Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Herbes de Provence, cured olives and fresh goat cheese

Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Herbes de Provence, cured olives and fresh goat cheese

When it comes to cooking, my focus is always on seasonal produce. But now and then, I like to make a dish that is truly seasonless. I always have a box of pasta, olive oil and fresh garlic in my pantry… And I certainly always have cured olives in my refrigerator.

Ever since my first trip to Provence, when I discovered olives de Nyons,* cured olives have become a staple in my kitchen. I simply couldn’t live without them.

Authentic olives de Nyons are so exceptional that they boast their own AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). Harvested late in the season, their skins become a bit shriveled and their flesh packed with concentrated flavors. Then they are salted and dry-cured, a process that removes any bitterness and intensifies their inherent sweetness. They’re just sublime!

Unfortunately, in the United States, these olives are hard to come by — and a bit pricey. So I often substitute them with Moroccan cured olives, which are available in most markets. While obviously not as flavorful, they do make an acceptable stand-in.

I remember creating this recipe while visiting Provence a few years back. The delectable olives de Nyons were not the only ingredient I couldn’t get enough of. Those artisanal goat cheeses and fragrant Herbes de Provence made me dream of a dish where all three fabulous flavors would meet… Et voilà!

Last but not least, Maccheroni alla Chitarra means “guitar string” pasta… Since my husband Marc is a musician, I love to serve it to him. They are a kind of squarish spaghetti and a specialty of Italy’s Abruzzo region. This musical string-shaped pasta and its scrumptious sauce ought to make you sing your heart out!

* Olives de Nyons can be purchased in specialty/gourmet food stores, Whole Foods Market and online at

Food & wine pairing: Côte du Rhône with Maccheroni alla Chitarra

Red wine icon
A Côte du Rhône is the obvious choice for this Provençal-inspired pasta. But a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley or a Rioja Crianza from Spain would be quite good here too.

Cured olives

Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Herbes de Provence, cured olives and fresh goat cheese

serves 4
active time: 25 min

For the pasta

  1. 1 tablespoon sea salt (to boil the pasta)
  2. 1 lb (455 g) Maccheroni alla Chitarra, Spaghetti or Linguini Fini
  3. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  4. 2 teaspoons dried Herbes de Provence
  5. 6 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
  6. 4 oz (115 g) (1 cup) pitted cured black olives (or olives de Nyons) – coarsely chopped
  7. 1 tablespoon capers – drained and finely chopped
  8. 1/3 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  9. 24 large basil leaves – torn in 1″ pieces
  10. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  11. freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the garnishes

  1. 6 oz (170 g) fresh goat cheese – crumbled
  2. extra virgin olive oil
  3. basil leaves

  1. Step 1: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the salt and the pasta. Boil pasta until tender but still al dente. Drain and shake off the excess water.
  2. Step 2: While the pasta is boiling, heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, Herbes de Provence and garlic and sauté for 1 minute until the garlic sizzles but does not brown. Add the olives and capers and sauté for an additional 1 minute until warmed through. Remove from heat and set aside until the pasta is cooked.
  3. Step 3: While the pasta is draining, return the skillet to the stove and heat over medium-high heat. As soon as the sauce sizzles, add the pasta, reserved pasta cooking water, fresh basil, salt and pepper. Toss quickly until the basil is wilted, about 30 seconds, and remove from heat. Divide the pasta into bowls. Top with the crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, garnish with a basil leaf and serve immediately.

Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Herbes de Provence, cured olives and fresh goat cheese

pasta, goat cheese, cured olives


  1. Ok, I am in love with this pasta! I love the combo of salty olives with creamy cheese…just looks fantastic!

  2. Pingback: Marinated olives with fennel, lemon and chili peppers — food & style

  3. Julie Fordyce

    Viviane, I’m going to make this tonight, but instead of including the capers in the recipe, I’ll fry them up with cornmeal, per your other recipe, and sprinkle over the top. Any excuse for those fried capers! I’ll be lavish with them!

    • Julie! This pasta is one of my all time favorites… I think it should have worked perfectly with the fried capers. Do let me know how it turned out!

  4. Pingback: Trofie with arugula pesto and flash-sautéed cherry tomatoes with garlic scapes — food & style

  5. Pingback: Mac and cheese with braised leeks, asiago and parmesan breadcrumbs — food & style

  6. Pingback: Paumanok Vineyards, Cabernet Franc 2008 and grilled cheese with garlic confit — food & style

  7. Pingback: Tasty Touring » Blog Archive » Pasta with Goat Cheese and Olives

  8. Congratulations on having this recipe featured on Saveur!

  9. This looks absolutely gorgeous. Can’t wait to try it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. I have to make this pasta soon. I just love the combination of the olives and cheese. It’s gorgeous.

  11. Love pasta dishes like these—light enough to incorporate into a multi- course dinner, yet packed with flavor.

  12. Pingback: Making a Good Thing Better « Dana Treat – Treat Yourself

  13. This sounds like an amazing dish! I cannot wait to try. I’m not much of a goat cheese fan; do you think I could substitute fresh ricotta cheese instead?

    • Hi Mary Lynn, You could definitely serve the dish with fresh ricotta or even ricotta salata… And I would recommend you try to get some from a local cheese maker.

      I can get a fabulous sheep’s milk ricotta from at my Framers’ Market. They attend many of the Farmers Markets in our area (look for the markets info on their website)… They truly make fabulous “Italian style” cheeses.

      Bon Appétit… 🙂

  14. This looks so good! Ward didn’t like olives, either, until he started cooking last year! (and capers and anchovies). Now that he does the cooking, he’s grown to love olives! ~ Belle

  15. Thank you everyone for dropping by and leaving a comment – I’m always so grateful to you all for it!

    But I can’t believe so many husbands don’t like olives! How can this be??????

    Jen, Maggie, ValleyWriter… I hope your husbands go on a trip soon so you can get your dose of olives in… 🙂

  16. Oh this looks so good. Like Maggie said – my hubby doesn’t like olives – but I’ll be trying this when he’s away!

  17. What a great pantry meal! I LOVE capers and olives (my husband does not) so I will definitely be making this while he’s away. The goat cheese is a perfect touch.

  18. gorgeous dish! I love the simplicity of it and lots of wonderful ingredients in here!

  19. Looks heavenly!! Love pasta dishes… so simple and yummy :o)

  20. My husband is a musician too.
    Beautiful recipe and pics.

  21. This sounds absolutely delicious! Olives tend to be one of those foods people feel strongly about, love them or hate them. (I’m on the love side!)

    On an unrelated note, I was hoping to get your opinion on something. I really liked your post about canning recently, and today, the small restaurant I work at was forced to remove all the in-house canned goods from the shelves. The owner came across this article and apparently they’ve been cracking down on small businesses around the country.

    Personally, I feel there should be proper canning methods in place, but we’ve been doing a pretty good job of it for years and years. This just feels like another way to squeeze small businesses out of the competition.

    • Jay, Thank you so much for stopping by and writing a comment. I’m always so grateful to read what people have to say… and I’m delighted you love olives!

      On another note, I just read the article you mention – very interesting! Thank you so much for sharing it here. I cannot tell you how nervous I was about doing my own canning. Of course, I only do it for my own purposes and for friends and family, but I spent hours reading the USDA Home Canning Guide before attempting to can a single jar! I quickly realized though that my recipes were different (not as tasteless!) as the ones they had on their list (which are very standard and not too imaginative). For example, I cannot imagine adding so much citric acid to foods before I can them… To me this would alter the flavor of certain foods drastically… And I wouldn’t want to eat it either!

      So I decided to can everything, from sauces to jams, to the safest possible level recommended and did everything in the pressure canner, even for the foods they recommended canning in a hot-water bath… This way I have peace of mind.

      It is truly a shame to see small restaurants, who carry on the tradition of canning and curing, having to throw foods away… It brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it!!! It is another instance where there needs to be a balanced approach. Perhaps small restaurants owners needs some education on how to preserve produce and meats safely, but it seems to me that the people who make the laws needs some education as well.

      I very much like what Hammel of Lula says in the article: “Clearly we’re at a point in time where there is a conflict between [the government’s] idea of safety and our idea of deliciousness.”

      I will pass this article on and thank you again for your comment.

  22. This is the kind of thing I’d make for myself when the family’s not around. My husband and kids don’t like olives or goat cheese, but I love them both. And capers? Now I’m really over the top! I’ll have to look for those olives.

  23. Reading about those olives… My mouth is watering. What is it about olives? They are some sort of food/passion concentrate. Great post.

  24. Great post. I love simple dishes like this. The olives sound divine. I haven’t tried the french ones but I have had the Moroccan cured and they are delicious.

    My go to pasta includes bacon or proscuitto, chili flakes and garlic.

  25. Ah Tom! I swear the garlic flavor is not too pronounced here… But you could put less… Maybe 2 cloves?

    I have a hard time imagining the dish without any garlic… but I think it’s because I am such a garlic fan…

    Come to think of it, perhaps you could substitute shallots for the garlic: finely chopped (maybe 2 large shallots), sauté for about 2 minutes with the Herbes the Provence until just wilted. Make sure not to brown them either.

    Keep me posted if you try the recipe… And I know which song you’ll sing… 🙂

  26. what a great dish! I do not use much garlic, so I am wondering if the dish fails with little or no garlic?

  27. I like to have dishes like that, too. Something that you can always whip up from ingredients in the pantry and freezer. Donna Hay has a book about this called “off the shelf” I think. It’s lovely.

    Lovely photo.

  28. That is a beautiful tangle of pasta. I too can’t get enough of those olives and they sound absolutely perfect with the ingredients in this dish. I love that they are able to shine without anything overshadowing them. I’m going to make this soon.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.