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November 19, 2010

St. Paul de Vence, France

I’ve always loved watching people.  Barring more fun activities, I’m usually happy to sit in a hotel lobby or at an airport terminal imagining the lives of people who flit in and out of view as they go on about their busy lives.  Where are they going?  What are they like?  Are they happy?

When I travel, I like to walk the village streets.  As I walk by front doors I wonder what the people’s lives are like who live behind them.   In the evenings I like to catch glimpses of families having dinner or watching television.  While we live in different parts of the world, at the core we human beings are largely alike.


Is this innocent curiosity or just downright nosiness?  Hoping for the former, I’d like to think that this is just a function of growing up extremely shy–I grew up much more comfortable being an observer rather than being the center of attention. And yes, I’ve overcome the extreme shyness (mostly).  These days, with people I’m comfortable with, I can be a loquacious pest but I still enjoy “people watching” as an activity.

So to be fair, I’ll share with you a dish that shows up frequently beyond my own front door.  It takes no time to prepare, it’s full of flavor and it’s pasta–need I say more?  It’s ideal for busy days because most of the ingredients are pantry items and flexible is this dish’s middle name. Add or remove one or two components, you will still have a flavorful meal.  In my home however, the olives, capers and anchovies are the stars of this dish.  Each one is flavorful in its own right but together they provide a boldness that you couldn’t achieve otherwise.  Savory, salty, and a little tart–the flavors will win you over and have your taste buds smiling.

Spaghetti with Olives, Capers and Anchovies

  • 10 – 12 anchovy fillets (I even throw in some of the anchovy-infused oil)
  • 4 – 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped (I used Mezzzeta olives)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon capers
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped parsley
  • Dried chili flakes
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • salt, to taste
  • olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti

The preparation of this dish is very flexible.  I don’t always add the ingredients in the same order (and I only add the when it’s handy) so just use the following instructions as a guide.

Cook the spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water.

Add a generous amount of olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.  I started with about 1/4 – 1/3 cup–this will be your “sauce” so don’t fear the quantity.  Add the anchovies cook for a couple of minutes.  Before they start to dissolve into the hot oil, add the chili flakes and chopped garlic.  Don’t let the garlic burn.  Keep the heat on med-low.

Next, add the olives, capers and chives.  After a minute, add the the wine and allow to cook for about two minutes.  You can turn up the heat a little at this point.  When the wine has reduced a bit, add the chicken stock and the juice of half a lemon.  The lemon balances out the saltiness of the main ingredients.

At this point, I added a bit more garlic to my pan but it’s completely optional.  Add the butter  and some chopped parsley and simmer until the pasta is ready.  Taste the sauce.  It will not look like much but it will be enough for one pound of pasta.  I sprinkled a bit more olive oil here and there but it’s not necessary.  Add some salt if you think it needs it.  More lemon or stock.  You be the judge.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan.  Toss until the pasta is coated well and plate.  Top with parmigiano reggiano and more chopped parsley if desired and serve.  Enjoy!

44 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2010 6:54 PM

    I should totally take a trip with you! I’m the same way. I can disregard a famous monument or acclaimed museum for sitting somewhere watching people passing by and daydreaming! I should also totally come over to your place before you finish this pasta next time you talk about your dinner plans 🙂

  2. November 19, 2010 7:08 PM

    Me too, me too! Actually I do that sort of people watching whether I’m traveling or not … I guess maybe I am just super nosy. 🙂 And this pasta is literally your blog name, so how can I not love it??

  3. November 19, 2010 7:24 PM

    I grew up an observer too…and I still love watching people and daydreaming about their lives. Beautiful pics, by the way. The pasta looks so good…my mouth is watering!

  4. November 19, 2010 7:30 PM

    What a beautiful post and beautiful dish! So simple and sounds delicious. My mouth was watering just reading the title. The photos are instantly transporting! Thank you.

  5. Ana permalink
    November 19, 2010 8:16 PM

    Wow! I HAVE to make this one. I’m not huge on pasta, but this one has all the flavors I LOVE! Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to make!

  6. November 19, 2010 8:31 PM

    This recipe has all of my favorite flavors in one place – thanks for posting this one!

  7. November 19, 2010 11:08 PM

    I love people watching. I like to think of it as being curious 🙂 Even more, I love kalamata olives. Yum! Your dish looks like a nice flavorful meal yet simple. Love it!

  8. November 19, 2010 11:53 PM

    I loved the photos, story and the pasta…so simple, so “Provence”, unbeatable in flavor!!!

  9. trissalicious permalink
    November 20, 2010 12:23 AM

    I love the courtyard pictures – often when I’m traveling I wish that I could enter some of the houses I see…

    Olives, capers and anchovies? Food that is really an acquired taste – and am sure glad that I acquired it and these are all staples in my pantry! Your pasta looks simple, classy and downright delicious!

    • November 24, 2010 7:47 PM

      Thanks, Trissa! I can’t ever resist taking pictures of courtyards and front doors–have lots! Yes, I guess the pasta ingredients are an acquired taste but it’s good. 🙂

  10. November 20, 2010 2:11 AM

    it looks so yummy!!!!

  11. November 20, 2010 7:35 AM

    beautiful pictures

  12. November 20, 2010 7:40 AM

    France and Europe have some of the most charming doors and entries in the world! There is something about your first photo that I just love. I also love your delicious pasta dish. I hope to recreate it here soon behind my front door 😉

    • November 24, 2010 7:49 PM

      Thanks, Susan. I agree with you. Some of the little towns in France and the rest of Europe give me a feel of stepping back in time. Always fun to capture on camera. 🙂

  13. November 20, 2010 9:50 AM

    It looks beautiful! Before food blogs, I honestly thought capers were a fish. Lol

  14. November 20, 2010 10:00 AM

    Jean – Charles and I went to Europe for our honeymoon and St. Paul de Vence was one of our favorite stops. We enjoyed the BEST croque monsieur I have ever had. I only wished we could have stayed there for several days versus only hours. Love the pasta that you made and it is true to your blog’s namesake. Nice photos!!!

    • November 24, 2010 7:50 PM

      St. Paul de Vence was so quaint, wasn’t it? The entire village was just so perfect–too perfect! 🙂

  15. November 20, 2010 10:14 AM

    These flavors are so comforting, and your post makes me want to make this pasta. In fact, I think I’ll make it tonight. 🙂

  16. November 20, 2010 11:08 AM

    I was mesmerized by the photos; it is a big difference between the med countries and the northern countries; how people’s private lives, their laundry, for instance , is for everyone to see!
    Love that pasta, it is relaxed and delicious; I would have doubled the amount of olives though! 🙂

    • November 24, 2010 7:52 PM

      I agree–seeing other people’s laundry seems almost intrusive but it’s everyday life everywhere else. I love being a part of it all, even just for a short time. 🙂

  17. November 20, 2010 11:12 AM

    This spaghetti looks wonderful! Pasta is one of my favorite things in the whole world, but my husband doesn’t really like it so i don’t have it that much anymore. He doesn’t really like bread either – thinks it has no taste – can you believe that?

    And I am loving those photos from France. Please post more! I’ve never been and it looks so so cute there.

    • November 24, 2010 7:53 PM

      I don’t think I’ve met many people who don’t care for pasta, let alone bread. If you do try this, I hope you like it. 🙂

  18. November 20, 2010 2:46 PM

    Jean, I love people watching too… and my daughters tease me that im so nosy, but I think it’s simple curiosity right? haha! Truth to tell it warms my heart looking at people, their gestures, their smiles, and hugs… warms my heart!

    This pasta recipe will definitely warm my heart too.. thanks for sharing!


  19. November 20, 2010 5:48 PM

    We didn’t make it to St. Paul de Vence on our recent trip because we ended up not renting a car due to the strike – next time. Love your evocative photos and the simple but satisfying pasta dish – yum, anchovies 😉

    • November 24, 2010 7:54 PM

      I do recommend St. Paul de Vence, Priscilla. A great reason to return to the south of France! 🙂

  20. November 20, 2010 6:36 PM

    I definitely understand the observer versus the attention seeker thing. I tend to be the same way and have found so are many people, shy or not.

  21. November 20, 2010 11:38 PM

    I am a people watcher too. There is nothing I like better than finding a bench at a crowded park. I can get lost for hours! This pasta dish is simple yet flavorful. The use of such ingredients like olive and anchovies guarantees a flavorful meal. Thank you for sharing, dear. I hope you have a beautiful Sunday!

  22. November 21, 2010 5:02 AM

    Love the flavors, this looks incredible…lovely pics, too!

  23. November 21, 2010 7:24 AM

    Jean, I love the simplicity yet tasty flavors of this pasta. I love people watching, you can learn a lot by observing. Curiosity and nosiness = imagination.

  24. November 21, 2010 10:19 AM

    That’s a recipe we’re going to love!!!

  25. November 21, 2010 5:44 PM

    what a perfect meal!! Pasta always finds its way on my table at least 2 times a week, usually more! My wife and I love people watching too, and I love those images…sigh….how I miss France!

  26. November 22, 2010 12:45 AM

    Lovely story, lovely photos and lovely pasta dish!

  27. November 22, 2010 2:11 AM

    Yum this looks like an awesome pasta dish packed with delicious flavours!

  28. November 23, 2010 10:09 AM

    Mmm, pasta! I love your travel posts and pictures because it gives me a small glimpse into the outside world as I sit at my desk. Can’t wait to read more about your travels (and foodings, of course) 🙂

  29. November 23, 2010 5:31 PM

    Hi Jean, when you post a pasta I’m inspired! I like people watching but I don’t want to get in trouble for staring;) I love seeing your travel photos of the simple village scenes, I think they are lovely and remind me of some of the trips I’ve made to France.

  30. November 30, 2010 2:48 PM

    Three of my favorite ingredients! I’m trying this one soon.

  31. December 13, 2010 9:08 PM

    I have anchovies at home but I never get to use it,
    Mmm maybe I should try pasta with anchovies too!

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