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Weekend Cooking: Veggie Pasta

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

cover of Julia Child Rules by Karen KarboYou would think that in a week when I have pledged to Live Like Julia, I would manage to produce a Julia Child recipe for a Weekend Cooking post. Since the rule that I chose to test drive from Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo was Rule #6: To Be Happy, Work Hard, a new recipe is not going to happen this week. Julia Child’s work was cooking. For this week, my work is writing.

One of the tips in the chapter about working hard to be happy is “Avoid Housework.” For Julia Child, the point was to avoid housework in order to cook. For me, I need to find ways to streamline even the cooking part of housework in order to write. By the way, I avoid other housework as well — if you live in the St. Louis area, I can recommend my every-other-week cleaning crew.

When I’m working hard, we sometimes take our repertoire of supper recipes down to three dishes. These are items that we have cooked for years, perfecting the timing, production, and taste. At first, it seems like cycling through just three suppers would be horribly repetitive, but these dishes are perfect, after all. Why wouldn’t we want them as often as possible?

It helps that one of the dishes is Veggie Pasta which is different every time I make it.

photograph of garden eggplant

Eggplant in my garden, destined for Veggie Pasta

Veggie Pasta is great for when the garden is over-producing or the last night of the week when a new CSA box will arrive tomorrow and the previous week’s veggies must be used.

More method, than recipe, here is how I make it:

Joy’s Veggie Pasta

Start with lots of veggies — even more than you think you could possibly eat. This is the dish that got us to realize that we really will eat many cups of vegetables at supper. Pre-cook any of the ones that make sense in any way that makes sense. Right now, I chop zucchini and eggplant and roast them in the toaster oven–sometimes early in the day before it gets hot. In the winter, the veggies would more likely be broccoli and carrots. I’ll sometimes throw veggies on the outdoor grill to use later in the day or week in this dish. I’ll usually roast 3 or 4 cloves of garlic per person — it’s a healthy veggie, too, and, roasted, it’s mild enough to put a lot in. I wash and chop tomatoes (or in the winter, drain and chop canned tomatoes), cooking greens, and any fresh herbs I have available, but I don’t pre-cook them.

Then, make a sauce. A bit of oil, some good vinegar or fresh lime or lemon juice, something sweet like honey or agave nectar or maple syrup, perhaps some mustard or ketchup or barbecue sauce or hoisin or worcestershire or tomato juice or tomato paste or pesto or soy sauce or some combination of the above. Whisk it together in a glass measuring cup. Set it aside for later. I aim for 1/4 to 1/2 cup per person — on the low end if the tomatoes are juicy.

This is the time to think about what goes on top, if anything, since the cooking goes pretty quickly. I usually grate some good flavorful cheese and sometimes toast pine nuts.

Put the water on to boil and weigh 1.5 oz of pasta per person. I’m using whole wheat fusilli these days. We don’t generally like whole wheat pasta, but there’s so much going on in this dish, that it works fine.

In a large skillet, saute lots of onion–it’s a veggie, too! I’ll also saute peppers with it when my garden is producing.

When the water is boiling, throw in the pasta.

Press the roasted garlic into the skillet with the onions. Gradually add the pre-cooked veggies to the skillet, firmest first, and later things like tomato and, at the last minute before the pasta is done, any greens and herbs.

Drain the pasta, then dump it in the skillet with the veggie mixture. Add the sauce and heat and stir everything until the sauce is bubbly. Serve and top with cheese, pine nuts, salt, and pepper.

If you have determined meat eaters, this dish accommodates chicken nicely. Cut it up and cook it with the onions before adding the vegetables. When we do that, I skip the pine nuts and use only the tiniest amount of cheese for flavor.

From start to finish, if I haven’t roasted vegetables early in the day, this can take close to an hour, but I feel so creative when I make it because I’m making decisions on the fly about what sauce components will go well with the vegetables and herbs that I’ve amassed. Cooking this dish energizes rather than drains me and puts me in a good place to be creative later in the evening when I’m working hard to be happy. I think Julia Child would approve.

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The Live Like Julia challenge is open to bloggers willing to test-drive one of the rules in Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo. Check it out here: Wanted: Bloggers to #LiveLikeJulia For One Week and Write About It.

Check out Beth Fish Reads every Saturday for Weekend Cooking with links to book reviews, restaurant reviews, recipes, and other culinary adventures.

Signature of Joy Weese Moll

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