Beyond pasta primavera. May 18, 2011Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
Tags: pasta and veggies, pasta primavera, pasta with roasted veggies, vegetarian pasta recipes
Silence Dogood here. As a vegetarian, I’m often confronted with pasta primavera in friends’ homes and on menus as a vegetarian-friendly option to actual food. As when handed some form of zucchini while everyone else is served food, I object to this, and on every level: Pasta primavera, typically some random assortment of under- or overcooked vegetables tossed in a bland cream sauce and served over fettucine, spaghetti or linguini, commits the double sins of being highly caloric and totally unappetizing. Where’s the flavor, folks?!
Not that I’m denying the deliciousness that veggies and pasta can make when paired well. It’s not just possible, it’s easy to make a flavorful, healthy dish with pasta and veggies that will have even the most calorie-conscious rushing over to help themselves to seconds (as I saw just last week at our Friday Night Supper Club gathering, no one could resist).
What’s my secret? Roasting the veggies first to caramelize them and bring out their fullest flavor, then combining them with olive oil, the right herbs and seasonings, and a one-two cheese punch to add even more richness and a little protein.
To make life easy on the cook, I like to roast the veggies a day or two ahead of time and stash them in the fridge until it’s time to put the pasta together. The flavors only deepen in the interim, making for a really luscious dish that I like to serve up with a colorful, crunchy salad and a side of broccoli with lemon juice, cracked black pepper and butter. (Of course, with all those veggies in the pasta, you might choose to skip the broccoli, add it raw to the salad, or cook it and then toss it into the pasta with the other veggies instead!)
Without more ado, here’s my own version of pasta and veggies:
Silence’s Primo Veggie Pasta
1 sweet onion (Vidalia, WallaWalla, or 1015 type), peeled and cut into wedges
1 fennel bulb, tops cut off and outer layer peeled off, cored and chopped (can save some fronds and chop them to add as garnish, if desired): optional
1 box medium to large whole button mushrooms, washed, stems removed, quartered
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, cored and quartered, quarters halved crosswise
2 plump garlic cloves, unpeeled
half a bunch of asparagus spears, ends removed, cut into thirds
1 ear of white or bicolor corn, husked
3 small or 2 medium yellow summer squash, sliced
6 artichoke hearts (I like to get mine from the olive bar at the local grocery, but frozen, jarred or canned are fine), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup canned black or pitted kalamata olives, sliced
crumbled feta cheese
shredded Parmesan, Parmesan/Romano, or Parmesan/Romano/Asiago cheese
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
extra-virgin olive oil
dried basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme
lemon pepper or cracked black pepper
Trocomare or salt (we like RealSalt)
box spaghetti or fettucine
Line rimmed baking (cookie) sheets with aluminum foil. (I like to bring the edges of the foil up to form short sides to contain any spreading olive oil.) Next, place your veggies (except for the artichokes and olives) on the sheets, a tightly packed single layer with the edges touching but not overlapping. (The beauty of this particular combination of veggies is that they all cook in about the same time, so you don’t have to frantically juggle trays as you would if you were roasting sweet and/or new potatoes or beets along with quicker-cooking veggies.)
Sprinkle pepper, salt or Trocamare, and dried herbs over the veggies, then drizzle olive oil over them, making sure you get a little oil on each piece. Place trays in a 350-degree F. oven on convection if you have that option, on bake if not. Once the olive oil is hot and bubbling, reduce heat to 300.
Keep an eye on the veggies as they roast. You want to cook them until they’re soft and the edges begin to brown, not turn them into crispy critters. When they’re done, remove the trays from the oven and let the vegetables cool. (As the hardworking cook, you certainly deserve a little treat at this point, so when they’re cool enough to eat, feel free to nibble on a few mushrooms and an onion wedge. Yum!!!)
As noted, I roast my veggies a day or two in advance so I’m not so rushed when it’s time to make the meal. So when the veggies cool to room temperature, I chop the onion wedges and pepper pieces, peel and mince the garlic cloves, halve or quarter the squash slices (depending on their size), and cut the kernels off the ear of corn (our chickens relish the cob). I use a plate for this to keep the olive oil off my wooden cutting board; a plastic cutting board is fine, too. Then I put the veggies in a large container, drizzle all the olive oil from the sheets over them, cover, and refrigerate until I need them. If you’re using them right away, put them in a bowl or back on the foil-lined trays after chopping, etc. until you add them to the pasta.
Once you’re ready to make your Primo Veggie Pasta, it’ll come together in no time, since you’ve already done all the prep work. (And even that wasn’t any more work than putting together a salad, now was it?) Put a large pot of water on to boil and cook your pasta al dente. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and put the pot back over low heat. Add the roasted veggies, making sure you pour in all the olive oil/herb/seasonings mix from the bowl or container. Stir well. Pour in more olive oil if needed to just coat the pasta. Add the sliced olives and chopped artichokes to the pasta, stirring well. Wash and mince the fresh basil leaves, then stir into the pasta. Add as much crumbled feta and shredded cheese as you like. Continue to stir until the veggies are heated through and the shredded cheese melts, then serve and enjoy. You will, I promise!
Leftovers? Oh, good! Put them—pasta and all—in a baking dish, cover, and refrigerate. This dish reheats beautifully in the oven, again on convection if possible, at 300, turned down to 250 once the oven heats up until the pasta and veggies are heated through, maybe 20-30 minutes total. (I assume you could also reheat them in a microwave in mere minutes, but not having one, I can’t say for sure.) Our friend Ben and I find the leftovers every bit as delicious as the original dish, and hooray, it’s ready to eat with no further prep on your part!
‘Til next time,