then add your pasta. Cook 8 minutes, or until al dente.

Strain the pasta into a large serving bowl. Add the orange zest and olive oil, stirring to incorporate, then the olives, herbs, pepper and 1/2 cup pine nuts. Season with a pinch of salt, and taste for adjustments. Serve in individual bowls with an additional splash of olive oil and additional pine nuts sprinkled over the top .

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