Posted by: Rachel | September 4, 2011

tap tap… who’s there?

When is a pesto not a pesto?
When it is a tapenade!

This morning I was craving, well, salt. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know I am usually a low-salt or even no-salt sort of cook, totally by choice, but not today! It is still too hot here to turn on the oven unless absolutely necessary, and then ideally not until evening, so I was casting about for something to make with as little heat as possible and got to thinking about pasta salad.

Now I love my orzo salad, as you also probably know, but I wanted something just a little different this time. That is when I got to thinking about tapenade.

Now don’t go all ET on me about the anchovies. You can leave them out (but you’ll be missing on flavor!). I used anchovy paste, which comes in a handy little tube, and it works just fine. That’s what the odd wormy-looking brown stuff is in the “before” photo.

everything in the food processor ready to pulse


And, I know one person who is caper-phobic. Fine, you can leave them out as well… but I love ’em. If you use the pickled ones you can just toss them in, if you use the salt-packed ones be sure to rinse them first!

Now tapenade is generally presented as an appetizer spread. It is fine on crackers or bread, but I couldn’t see any reason not to mix it with pasta. It took much less time to make the tapenade than it did to cook the pasta! If you have a food processor you can do this in just minutes, and while it is better the second day (flavor melding and all that) you can pretty much eat it immediately and enjoy it just fine.

There are recipes all over the Internet for tapenade, and you can certainly customize it to your taste as mentioned above, but you must use olives. That’s pretty much it. It is an olive/caper/anchovy spread. You can add thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, onions, lemon zest, garlic (yes please), or even, (as I did because I had ’em) sun-dried tomatoes.

Here’s all I did (proportions rough, of course…)

2-Minute Tapenade

finished tapenade


2 C pitted olives, mixed green and black, drained
1 clove garlic, peeled and rough chopped
1 T anchovy paste
2 T capers, drained
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 sun-dried tomato halves, chopped
1/4 C (more or less) olive oil

final pasta salad


Put all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and pulse. Degree of chunkiness is up to you! I like mine with some texture, others prefer it more like a smooth paste. Add the olive oil at the end to give it as much silkiness as desired.


Could it be easier? I chopped a bit of fresh basil and put it on top, but that’s all I did to “fancy” it up. Oh, and you can certainly do a gluten-free version of this “salad” with rice rather than pasta, or put the tapenade on spaghetti or fettuccine, or… you tell us!

I snacked on this while it was warm and it was very good, but you could eat it cold (if it lasts long enough) with some crusty bread and a nice green salad. Mmmm… enjoy!



  1. Mmmm tapenade. I make a similar tapenade recipe but I throw in a can of artichoke hearts too. So delicious! And perfect for scorching days like these.

    • Mmmm, now *that* would be good on pasta… hungry!!! (grin)

      • Check! Just added artichokes and olives and anchovies (well, if I decide I don’t like them, I know to whom to offer them…) to my grocery list!

      • Tinned anchovies are fine, but the paste keeps (seemingly indefinitely) in the fridge and tastes, well, slightly less anchovy-y if you know what I mean. However, I’ll happily divest you of either tinned or paste if you find it ain’t your thing (grin).

  2. I love tapenade as I love strong flavours so the mixture of garlic, anchovies, capers, olives…well, heavenly!

  3. I love tapenade and we eat it a lot here – with capers or without, with anchovies or without, it’s always good. What a great idea to put it on pasta!

  4. I will make this easy for you: I love olives, capers and anchovies. Put them altogether and I like them even more. Now sun-dried tomatoes… Ha! Great recipe.

  5. I love tapenade and how clever to mix it with pasta.

    • Very little in my kitchen that I *won’t* mix with pasta (grin).

  6. No problem with anchovies for me!! And I really think people are just afraid without giving them a try. I never tell anyone there’s anchovies in a dish and they’ve never called me out or realized it!! Of course, we are not talking the full bodied anchovie laying accross a pizza! Like you used in a tube, it melts away and this combination of flavors sounds amazing!

    • I’m right there with you… I have yet to meet a fishy I don’t like… and good anchovies are a real treat! The stuff in the tubes is *so* easy to use… great in salad dressing also! I wonder how many folks love Cesar salad but *think* they hate anchovies… Sshhhhh! – don’t tell!! Mmmm…

  7. […] of the couple loves olives, the other can’t stand ‘em, so while tapenade was fine and dandy, it didn’t fill the entire bill. I decided to make that and a traditional […]

  8. […] From there I think of lamb, capers, olives, wild asparagus, maybe mint, garlic, tapenade of course… the whole (mmmmm) “Mediterranean” […]

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