Farfelle alla Vesuviana: Easy Pasta recipe (bowties)

I have made this fabulous pasta recipe four times since I discovered it in the book 250 True Italian Pasta Dishes by John Coletta. I’ve made countless recipes from here, many of which I’ve wanted to share with you, but the photos have always been dreadful. These aren’t stellar, but they were worth sharing anyway!

I’ve made this recipe with spaghetti twice, once with ziti, and now with farfelle, also known as bowtie pasta. Of the recipes I have tried, there hasn’t been a single one we haven’t enjoyed. They all share the same basic method and once I had made one or two, I figured out exactly how to throw together a fabulous pasta dinner, with or without meat, that satisfies and tastes great.

This particular recipe in the book is actually called Spaghetti alla Vesuviana. The author makes note that this dish is a great substitute for those who don’t like anchovies (me! me!) but like the flavor of the caper-olive sauce (again, me! me!). He also notes that there’s no relation to the potato and chicken “vesuvio” dishes created in Chicago. I’ve never heard of those, but the name actually reminded me of the Soprano’s.. you know, Arty’s restaurant? Vesuvio’s? He he.

Amanda’s Notes:

1) I’ve made this with both Italian olives and regular green olives. It’s good both ways, but MUCH better with Italian olives. In fact, the kids and hubby ate much more of the pasta that had the Italian olives. I found a jar of green olives marinated with red bell peppers and garlic that were fabulous! John says those are a wonderful substitute if you can’t find Italian green olives. See if there’s an Italian market near you.

2) Italian parsley – this is flat leaf parsley, not the curly stuff that’s used as a garnish. Italian parsley is less bitter and has a lot more flavor.

3) Use a good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano for the best flavor. Even though I do, my husband still shakes that Kraft parmesan crap all over his dinner (“Marone!”)

4) Alway put your water on to boil first, without the salt, and cover it. That way the water will be ready when you are ready to add the pasta.

5) Never rinse your pasta. The starch left on the noodles after draining helps the sauce stick!

6) Vesuvian – from what I’ve been able to find out, this word translated is basically vesuvian, which means “volcanic”, “eruption”, or refers to a long burning match. Now I’m guessing this recipe has that name because of the red finger chili in it, which I chose not to use simply because my market didn’t have any. But I am assuming the name implies that this dish has some heat, so if you want mild, just leave it out like I did.

7) So many recipes in this book are excellent that I highly recommend it to any Italian food lover or pasta lover. John Coletta is a partner and chef in Quartino Ristorante Pizzeria Wine Bar, which much to my delight is located in Chicago, only an hour and a half from here. I will be visiting some day!

Farfelle alla Vesuviana
adapted from  250 True Italian Pasta Dishes

printable version

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
7 large, ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 tbsp tiny (nonpareil) capers
1/3 cup chopped pitted Italian green olives (see my notes for substitutions)
1 tsp minced fresh red finger chili (I omitted this)
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1 lb dried Farfelle pasta
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley leaves
3 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In covered pasta pot, over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat oil over high heat (I use medium-high). Add garlic and cook, stirring, until translucent but not browned, 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, capers, olives and chili and reduce heat to medium. Let simmer until pasta is cooked.

NOTE: I use a fork to crush the chopped tomatoes after they’ve been cooking for a while. This satisfies my texture sensitive family members (rolling eyes).

While sauce is simmering, add salt and pasta to the boiling water and cook, uncovered, over high heat until pasta is al dente. Scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain pasta.

Add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water to the tomato mixture. Raise heat to high. Add pasta and toss to coat evenly, adding more pasta water if necessary to moisten.

Add parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss well.

If you would like to try my very own recipe made with bowties, it’s called Spicy Chicken and Bowties. And while the photos don’t do it justice, I guarantee its deliciousness. :) 

Incidentally, the pan I use for this recipe is my FAVORITE pan in the kitchen. It’s my ManPans wok. I use it for all my pasta and stir fry dishes and when I fry things too. LOVE it. You can read my review about it here.



  1. Michelle says

    I've been thinking of making an Olive Pasta and this recipe looks perfect!

    Try using a little Hot Hungarian Paprika in place of the hot pepper.

  2. Anna says

    This sounds great! I can't deal with anchovies, but love olives.

    About the tomatoes, did you seed them and peel them before chopping? Just curious. I'd be tempted to buy whole San Marzano canned tomatoes and dice them rather than use Romas. The Romas here aren't very good. I may make this Tuesday.

  3. Amanda says

    Hey Anna :) Aside from cutting off the top of the tomatoes, I didn't remove anything else. Didn't seed or skin them, just chopped them up, juice, seeds and all. I have used canned tomatoes with this as well, use 2 cans or 1 big one (28 oz).

  4. Amanda says

    Susan – I hope you like the Spicy Chicken & Bowties, it's a favorite here!

    Michele – You will love it, hope you try it!

  5. biz319 says

    That looks delicious Amanda! And while I don't like anchovies, I like the salty flavor. I've discovered anchovie paste and its really good – I added it to my husband's steak tartare for Superbowl and he loved it!

    Ah, chicken visuvio is one of my husband's favorite dishes! I'll have to make that for him soon!

  6. Barbara Bakes says

    The pasta sounds fresh and tasty! I have recipes I haven't posted because the pictures weren't great too!

  7. Barbara says

    Many thanks for this excellent recipe, Amanda, and the tips on cooking pasta. Since I'm an anchovy lover, I might just be inspired to sneak in a dab.

  8. Lo says

    Yum. Both this and the spicy chicken look awesome. I'm with the others — the capers are a great touch. Anchovies would be great in here too!

  9. Kudos Kitchen says

    Love the addition of capers in this Amanda. They're my new favorite add-in and it's nice to have some new ideas of what to add-them into :)

  10. Amanda says

    This is one of my all time favorite pasta dishes Renee. i hope you try it, and you're right, the capers add great flavor!

  11. Anonymous says

    This is a great recipe. You may want to try sprinkling a few red pepper flakes into the sauce for heat if you don't have the red finger chili.


Leave a Reply

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>