A few years ago I made a very simple but very delicious dish which involved baking feta and olives in a thick tomato sauce. It’s a wonderful appetizer or warm dip for crusty bread. I remember at the time thinking it would be a delicious sauce for pasta, so this inspired today’s recipe. Instead of making a sauce using tinned tomatoes, I used fresh Mediterranean baby vine tomatoes. It also occurred to me, again, that roasting or baking cheese with things is a superb idea and I should do it more often. Especially feta which is not my favourite cheese. I find the salt overpowering and the flavour in general quite one-dimensional. I rarely add it to salad unless it’s a Greek salad, and if I do, I prefer to crumble it over to more evenly distribute the taste. The flavour and saltiness of feta work well with this dish and my baked tomato version because the tomatoes temper it and when hot out the oven it crumbles into the pasta beautifully.
I love to add a few spoons of pesto to rosmarino pasta. It gives the dish a load of flavour, and basil is the perfect partner with everything else going here too.
I recently returned from a trip to South East Asia and have been craving pasta. With all these ingredients available in my fridge, this recipe came to fruition. It’s delicious served cold as a salad too. I just tossed through roughly torn leaves such as spinach, watercress and rocket to give it more of a salady crunch. Rosmarino, also known as orzo is generally a really fantastic pasta to turn into a salad.
~cooks tips – My tomatoes were leaning on medium so I cut them in half. If they are very small you can leave them whole. I always leave the pips in olives when I cook them, I find it such a chore to de-pip them and I will never buy the ghastly ones with the pips already removed. I just keep a little bowl next to my plate when I’m eating to put them in. I love how they swell up and become juicy and plump when cooked. I used my all-time favourite calamata olives from Kloovenburg which are soaked in blackberry brine. I also added a few tablespoons of the brine because I love a splash of acidity here. You can also use balsamic or red wine vinegar.
I like a little kick of heat with this pasta so I stir in about a teaspoon of my favourite chilli sauce at the end. By chilli sauce, I mean more like an ultra-hot chilli paste. You can add according to taste or leave out.
If you wanted to use a more robust pasta like shells or fusilli, I would opt for making my saucier baked version to mix with this.
Recipe makes enough for 2
- 280gms / 1 1/2 cups rosmarino pasta (orzo)
- 150gms feta
- 300 gms Mediterranean vine tomatoes or other baby tomatoes (1 punnet and approx. 3 cups)
- 1/3 cup kalamata olives
- 2 – 3 Tbs of the olive brine (or red wine or balsamic vinegar)
- olive oil to drizzle – about 3 Tbsp
- a few springs of fresh thyme
- pepper to season
- 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes or your favourite chilli sauce to taste stirred in at the end- optional
- 2 – 3 Tbsp basil pesto
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350 F
Cut the feta into small cubes and scatter in a small roasting dish with tomatoes and olives. drizzle over the brine and olive oil and season with black pepper. Scatter over the thyme leaves, removing a few of the leaves.
Roast for 25 – 30 minutes depending on the size of the tomatoes. Give the pan a shake during the cooking time.
While this is roasting cook the pasta according to the packet instructions in salty water. Drain and stir through the pesto and chilli.
Add the roasted mixture as soon as it comes out the oven and serve.
For a few more of my favourite cheesy baked goodness:
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