Mediterranean pasta features roasted tomatoes, olive tapenade, vegan feta cheese, and fresh basil in a garlic olive oil sauce. Serve it for a romantic dinner for two or an easy weeknight meal for the whole family.
When it comes to easy but satisfying dinners, it’s hard to beat spaghetti aglio e olio. Translated from Italian, it means spaghetti with garlic and oil. So simple, but so good.
But somehow, whenever I make it, I can never stop at three ingredients.
I can’t resist the call of olives, roasted tomatoes, vegan feta cheese, and a handful of basil… until suddenly I’ve got a who’s who of the Mediterranean in a bowl.
Not that I’m complaining.
All of those flavors work together in such harmony.
When you’ve got quality ingredients that balance each other just right, each taste plays off the other. Salty, briny, garlicky, creamy, and the summery fragrance of basil all wound up in a pile of spaghetti.
Plus, with a little bit of planning, it’s a meal that can easily be made on any random weeknight in 30 minutes. And most of that is hands-off while tomatoes roast and pasta boils.
Vegan feta cheese
The feta actually has olive juice as one of its ingredients. So it marries beautifully with the olive tapenade and olive oil in the sauce.
I like to keep a batch of vegan feta cheese in the refrigerator or freezer at all times. But if your supply has run out, or you don’t have the time to make your own, replace it with store-bought vegan feta. I especially like the kinds from Herbivorous Butcher or Violife.
Alternatively, diced avocado can be used instead.
Olive tapenade for a salty pop of flavor
Whenever I make Mediterranean pasta, I like to add something with a salty and briny edge like olives or capers.
It occurred to me that my olive tapenade recipe could do that in one easy go. It contains a couple different kinds of olives, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and thyme. That’s quite the infusion of flavor. And it’s already chopped!
I recommend making a batch of tapenade to enjoy at the beginning of the week for snacks, as a sandwich spread, and topping pizzas. Just be sure to set aside 1/3 cup for this pasta dish before you’ve eaten your way through it!
(Watch out if you decide to use store-bought tapenade instead, as it sometimes contains anchovies.)
How to make Mediterranean pasta
Toss halved grape tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil, dried oregano, dried basil, and salt. Spread them across a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, stopping once to flip them.
Boil whole wheat spaghetti in salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until al dente. (Check the instructions on your specific pasta, and follow the times listed.)
Before draining the noodles, set aside some of the pasta water.
Sauté garlic with extra virgin olive oil in a skillet. Once it’s fragrant, add the drained noodles and two Tablespoons of pasta water. Combine them, so the garlic is evenly dispersed throughout.
Add olive tapenade, vegan feta cheese, salt, and pepper. Evenly combine all of the ingredients with the pasta. Garnish with fresh chopped basil.
Why use pasta water?
While incorporating the noodles with the olive oil and garlic, I call for adding a couple Tablespoons of pasta water.
Pasta water contains starch from the noodles. It helps thicken and emulsify the olive oil while incorporating all of the garlic within the dish.
It’s also a neutral flavor. So it lets the garlic, olive tapenade, basil, and vegan feta come forward in taste.
If you forget to save the pasta water, use an additional Tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil instead.
(For more information on using pasta water in dishes, check out this article from Food & Wine.)
Make it your own
You can easily adjust the ingredients and amounts to make this noodle dish your own.
- Instead of roasting the tomatoes, simply warm them with garlic in the skillet.
- Instead of spaghetti, use 8 ounces of your preferred pasta. To make this dish gluten free, use your favorite gluten free pasta.
- I use a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in the sauce, but if you’d like more of that flavor and slickness, you could easily double or triple the amount.
- Instead of olive tapenade, use an equal amount of chopped or sliced olives instead.
- Instead of homemade almond feta cheese, use store-bought vegan feta or diced avocado.
- Add quartered artichoke hearts for even more Mediterranean flavor. Grilled jarred artichoke hearts are my favorite.
- If basil is out of season, you can leave it off or use baby spinach instead.
- Finish the pasta with a handful of toasted pine nuts.
- For more protein, add roasted chickpeas or vegan chick’n strips on top.
What to serve with it
This dish is a full meal on its own and doesn’t require a side. However, you can round it out with any of the following options.
- For an appetizer, serve it with fried artichoke hearts or bruschetta.
- For a side salad, have kale salad, avocado caprese salad, or easy spinach salad.
- For a side dish, enjoy broccolini, red wine mushrooms, or roasted cauliflower.
Does this keep well in the refrigerator?
Yes! This is a great dish to make with leftovers in mind. Simply store any leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will keep for about 4 days.
Depending on your noodle choice, it can even be eaten cold as pasta salad. (If you’re planning on enjoying it as a pasta salad, I recommend a short pasta like fusilli or penne instead of spaghetti.)
How to reheat
You can reheat this pasta in the microwave. If the noodles get dried out in the warming process, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and fully incorporate it with the dish.
Or you can reheat this dish in a skillet on the stove, along with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Mediterranean pasta with roasted tomatoes & vegan feta
- 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes halved (about 8 ounces)
- 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil divided
- Pinch dried oregano
- Pinch dried basil
- Pinch salt plus more to taste
- 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti or your preferred pasta
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoons pasta water
- 1/3 cup olive tapenade
- 1/3 cup vegan feta cheese crumbled
- Dash pepper
- Handful basil chopped
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Put halved grape tomatoes on baking sheet. Toss with a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of dried oregano, dried basil, and salt. Spread the tomatoes evenly across the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, stopping once to flip the tomatoes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, bring a pot of water to boil along with a generous pinch of salt. Once boiling, put the spaghetti into the pot of water. Boil for 7 to 9 minutes, until al dente. (Pasta cooking times vary. So be sure to check the package of your spaghetti, and follow their time guidelines.)Before draining the noodles, set aside some of the water from the pot. (I like to use a ladle to move a scoop full of pasta water to a bowl.)Drain the noodles and set aside.
- During the last couple of minutes of cooking time on the tomatoes and spaghetti, bring a skillet to a medium heat. Add the remaining Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the skillet, along with minced garlic. Saute a few minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.
- Lower the heat on the skillet. Add the drained noodles and two Tablespoons of pasta water. Use a spatula to make sure the noodles get evenly coated with the garlic & pasta water.
- Add the roasted tomatoes, olive tapenade, vegan feta cheese, another pinch of salt, and a dash of pepper. Evenly combine all of the ingredients with the pasta. Garnish with a handful of fresh chopped basil, and serve right away.