Friday, January 22, 2010

Veggie pasta: dinner in a flash

By Helen Klein

With pasta and canned tomatoes in the pantry, and some fresh vegetables and herbs in the crisper, dinner is always close at hand.

Even when time is as limited as the selection of ingredients, it’s simple to put a satisfying, warming and wholesome meal on the table.

Count on about 15 minutes to cut the veggies into bite-size pieces, another 10 minutes to sauté them and about 15 minutes more for the sauce to cook. Most of this can be done while the pasta water comes to a boil and the pasta itself cooks till it’s perfectly al dente, just cooked through without being even the slightest bit mushy.

I usually opt for whole grain pasta; not only is more nutritious, but it’s more filling and has a subtle, nutty flavor that I find especially appealing.For the vegetables, I usually take the crayon box approach. The more colors I combine in the finished dish, the more varied the nutritional composition of the dish is likely to be.

It also tastes better, because the sweetness of such vegetables as colored peppers plays off the slightly bitter taste of crucifers like broccoli, and the pleasing tartness of tomatoes.

And, it has all-important eye appeal, which is particularly important if you’re dealing with picky eaters.

For this dish, I combined broccoli and cauliflower florets with chunks of colored pepper in a tomato-based sauce enriched by sautéd onion and garlic, a dash of hot pepper flakes and some fragrant basil redolent of the summer now long-gone-by. If you don’t have fresh basil, it’s fine to substitute frozen basil leaves that have been coarsely chopped.

Veggie Pasta


½ pound rotelle (or other medium-sized shaped pasta), cooked till al dente and drained
2-3 Tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 colored pepper (orange, red or yellow), diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup cauliflower florets, steamed till crisp-tender
1 cup broccoli florets, steamed still crisp-tender
1 28-ounce can diced plum tomatoes
½ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


While pasta water is coming to a boil, sauté the vegetables.

Heat olive oil in large skillet. When oil is hot, add chopped onion, sautéing over medium-high heat till translucent and golden. Add diced pepper and continue sautéing till pepper is tender. Add chopped garlic, and continue cooking, over medium heat, till garlic is soft. Add cauliflower and broccoli and sauté briefly to combine flavors. Add tomatoes, with juices, and the red pepper flakes, and cook till liquid is reduced and flavor has mellowed and combined. Toward the end of cooking, add the fresh basil (if frozen, add with the tomatoes), and the salt and pepper to taste.

When pasta is done, drain and toss with the sauce.

Pass freshly grated Parmesan cheese after serving.

Serves four as a light main dish.


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