Mediterranean pasta is an excellent recipe for quick weeknight meals. It’s a healthy, one pot recipe that the whole family can enjoy in just 30 minutes.
But what makes this a Mediterranean pasta? Besides using typical Mediterranean ingredients, this recipe requires minimal spices and seasonings. It simply allows the ingredients to shine – the Mediterranean way.
What is Mediterranean food?
With all the recipes I write, I love to gain a deeper understanding of the origins of the dish.
So before we get to the recipe – a quick history on how Mediterranean came to describe not just the sea but an entire region’s cuisine. Skip ahead if you’ve got no interest, but I promise it’s actually kind of fascinating.
The term was popularised in the 1950s by British food writer Elizabeth David when she wrote ‘A Book of Mediterranean food’.
Elizabeth David was from an upper-class British family, and led a pretty interesting life, spending much of her adulthood living in France, Italy, Greece and Egypt.
There she was exposed to the variety of fresh ingredients the Mediterranean had to offer and experienced an entirely new way of cooking.
When she returned to England in 1946 after many years, she was dismayed by what passed for food. Almost as a way of satiating her cravings, she started writing about Mediterranean dishes.
Dishes that used pasta, eggplant, apricot, olives, lemons and almonds. Ingredients that seem so common to us now, were fascinating for the British to read about. Her writing was first published as magazine articles and eventually led to cookbooks.
She remains a well-known name in the culinary world and is credited for introducing middle-class Brits to a new world of ingredients.
Elizabeth also championed the Mediterranean way of cooking which was to use fresh, seasonal ingredients. And importantly, the idea of food and cooking as a pleasurable concept. Concepts which in a post World War II, food-rationed Britain seemed more fantasy than reality.
Luckily for everyone’s taste buds, things eventually improved and foods that once seemed strange and unfamiliar, are now commonplace at dinner tables.
Why is Mediterranean food so good and healthy?
The Mediterranean region is huge and encompasses 23 countries including Greece, Turkey, France, Italy, Egypt, Morocco and more. So it’s actually not really accurate to lump the entire region’s cuisine under one umbrella term.
Even so, it’s commonly accepted that the region’s food can be broadly defined by three ingredients – olive, wheat and grape.
In my experience having travelled to seven of these countries, I definitely agree there is a thread of commonality in the ingredients and how they are prepared.
When I think Mediterranean food, I think plenty of vegetables, olive oil, some type of carb and a rich sauce to tie everything together. I also think minimal spices and letting ingredients shine without meddling too much to affect the natural flavours. Which really is the key to why their food is so good.
Another thing I think they do really well is how they make eating an activity in itself. Not just some quick five minute affair where you stuff yourself and then get on with your day. It’s how I enjoy eating – slowly and leisurely. Indulging in long lunches was one of my absolute favourite things to do when we travelled around the region.
Besides the obvious health benefits of using fresh ingredients, my theory is slow eating is the other reason Mediterranean food is widely thought to be good for you. There’s really something to be said about how eating slowly can aid in digestion. It also stops over-eating because your body has time to feel full.
How To Make Protein Packed Mediterranean Pasta
My Mediterranean pasta recipe is vegan and with so many quality ingredients, I really don’t miss the meat. You can of course add cheese and if you’d like to use meat, I recommend using chicken or lamb.
There’s a whole bunch of goodness in this dish including green olives, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant and basil. And of course, we have the base of any good pasta dish – onion, garlic, chilli and passata (uncooked tomato puree).
I’ve also added a little secret ingredient in this recipe. If you’re mainly vegetarian like me, then you need to find ways to create high protein vegetarian meals.
Something I like to do is blitz up white kidney beans (a.k.a cannellini beans), turn it into a puree and mix it into whatever sauce I’m making. You can use the beans whole but I find a puree adds a creaminess to the sauce that I really enjoy.
So there you have it, besides this being a Mediterranean pasta recipe, it’s also a high protein vegetarian recipe! Bonus!
One thing to note is that you want to prepare the sauce before you start on your pasta. The eggplant needs time to cook through in the sauce so start cooking the pasta while the sauce simmers.
Hope you enjoy! If you tried this recipe or enjoyed my history lesson, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Looking for more quick and easy vegan recipes? Give my kimchi fried rice recipe a go.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 red chillies, sliced
- 2 cups mushrooms
- 1/2 a medium eggplant
- 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/3 cup green olives
- 400g white kidney beans (also known as cannellini beans) (optional)
- 500g bow-tie pasta (or other pasta of choice)
- 700g tomato passata
- 1/2 cup stock/water
- Handful of fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Slice the onion and finely chop the garlic and chilli.
- Dice the eggplant into 2cm cubes. Slice the mushrooms and olives into half and roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes into smaller pieces.
- In a food processor or blender, puree the white kidney beans and set aside. Add a little bit of olive oil if you need a little liquid to get the blender going.
- Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to your pot. You'll want to use a Dutch oven or a similarly sized deep pot. Let the oil heat up and sauté the onion, garlic and chilli.
- Add the passata and white kidney bean puree, stirring until the puree has mixed in with the passata.
- Throw in the mushrooms, eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Put the heat on low, cover and leave to simmer.
- To a pot of boiling water, add salt and a little bit of oil and cook pasta per packet instructions.
- Once pasta is cooked al dente, drain and add to sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Throw in your basil leaves and mix through (leave some leaves for garnish).
- Squeeze lemon juice over pasta and serve! Enjoy!
1. You can use any type of pasta you want although I recommend using thicker pasta that holds onto sauce really well like penne. linguine etc. 2. The white kidney bean puree is optional. It's a good way to add more protein to vegetarian recipes and will make your sauce rich and creamy but you can leave it out. Your pasta sauce will be a little runnier if left out.