How to Fancify Your Everyday Pasta

Elevate your prepared marinara sauce with other pantry staples, plus enter to win free Giovanni Rana pasta sauce and tickets to the Pittsburgh Home Show!

Photos by Leah Lizarondo

We all have our personal “high–risk” stores. These are the stores that you go to where you go in with an efficient little list and leave with double the items on that list. Or worse, you go in without a list and leave with a cartful of items that you didn’t intend to buy and forget the one thing you did mean to buy.

Ugh. Worse still? You do this at Costco. Where you go in promising yourself to buy only these three things and come out with a year’s worth of broth, frozen vegetables to feed 2,000 people, all of whatever they were sampling out (YES I’ll have three Teriyaki skewers), the latest exercise DVD and lawn furniture.

I exaggerate. A little.

But last night, as I opened my fridge, I was confronted with the biggest jar of capers I have ever seen with maybe a tablespoon worth taken out and an equally humungous jar of pimiento-stuffed olives. Of course, I still had that sack of garlic I need to use up and the 2 million pounds of organic quinoa — pantry puzzle pieces that needed to be put together. Necessity is the mother of invention, and sometimes, these pantry clean-ups produce the best little dishes.

I think this one is worthy. Especially since I had some Giovanni Rana pasta sauce — my favorite — and, if you’ve ever been to their outpost at Chelsea Market in NYC, you’ll want to recreate the yumminess at home as much as possible. Any jarred pasta sauce will do in a pinch, though (I always keep at least one in the pantry for emergencies).

This reminds me of a Puttanesca-style sauce, but with a Spanish kick from the smoked paprika. You can substitute basil if you don’t have smoked paprika (although you should go out and buy some now if you don’t — it adds a wonderful depth to anything and is perfect with potatoes, rice and lentil soups, among other things).

Now, clean that pantry up and make this simple, satisfying pasta!

  Pasta with Capers, Olives and Kale

Yield: Serves 6


  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or forced through a garlic press
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 can 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes or whatever tomatoes you have (puree whole tomatoes in their juice)
  • 2-3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup pitted and sliced kalamata or pimiento-stuffed olives
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil (if using kalamata olives)
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika (if using pimiento-stuffed green olives)
  • 2-3 cups chopped kale or spinach
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1.  Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water (salted) until al dente.
2.  As the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and sauté the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt and pepper until the garlic is fragrant and just shy of golden.
3.  Add tomatoes, olives and capers, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
4.  Drain pasta and add to sauce along with the cooked quinoa and chopped greens.
5.  Stir until sauce is evenly distributed and quinoa is warmed through.

Note: If you are using kalamata olives, omit the Spanish paprika and cook as is or you can add a teaspoon of dried basil. If you are using black olives, you can omit the Spanish paprika and replace with dried basil as well.


  • The Brazen Kitchen will be demonstrating this pasta dish at the Pittsburgh Home Show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on March 9 at 1:30!
  • Win two free tickets to the home show and a Giovanni Rana pasta package (noodles and sauces, oh my!)
  • Here’s how: In the comments below, tell us about your favorite quick and easy, go-to pasta dish! (Winner will be drawn on Tuesday, March 5, and announced on March 6)
Categories: Brazen Kitchen