French in a Flash: Green Tapenade Pasta Salad Recipe

French in a Flash

Quick and easy recipes that prove that great French food doesn't require a tall hat and a fancy kitchen.

French in a Flash: Green Tapenade Pasta Salad Recipe

[Photos: Kerry Saretsky]

For me, it still feels like summer—that means stolen moments outside and late night grilled dinners. My stomach doesn't feel quite as ready for fall, with its great stuffed roasts, as does my closet, with its new leather jacket and tall boots, and warm, tickling sweaters that make me crave a cooler day. And when eating French food in the summertime, it is always better to face South to Provence, where the wine and Champagne are served on the rocks, and the flavors are always light and bright and punchy as summertime itself.

When we think of tapenade, we usually envision a thick, smooth paste of black olives spiked with anchovies and garlic. But this version is tapenade's boisterous blond twin: briny green olives are kept chunky and are smashed to a crumbling rubble with the usual Nice suspects of lemon, thyme, garlic, capers, and anchovies. Matching green penne traps all the salty bits and pieces in its tentacling tubes. A chopped emerald city of baby spinach and arugula turn this room-temperature pasta into a salad.

I love to serve this pasta salad along with grilled steak or shrimp. Because the pasta has so much unusual flavor, you don't have to do a thing to the meat except cook it. And because this pasta salad is served at room temperature, I love to pack it for a picnic—whether that picnic is by the ocean or by the office water cooler. It's also the perfect thing to pick and peck on, perhaps because I can eat it straight from the fridge. I confess; it's addictive.



  • 1 pound green (spinach) penne
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup pitted Picholine and Niçoise olives (I like to use mostly green Picholine, with a few black Niçoise for contract and color)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 4 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil
  • The leaves from 2 stems fresh thyme
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups combined baby spinach and baby arugula leaves, lightly chopped


  1. 1.

    Cook the penne until al dente in salted boiling water.

  2. 2.

    Meanwhile, decimate the garlic clove in the food processor. When it is in a million pieces, add the olives, capers, anchovy, and thyme to the food processor and pulse to a rubble. Add the lemon zest and juice and olive oil and black pepper. Pulse a bit more. You want the sauce to be slightly chunky.

  3. 3.

    Drain the pasta well, and toss with the tapenade. Allow to cool to room temperature, then toss in the spinach and arugula.