Boxed pasta has a reputation for being a cheap and easy way to feed yourself at home, especially for the less gastronomically-inclined chefs. Usually we resort to red sauce from a jar with little to no complexity or handmade elements. My boyfriend and partner-in-culinary-crime, Jeff, is a vegetarian and I frequently find new small ways to spice up the basic pastas he makes for himself on a daily basis. Often I add spices or hot sauces to red sauce from a jar, but they become overshadowed by the heaviness and saltiness of the sauce. Typically these sauces are associated with winter.
Well, where we live in Malaga, Spain, it can feel like spring in November. So I’m still enjoying lighter, summer recipes at the moment. Recently, on a beautiful Saturday, we visited the open air market, Mercado Central de Atarazanas. Noticing the fantastic prices on produce, we grabbed a ton of random, potential ingredients in a buy-now-think-later fashion. Bundles of padron peppers for 1 euro, countless species of tomatoes, colorful spices and olive oil all made it’s way into our bags and back to my mad kitchen.
That night, per usual weekend ritual, I experimented with fun condiments and grilled cheeses that would compliment our San Miguel beers and rich red wine. But, I still had leftover produce. Any cook worth their sea salt knows what ‘leftover ingredients’ means… kitchen sink recipes!
Kitchen sink (short for ‘everything but the kitchen sink’) is generally a recipe that includes heaps of ingredients and varied elements. Sounds easy enough? Just toss a million things into the pot and call it a day? Not exactly a full proof plan. I still maintain the crucial components of a recipe that should balance the flavors and textures.
This pasta’s main theme celebrates typical Mediterranean ingredients. Common to Italian cuisine and appropriate when pasta is our dish, basil, thyme and tomatoes. Unique to Spain is the padron pepper, decadent olive oil and garlic-heavy flavor base, and smoked paprika. Additionally, goat cheese is in major supply on the peninsula and regularly in my fridge. I also recommend feta for this recipe if goat cheese isn’t really your jam.
Lastly, the spices I use are my little treasures that I’ve gotten great deals on here at various markets. Black salt from Valencia’s Mercado Centrale (feel free to go with flaked salt if this isn’t accessible to you) and the pink peppercorns (nearly a half cup for a euro at Mercado Central de Atarazanas!).
You’ll notice the recipe is really light and allows all of the ingredients to shine, rather than being bogged down by a red sauce or cheese sauce. When you have good olive oil, you want to find new ways of savoring its quality, rather than simply cooking it into a recipe. Thus, the dressing or sauce for this pasta IS the olive oil, infused with the crushed garlic, thyme and pink peppercorns, which have a light pepper taste.
The tomatoes are also cooked to be softened and flavored with a bit of garlic, salt and basil, so you’ll get a burst of juices and flavor upon biting into one hidden in the noodles.
The padron peppers are left uncooked, to maintain that crunchy element every dish needs. Likewise, some of the fresh basil included in the recipe is left uncooked to add an extra hint of freshness.
The recipe has a lot of ingredients, but is incredibly simple to prepare and can be served cold or hot. We were especially pleased with the flavor combination and thrilled to be able to use such unique ingredients altogether in a practical way. It’s vegetarian heaven and screams ‘garden’ or should I say ‘jardin’! It’s easy on the eyes and is easily palatable for non-vegetarians – in other words, me!
Mediterranean Kitchen Sink Pasta
Prep Time: 10 minutes:
Cook Time: 20 minutes
- 4 cups cooked pasta
- 1/4 cup + 2 tsp Olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tbsp. crushed pink peppercorns
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced or quartered
- 1 tbsp. ribboned basil
- 1/2 cup sliced padron peppers
- juice of 1/4 lemon
- 3 tsp. salt, divided
- 2 tsp. smoked or Spanish paprika
- 1/4 cup chunks goat cheese or feta cheese
- fresh basil, black salt for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss 2 tsp. olive oil, tomatoes, 1/2 of basil ribbons, minced garlic and 1 tsp. salt together until combined and lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Cook for 15 minutes.
- To make the dressing, heat the rest of the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-low heat with crushed garlic cloves, peppercorns and thyme. Monitor closely and as soon as you begin to hear the garlic sizzling, reduce heat to medium low heat and cook for another 5 minutes or until the garlic cloves begin to turn golden brown. Be careful not to let the garlic burn! Remove from heat.
- Strain the flavored oil dressing into the pasta and toss until pasta is evenly coated. Add your squeeze of lemon juice, remaining salt and paprika, toss. Stir in tomatoes, padron peppers, remaining fresh basil ribbons and cheese.
- Garnish with basil and/or black salt.