Friday, December 25, 2009

A pasta for all seasons with this tasty dish

By Helen Klein

For years, Pasta Primavera has been a mainstay of restaurants and cookbooks.

Designed to showcase the growing season’s earliest vegetables, the dish, at its best, is a savory mix of such toothsome morsels as young asparagus, the first peas and baby carrots, whose delicate flavors are enhanced served on a bed of whisper-thin angel hair pasta.It seems equally logical to create a dish to mirror spring’s opposite number, featuring a panoply of fall produce.

I envisioned autumn pasta as a rich and satisfying main dish, drawing on the deep colors and flavors that develop in vegetables that have soaked in the summer sun before being culled, and served on a bed of sturdy pasta, such as shells.

As I often do, I drew on my produce drawer “crayon box,” selecting vegetables in varying colors for their eye-catching appeal, their complementary flavors, and their nutritional benefits.

This was clearly a dish in which I wanted the flavors to meld together, while also shining individually. I wanted it to be hearty, and I wanted it to tease the palate, then deliver full-bodied satisfaction.

To that end, I opted for a combination of red and yellow pepper, baby carrots, kale and wax beans, on a base of sautéd garlic and onion, and enhanced with the addition of chopped walnuts, chopped fresh basil and shreds of mozzarella cheese, which melted unctuously on top of the hot pasta.Binding the entire dish together, and enriching it, was a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. I also chose to use whole wheat pasta, both because of its slightly nutty flavor and its superior nutrition.

Autumn Pasta

½ large onion, chopped
½ cup chunked baby carrots
½ red pepper, seeded, cored, and sliced
½ yellow pepper, seeded, cored, and sliced
1 lb. fresh wax or green beans, ends trimmed and cut into thirds2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 leaves kale, spine removed, and coarsely chopped
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1-2 Tbl. olive oil
¼ cup chopped mozzarella cheese
2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ lb. whole wheat shaped pasta, such as shells

Heat the olive oil in large skillet. When oil is hot, add the onion, and sauté over medium heat till translucent and slightly golden in color, salting to help the onions render liquid. Add the carrots and pepper and continue to sauté till carrots are crisp-tender. Add beans and continue sautéing, adding the garlic when the beans have begun to become crisp-tender. Continue to sauté, adding a quarter cup of water, if necessary, to prevent vegetables sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When the garlic has cooked sufficiently to have lost its sharpness, add the kale, and continue sautéing till kale is limp and tender. Add walnuts, and continue to cook, over low heat. Add basil, and salt and pepper to taste, just before removing from the heat.While vegetables are cooking, boil water for pasta. Add 1 Tbl. salt and 1 Tbl. olive oil to water. When water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook till al dente.When pasta is done, drain and return to pot. Add vegetable mixture, mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil, and combine. Adjust seasonings.

Serves four.


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