It’s La Cucina Italiana Pasta Monday!  Victor would have been in the kitchen cooking tonight, except he was at the doctors office.  He threw his back out making the bed yesterday.  30 hours of excruciating pain later, he went for the drugs.  Perfect.  It means I will be able to sleep tonight, as well.  We’ve both had back problems over the years.  The first time I hurt my back was in a car accident when I was 18.  A guy ran a red light on Van Ness as I was crossing on Geary.  In the ensuing 40 years, I’ve managed to screw it up every few years.  It’s been a while. I’m probably due.

But I digress…

My first two thoughts when seeing this recipe were how wonderful it sounded and how much Ruth would hate it.  (It was fabulous.  You would have hated it.)

Gaeta olives can be either brine-cured or dry-cured.  I found the brine-cured.  (Brine-cured Kalamatas can substitute for brine-cured gaetas.) I also found pitted picholine olives.  I have a pitter, but if I don’t have to use it…..  It made for easier work.

The only actual change from the printed recipe is I used the food processor to make the olive paste.  I know the arguments for mortar and pestle.  I’m neurotic enough to use a burr grinder for my coffee beans at home instead of chopping them with a little Braun.  I fully understand the benefits.  The mortar and pestle got sold a year or so ago at the yard sale.

Food processor worked just fine.

The recipe made a goodly amount.  We used about a third of it for our two generous portions and the rest is going to become bruschetta or something.  Maybe a Thanksgiving appetizer…

Another cook note:  I did not salt the water for the pasta.   The unsalted pasta balanced the olives and the cheese .

Campanelle con Salsa di Olive

4 servings

Olive pesto, delicious over pasta, also makes a great spread for crostini and pizza.


  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup Gaeta olives, pitted
  • 3/4  cup Picholine or other mild green olives
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts)
  • 1 small fresh red chile, thinly sliced, or pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh marjoram leaves
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 pound campanelle


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, put olives, scallions, chile, marjoram and thyme into a mortar. Using the pestle with a rotary movement, grind mixture against wall of mortar until combined. Working with 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, drizzle in oil, grinding and mixing to incorporate as you go, until pesto is combined and smooth. Add cheese and grind to combine.

Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Reserving ¼ cup of the pasta cooking liquid, drain pasta and return to pot. Immediately add pesto and toss to combine, adding as much of the pasta cooking liquid to moisten as desired. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of cheese.