it’s funny, i’ve been making this pasta with sweet potatoes, spinach, feta, and olives for years and every time i made it, i ended up with an absurdly large quantity of it. don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious and it keeps pretty well, but there’s only so much of the same dish over and over for days on end that i can really enjoy eating…
each time i cooked it, i would scribble notes to my future self, tweaking the quantities, adjusting the proportions, trying to fine tune the ratios and get the yield under control. and each time, a) it would be delicious and b) there would be a lot of it.
i *think* i’ve finally gotten the quantity under control and honestly, what i’ve learned over these years of tweaking and fidgeting with the proportions of the olives and feta relative to the sweet potatoes and pasta, is that i don’t need to fuss about it. it just works.
well, “it just works”… as long as you use a short pasta, like penne. the original recipe actually calls for fettuccine, which i dutifully used the first several times i cooked this pasta dish. ::cue the struggle to combine the little chopped up bits of yums (sweet potato, olives, and feta) into the pasta evenly.:: finally, i wised up and realized that, as always (as in, every. single. time.), long pasta and i just do not get along.
when i was a kid, i would cut my bowls of spaghetti, carefully following a grid pattern to make sure that no strand was left un-shortened. now that i’m older and cutting my spaghetti is frowned on/i’ve realized i can use whatever shape pasta i please, thankyouverymuch, i basically never make anything with long pasta. life’s too short to fight with my dinner, especially when i am able to make it for myself, ostensibly just the way i like it.
so now that i use penne (or any other short pasta shape that *you* like), i can at least effectively conduct the giant pile of pasta from my plate to my mouth, day after day, for weeks (kidding! i really do think i’ve finally figured this quantity thing out…). bon appétit, friends!
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced (¼” / ½ cm) pole to pole
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 ½ lbs. (24 oz. / 680 g.) sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean, not peeled, cut into ½” (1 ¼ cm) dice
- 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 10 oz. (283 g.) short pasta, such as penne
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 ½ oz. (3/4 cup/ 99 g.) pitted black olives (i like kalamata here)
- 4 oz. (113 g.) baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 4 ¼ oz. (1 cup / 120 g.) feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
- ¼ cup torn fresh basil leaves
- in a large, heavy bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. add the onions, and cook, stir occasionally for about 5 minutes, until the onions are starting to soften. once they start to soften, turn the heat down to low and cook them for another 20 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. if the onions aren’t browning at all after 15 – 20 minutes or you don’t hear them sizzling just a little bit, turn the heat up slightly.
- preheat the oven to 400° F. pile the sweet potato dice and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the pile. use your hands to toss everything around so the cubes get coated in oil and garlic. bake for 15 minutes, or until the cubes are soft all the way through but not mushy and falling apart. set aside.
- boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta according to the package directions. drain the pasta and return to the now empty large pot. immediately toss the pasta with the tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
- gently stir the olives, spinach, feta, sweet potatoes, and onions into the pasta (don’t over-stir to the point that the feta turns to mush). if the pasta looks too dry, drizzle a bit more extra virgin olive oil over it. sprinkle with the torn basil and serve immediately. leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days. heat gently in the microwave (the feta may melt a little bit).
adapted from fettuccine with sweet potato, feta, and olives, found in homestyle pasta.
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