Dinner With My Family #2: Pasta with Olives and Tomatoes

Each week, I’ll present a low-cost meal (or a meal that demonstrates a lot of options for cutting costs) that my family eats for dinner and enjoys. Many of the recipes will be vegan or vegetarian, with options to add other ingredients for non-vegetarians.

Our family loves pasta. Our oldest child claims that olives are his favorite food and has been known to sit and eat a bunch of them all at once. Thus, pasta with olives is something that frequently hits our table.

Finished

What You Need
This is a very simple dish, so you don’t need too many ingredients.

12 smallish tomatoes (I use Romas if possible)
1 package pasta, preferably spaghetti
Olive oil (extra virgin, preferably)
Balsamic or other flavored vinegar
1 1/2 cups olives, a mix of green and black to your taste
Garlic powder
Basil
Salt
Pepper

We had almost all of this already on hand before we even decided to prepare this meal, so our cost was really low. If you were to buy all of this at the store, and using my best estimates of prorating the ingredients, you would have a total cost of around $6 to prepare a dish that will easily feed a family of four and provide lunch leftovers for two.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)
You really don’t have to do anything the night before unless you’re really itching for something to do. The only advance prep you might consider doing is slicing the olives and storing them in the refrigerator.

Preparing the Meal
Preheat your oven to 450 F. Get your tomatoes out and cut them into halves or quarters, your choice. I used quarters because they’re easier for our kids to manipulate.

Tomatoes

Then, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the tomato pieces on the sheet. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil (just a light drizzling so there’s a bit on each tomato), then with the flavored vinegar. We used homemade herb vinegar, as you can see here:

Homemade herb vinegar

After that, dash the tomatoes with garlic powder, putting a light amount all over, then repeat lightly with salt and with pepper. When the oven is done preheating, put the tomatoes in the oven for 35 minutes until they’re cooked and perhaps very gently browned or blackened on the edges. I pull them out a bit earlier because the children recoil at the sight of anything burnt (unfortunately, because I like that gently singed flavor).

While the tomatoes are cooking, cook and drain your pasta according to the directions, then add 1/4 cup olive oil (you can add more if you’d like), the olives, a teaspoon of dried basil, a dash or two of salt, and a dash or two of pepper to the pasta, then mix thoroughly. When the tomatoes are finished, add the tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Serve.

We also took a bit of leftover Italian bread, sliced it, spread a bit of margarine on each piece, and sprinkled a bit of garlic on them. We spread the slices out on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven with the tomatoes for the last ten minutes. It came out nice and crispy and allowed us to use the tomatoes in the pasta to make a type of simple bruschetta right at the dinner table.

Finished

Easy as can be.

Optional Ingredients
Here are some optional ingredients to give this dish some extra oomph.

Parmesan cheese Freshly grated tastes the best, but you can use whatever you like. You can either sprinkle it right into the mix or else sprinkle it on top when the pasta is on your plate.

Diced pepperoni My wife, who loves her pepperoni, suggested simply dicing up some pepperoni and tossing it in near the end.

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  1. KC says:

    I would use whole wheat pasta noodles. They aren’t that much more expensive and are better for you. I also think it has a bit of a nutty flavor that enhances the meal. You could make a nice little side salad with this as well using many of the same ingredients you use for the main course. Get some romaine, add leftover tomatoes and olives, maybe a little Parmesan cheese, whatever you like in your salad. You could even make croutons from the bread you made with your meal. Could use balsamic and olive oil as a dressing.

  2. kjc says:

    Instead of using the oven (and all that energy), why not simply saute some minced garlic in oil and when browned, add the tomatoes and saute them until warmed and tender?

    Also, surprised to see the reference to margarine: please use butter or something along the lines of Smart Balance.

    Another great variation is to add tuna, as odd as that might sound. I posted a Fettuccine with tuna sauce recipe on my blog a several months ago – absolutely wonderful! I’d include a link, but don’t want to get stuck in Trent’s moderation queue. Hmm… let’s try this and see if it works – bit.ly/aLaohc

  3. kjc says:

    Works with Firefox. Just paste bit.ly/aLaohc into your address bar.

  4. Shannon says:

    Trent, given that you’ve talked about your issues with weight and presumably those of folks in your family, I’m consistently surprised at your unwillingness to eat healthy…

  5. Katie says:

    Jesus Christ, people; it’s white flour pasta, not arsenic. You know who, as a whole, is fairly healthy? The people of Italy.

  6. kristin says:

    @Shannon how is this unhealthy? Aside from the margarine, all of the fats are healthy. The fat content may be high for this meal, but who knows what Trent and his family ate during the day. This is a snapshot of one meal rather than his daily menu plan.

  7. Gretchen says:

    Carbs with a side of carbs.

    Although more shocking are plum tomatoes in January. This is why they make canned tomatoes.

  8. Joan says:

    Olives? I can’t believe you’re promoting olives! Shame on you. What kind of person are you??

    I’m totally kidding.
    Unlike, I fear, some of the previous commenters.

    Sorry, Trent. I do appreciate this new series and while not everything may exactly match how I’d cook it, I am definitely able to adapt as I like. You can’t please everyone, but it is appreciated by some.

  9. valleycat1 says:

    Our family doctor back in the dark ages when I was a child told my mother not to worry about the picky eaters in the family, because over a week’s time (or longer) you tend to get the various nutrients you need. There is no reason that each and every meal has to be perfectly balanced or perfectly healthy. My children as preschoolers wouldn’t eat any kind of combined food dishes or casseroles like this spaghetti.

  10. KJ says:

    Not for you, Trent, but for readers who are considering vegetarianism or veganism… folks, eat your pasta and other starches with a protein source for long-lasting feel-good-ism!

  11. Amanda says:

    I’m vegan. When people find out their first question is where do u get your protein… In reality lots if sources however not seeing this too much in your recipes. For example: one book I have suggests lentil spaghetti sauce. I only warn this way due to fact I had low protein on a blood test. Even when aware of this problem it can be hard to monitor!

  12. Bill says:

    That is a ton of carbs, as a diabetic I would not eat that meal.

  13. done that says:

    Wow! As an active person who appreciates a quick meal and a parent who knows kids will usually go for pasta, I’m in. We have pasta maybe once a week. Also it’s an easy dish to customize for the veggies and non-veggies in our family.

    What surprised me was that after using fresh tomatoes, Trent used garlic powder. Garlic roasts up amazingly. And we keep a jar of olive oil with a few cloves of garlic that infuses it with enough gentle garlic flavor to spread on bread for the best garlic bread ever. Kid friendly and way better flavor than powder.

    I’m enjoying this series.

  14. Holly says:

    Interesting recipe. Since I have a serving of pasta already cooked up, just bought a basket of cherry tomatoes, and both black & green olives open its going on the weekend menu plan.

    I think I saw something similar on another site that I wanted to try.

  15. Mary says:

    My family does something similar to this, but with a few exceptions. Whole wheat pasta, keep the olives, add sautéd chopped onion (sauté in olive oil with a pat of butter), then throw in some chopped sun dried tomatoes. I’d also recommend using real garlic in place of the powder, but add at the last minute of the sauté, as garlic on the stovetop can get bitter if overcooked this way. (Or next time you heat up your oven for awhile, throw in a whole BULB of garlic and roast it–Google how to.)

  16. Kestra says:

    I also agree about his vegetarian meals not having enough protein. Hopefully there’s some snacking or other meals to compensate. I know it can be harder with kids, but I usually add lentils or kidney beans to pasta sauces. I tend to add whatever bean or lentil seems to accompany the rest the best. So for stir fry often black beans. Or any plain bean with salsa or a touch of dressing as a side for any type of meal.

  17. B-l says:

    Trent
    I’m surprised how carb heavy your meals are. When you eat lots of carbs without a protein source your insulin increases to deal with the extra sugar. Over time high insulin can lead to type 2 diabetes.
    Unless your a marathon runner don’t high cArb

  18. Johanna says:

    @Food Police: Sheesh. There’s no pleasing some people, is there? I sort of agreed that y’all had a point when Trent was making claims about how healthy his meal ideas were (or when he was posting “summer meals” with no fresh vegetables whatsoever). But now it’s January, and he’s dropped the nutrition talk, and you’re still not happy.

    I mean, it’s not like pasta and garlic bread have never been served together this way before, so that this “shocking” combination is entirely of Trent’s invention. And there are traditional Italian recipes pairing pasta with *potatoes*, of all things. (And you know what I had for dinner last night? A burrito. With rice inside it. And tortilla chips on the side. Oh no!)

    Fresh tomatoes in January aren’t my thing either, but that’s more a matter of personal taste. (Although I do admit that the picture of the cut-up tomatoes makes them look really good.) One advantage of using canned (diced) tomatoes instead of fresh, though, is that it would cut the preparation time down to almost nothing. Just throw together the tomatoes, olives, and whatever other ingredients you’re using (I make a similar dish where I add arugula), heat it up on the stove, and there’s your sauce. You can do all that while the pasta is cooking, and your dinner is ready in no time flat.

  19. Angel says:

    There is NOTHING wrong with eating white pasta. It’s only the recent foodie movement of the past five or ten years that tells us it’s “wrong”. I’m not buying it, nor do I have to. Everything in moderation. Many times, children won’t eat whole wheat pasta.

    The tomatoes and olives balance out the small piece of garlic bread. Also, sometimes children won’t eat actual garlic so garlic powder can be a friendlier alternative.

    As a fellow vegetarian, thanks for sharing this! You taught me a new way to cook tomatoes. :) My son loves tomatoes and olives so I’m going to give this a try! I will be following your recipes. :)

  20. Vanessa says:

    I have tried whole wheat pasta once. It was vile. The flavor of the pasta overpowered the sauce I ate with it. Is it a taste you have to get used to? Are there certain foods that whole wheat pasta just doesn’t with? I have no problem with whole wheat bread, brown rice. I have compared the nutrition labels on whole wheat and white pasta and they didn’t look all that different. Exactly how is whole wheat better for you?

  21. Andrea says:

    @kjc #2: Um, butter isn’t vegan.

  22. Brittany says:

    Whole wheat pasta has a marginally greater amount of fiber. But you know what has a lot more fiber than whole wheat pasta and tastes a lot better? Vegetables. White pasta is not a villain.

    This looks tasty. Too bad no one in my apartment will let me put black olives in anything. Alas. Also, I’m mostly a vegetarian (make it my roommates specifically request something with meat or if I’m eating at someone else’s place) who’s recent started tracking what I eat. I eaten meat once in the past two weeks and don’t even eat beans or such every day. Guess what? I’ve still consumed more protein than FDA recommended daily amount every single day. Not every meal needs a heavy protein source.

  23. Brittany says:

    Should have proofread that before submitting. Oops.

  24. Celeste says:

    I make this a lot…suggest you try adding a can of artichoke hearts…yum!

  25. Cheryl says:

    Try green ripe olives if you can get them (Olive Pit in Corning, CA, mail order).

    We have tried lots of whole wheat pasta. The best is homemade (using spinach as the liquid along with eggs). Second best is Trader Joes spaghetti or fettucini.

  26. ellie says:

    I didn’t like whole wheat pasta at first – now I mix whole wheat and white. Its good.

  27. SP says:

    Since I’m in training for a marathon, this actually seems like the PERFECT meal for me. Ha.

    I use whole wheat past about 1/2 of the time and the flavor difference isn’t huge to me (but husband prefers white). Yes, WW is better for you, but how much?

  28. Sheena says:

    It looks awesome! I will definitely be trying this this month. (I’m about the whole wheat pasta too, but to each his own.) I love your frugal recipe posts :)

  29. Vickie says:

    Another great meal idea, thanks!

  30. Golfing Girl says:

    This looks great–my family loves olives so this should be a big hit with them!

  31. Golfing Girl says:

    P.S. Whole wheat pasta got the thumbs down from me and hubby when I was preggo the first time, but we gave it another shot with baby #2 and it must have been an acquired taste. We now cook with nothing but whole wheat penne and spaghetti.

  32. Jen says:

    Thanks for the recipe Trent. This looks very tasty!

  33. ospreyy says:

    (This is true) Twenty years ago I used to love olives. But I then became violently sick after eating a meal with many black olives. Since then I get physically nauseous when I even see pictures of food with black olives.

    (This is sarcasm) Trent, you should never again post a picture with black olives because at least one of your readers gets nauseous when he sees it.

  34. Holly says:

    Trent
    Just a FYI
    Parmesan cheese is available as in a soy substitute. Not sure where for you as I am in a BIG city w/ quite a few health food stores and even my chains have large health food/kosher sections.

  35. Jen says:

    I just have to chime in on the side of the “food police,” and say if a meal is so lacking in nutritional value (protein? and I don’t eat white flour, for health reasons, and because I’m a vegetarian and need whole grains for protein) I don’t care how cheap it is. One of my problems with my grocery budget, I think.

  36. Janis says:

    To add to my previous comment (which is still in moderation as I type this), I’m with the food police, too, but that’s what I like about this recipe: it can be modified and still remain pretty frugal. For instance, I would use whole wheat pasta or even spaghetti squash and would add parmesan cheese. I’d only use fresh tomatoes if they were in season locally, otherwise I’ll use the home canned tomatoes that I put up last summer. I’d probably add greens or a green salad and would eliminate the garlic bread. I wouldn’t use dried basil, but would use a bit of the pesto that I made in and put in the freezer last summer. Ditto for real garlic instead of garlic powder. My sister would make her own pasta from scratch, but that’s too much effort for me. My version of this meal would have more vegetables – and all those would be locally and organically grown. But I am fortunate that I am able to grow and preserve a lot of my own produce. I could make this meal (including my mods) with ingredients that I already have on hand and I really like that!

    That said, I’m not going to fault anyone, least of all Trent, for making this meal their own way. (BTW, as a kid, my favorite part of any spaghetti dinner was the garlic bread.)

  37. I made this recipe yesterday with a few moderations. OMG!…YUM! I don’t care for olives, so I added capers instead. Then I threw in some feta (as I am not vegan). Otherwise, I made it as directed. We skipped the garlic bread, opened some red wine and had a detectable lunch for two. This one’s a keeper!

  38. Oops–typo. I made it with a few “modifications”. Although they were very moderate. LOL

  39. Joanne says:

    While it may taste good, this meal is all carbs and processed ones at that.

    While it is wonderful that you cook from scratch, this meal is nutritionally lacking. There is virtually no protein in this meal. You are doing yourself and your family a great dis-service with meals like this.

    I don’t intend this as negative, a balanced diet is very important and this meal is unhealthy.

  40. kk says:

    This is actually one of my kid’s favorite meals. They’re big olive lovers too so this ranks high for them. I have to cut the tomatoes in tinier pieces for their likes and sometimes we add spinach as well if we have it on hand and believe it or not a small amount of lentils tastes pretty good in it as well. That satisfies the protein and as for pasta having high carbs…well all things in moderation.

  41. Cristy Robertson says:

    My family loves meals like this. I like using left over hotdog or burger buns the same way you used the leftover bread. Thank you for all the great ideas that put tasty and easy meals on the table for next to nothing.

  42. Karen says:

    Sounds and looks delicious, Trent. Spaghetti squash instead of noodles would be just as quick with a steamer or pressure cooker. Whatever your armchair critics may think of your recipes, I like how you prove that: 1) you don’t have to spend a lot of money on ingredients; 2) you don’t have to spend a lot of time grocery shopping; and 3) you don’t have to spend an hour cooking dinner. I’m sure you’ve inspired many who have spent hundreds of dollars buying prepared diet food to empower themselves by firing up the stove!

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