Penne with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and lemon

I can probably count on one hand the number of people I know who actually like to cook. I'm always pleasantly surprised when I happen to meet someone who enthusiastically responds "yes I love to cook,!" whose idea of fun is making homemade gelato/bread/lasagne and who, perhaps most importantly of all, is eager to plan as many dinner parties as possible. The truth is, while everyone loves to eat, most people tell me that they "do not cook," or "aren't good at cooking," or that they would "like to cook but don't know how." In reality I think learning how to cook is a life skill everyone should acquire, to some degree -- after all, we all have to eat, and if we all have to eat, we might as well eat well (in other words, go beyond opening a cereal box or making a peanut butter sandwich).  

In reality, cooking isn't really all that hard -- really, it isn't! In its simplest form, it requires you to only follow the recipe directions, not so different from following a map in order to get where you want to go. While it is true that some recipes are more difficult than others -- I wouldn't recommend that a non cook make from scratch ravioli on their first go, for example -- there are many easy, quick, and delicious recipes that anyone can make, seasoned cook or not. Today's recipe is a perfect example of this, a good "starter" recipe for those who are just beginning to explore the culinary world. 

This recipe can be described as a kind of sun dried tomato pesto of sorts, made with only a few ingredients that all pack a punch -- briny olives, flavorful sun dried tomatoes, bright lemon, sunny basil. spicy garlic, and salty Parmesan, all of which combine to make a delicious sauce that any non chef can make. Actually, this doesn't even require any actual cooking, just a bit of blending in the food processor, so it's an ideal first time recipe that will still make you look like an expert. The no cook aspect also makes it ideal for the summer heat. 

Once you feel comfortable following easy recipes like this, you can move on to creating and experimenting with your own recipes, if you're feeling ambitious -- that's how any cook has their start, after all! Bon appetit everyone!


12 ounces penne pasta
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped roughly
1 cup black or green olives, pitted
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup grated Parmesan

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, basil, garlic, oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Process until blended and smooth. Put the sun-dried tomato mixture in a bowl and stir in the parmesan cheese.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions for al dente pasta. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Place the pasta in a large serving bowl.

Toss the tomato mixture with the pasta, adding a little pasta water if necessary so that the sauce coats the pasta evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve either hot, room temperature, or cold. Serves 4 people. 

Recipe adapted from Giada di Laurentiis.

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