Monday, January 25, 2010

Fun with Veggies and Pasta

Pasta with Veggies

This week, for the Monday Meal challenge, I am sharing a recipe that I've developed over time, but which is different every time I make it (and thus, I am cooking something new, per the challenge!). In its various forms, it has graced our table many times, and has become the teenager's Favorite Meal. (She's a sucker for pasta and veggies, what can I say?)

I'll share here the basic recipe, but this can take almost infinite variations. This is a great dish for using up fresh vegetables (rather than leaving them malingering in the crisper drawer, to be discovered two weeks later as inedible mush -- which sadly used to happen way too often before I knew how to cook with veggies consistently). I'll give some guidelines below the recipe on how to incorporate various kinds of vegetables.

The Basic Recipe
1 box penne pasta (or anything of similar size and shape)
4-6 ounces basil pesto (start with 4 and add more if you want a thicker coating of sauce)
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
veggies* (our house standard is baby spinach and asparagus)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Set a big pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook just until al dente -- mushy pasta won't do in this dish! Meanwhile, put a large skillet on medium heat and add the olive oil. Sauté your vegetables in the olive oil until just tender. Lower the heat and add the pesto; sauté just long enough to heat the pesto through. Drain the pasta and add to the veggies and pesto. Toss to combine, then pour the whole kit and caboodle into a large bowl. Immediately add the cheeses and toss.

* Here are the vegetables I've used in this dish, along with about how long they usually take to cook. Obviously, add the longer-cooking veggies first, so that all the veggies can cook in the same skillet and be done at the same time. This isn't an exact science and nothing's going to get ruined if you fudge it a bit. In general, try to use at least one firmer vegetable (green beans, asparagus) and one leafy (spinach is my fave).

Spinach (either chopped regular spinach, or baby spinach as is) - 5 minutes
Asparagus (cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths) - 8 to 10 minutes
Roasted red peppers (chopped) - 2 to 3 minutes (to just heat through)
Sun-dried tomatoes (chopped) - 4 to 5 minutes (to heat through and soften a bit)
Swiss chard (stems chopped fine, leaves chopped) - 5 minutes
Green beans (raw, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths) - 10 to 12 minutes
Green beans (pre-cooked until almost tender) - 5 minutes
Zucchini (sliced into half-moons) - 8 to 10 minutes
Roasted tomatoes (already roasted) - 2 to 3 minutes

This recipe allows for a lot of creativity, but it can also be very simple. This time of year, I use store-bought pesto (in the fresh pasta section -- not the shelf-stable jarred stuff, yuck), and whatever veggies happen to be hiding in my fridge. Yum!

But watch out -- do not leave this dinner unattended. Little ones just might help themselves...

Toddler makes his move


  1. Oh wow! This looks like one of those expensive dishes you get at a restaurant! Even better - you got your kids to partake in veggies without a struggle!

  2. Oh Laura this looks soooo good it makes me want to run to my fridge for veggies. And I am roasting zucchini tonight because of you. I can't wait. Now if only I had a great looking bowl like simple, but so big.

  3. Sounds like my kind of meal!! Easy, with a lot of vegetables! Especially with the asparagus! I will definitely be trying this one.


  4. Yum! We had penne with pesto, green beans, and potatoes last night. I'm really wanting some asparagus right about now. It's been such a long time... and spring is still a long way off...

  5. We eat this all the time, and every time it's different. I love that! And I find that once you get a kid to admit they like pesto (some kids have an issue with its green-ness... I find pesto pizza to be a great gateway food, hehe, I'm such a pesto pusher), this dish is a no-brainer. It's like pizza in a bowl, but with veggies. Which the kids eat with gusto, because they are smothered in pesto and cheese. And then you hear things like, "oh, this is asparagus? wow, I guess I really like asparagus!" and your heart does soar. :)

  6. This recipe sounds incredible! I am definitely going to try it. Thanks Laura!

  7. That looks delicious and I'm going to have to try it...I'm a huge fan of pesto favorite being pizza. I'm going to add this to my menu for next week.