I recently watched a Jim Gaffigan special and he talked about his appendix surgeon, Dr. Muffuletta. Apparently, once he learned the name (being the foodie he is) Jim fondly recalled all those delicious muffuletta sandwiches he enjoyed in New Orleans. . .
Then I started thinking about that infamous sandwich of cured meats, cheeses, crusty bread and a spread of olives, giardiniera (pickled carrot, cauliflower & celery), garlic, oil and spices. So I did a little search and learned that Sicilians brought those flavors to New Orleans in the late 1800s, and that the sandwich was created at Central Grocery in 1906, where it’s still made!
Today’s recipe is not a sandwich, but I’ve combined the olive spread components with pasta. And I topped it with something Italians call ‘poor man’s parmesan’ – toasted bread crumbs (or Panko) mixed with lemon zest and salt. It sounds like a weird combination, but trust me, every forkful is a tasty adventure.
Use any combination of olives you like – I used green (Calvastrano & Spanish) and Kalamata:
This is a tasty, meatless meal, but feel free to add roasted shrimp, grilled chicken, or seared tofu – whatever floats your boat 🙂
And if you still have olives left over, try one of these yummy recipes: pasta with basil/mint pesto, or walnut-miso tapenade.
Olive Pasta with Toasted Bread Crumbs
A delicious combination of flavors inspired by the muffuletta sandwich, all topped with crispy bread crumbs.
- 1 Tb. Olive oil
- 1/2 c. Panko (or fresh bread crumbs)
- 1 Lemon, zested
- 1-2 Tb. Fresh parsley, minced
- 2 Tb. Olive oil
- 2 Tb. Unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp. Red pepper flakes
- 1 medium Shallot, minced
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 c. Pitted olives, chopped (any variety)
- 2-3 Tb. Giardiniera (mild), minced
- 1 Lemon, juiced
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 lb. Pasta (short or spaghetti) (I used Angel Hair)
- 1/2 c. Grated parmesan (add more, to taste)
- 1/4 c. Parsley, minced
- In a deep, non-stick skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tb. olive oil. Add Panko (or bread crumbs). Stir frequently as it browns. Sprinkle in a pinch of Kosher or sea salt. Stir until the crumbs are a rich brown color. Remove from heat and combine with zest of 1 lemon. Set aside until ready to use.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions (remember to add salt to the water to flavor the pasta!).
- As pasta cooks, add olive oil, butter, red pepper flakes, shallot and garlic to the skillet, over medium heat. Add olives, giardiniera, lemon juice and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes, until heated through, then remove from heat.
- Once pasta is cooked, reserve 1 cup of water and drain pasta.
- Return olive mixture in pan to medium heat. Add pasta and 1/2 c. pasta water. Stir to allow the starchy water to combine with the olive mixture and pasta. Add 1 Tb. of olive oil (or butter), then 1/4 cup of pasta water and mix just until combined. Remove from heat and mix in parmesan and parsley. Top with toasted breadcrumbs and serve immediately.