Pasta mixed with roasted vegetables is one of my family’s weeknight dinner heroes. Throwing veggies on a sheet pan, boiling a pot of water, and reading the latest Food & Wine while dinner comes together is my idea of the perfect evening. But it’s just as easy to add a few special touches- like seasoning the pasta itself- without sacrificing that rare, mid-cooking downtime.
The pasta is often the one element of pasta dishes that we forget about. We spend countless, loving hours over a big pot of canned tomatoes, several scrupulous minutes tasting and adjusting a delicate cream sauce, or anxious seconds watching a clove of garlic caramelize in a pool of olive oil. But what about the pasta that these concoctions are destined to decorate?
First, you must salt your pasta water. This instruction can be frustrating because recipes (including this one) won’t tell you exactly how much salt. That’s because everyone’s pots are different, the type of pasta you’re using might be different, we might all have different types of salt on-hand, etc.. I usually use about 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of Diamond Krystal kosher salt for a pound of pasta.
Now that you’ve got pasta bubbling away in well-salted water, set a timer. When I lived in Rome, my host mother never measured anything and the house contained no “cookbooks”. The concept of a “recipe” was foreign to my Roman family. The one thing they were precise about was their pasta. They would weigh out an exact amount, use a specific type of salt just for pasta water, and always set a timer to ensure it was perfectly cooked. It can go from al dente to mush in just a minute or two and they weren’t about to risk that.
Usually I’d suggest stopping your pasta 2 minutes before package directions and finishing it in the sauce, but with this recipe you can just cook according to package directions. If your pasta says 9-11 minutes, always choose the shorter time. When you taste your pasta, it should no longer have white, uncooked grain on the inside but it should not be soft; it should still have a little bite.
Now let’s take things to the next level. In this recipe, I season the pasta with garlic, olive oil, and salt (if needed) before tossing it with a medley of roasted summer vegetables. In every bite, you won’t just notice that beautifully golden-brown summer bounty, you’ll also notice the humble grain perched on the end of your fork. Shining with olive oil, spiced with garlic, and well-salted with a firm bite, that pasta could easily be enjoyed on its own. Pair it with colorful seasonal vegetables, and this weeknight dinner hero just saved the day.
1poundcooked whole wheat or chickpea pasta(I like Banza)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Nutritional yeast or parmesan cheeseoptional
What you do
Heat oven to 400. Toss leeks, zucchini, eggplant and turnip in olive oil. Season with rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, plenty of salt and pepper. Taste. Keep adjusting the seasoning until the vegetables become as addictive as candy; they’re the main component of this dish so you really want them to be irresistible. Slice 1/2 of the lemon into 1/4-inch half moons and arrange over the vegetables. Roast about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables turn slightly creamy with crisp, golden brown edges. Remove from oven, squeeze the other half of the lemon over the vegetables and toss. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Mix vegetables and pasta
Drizzle pasta with olive oil and toss with garlic powder. Toss with roasted vegetables (or serve them on the side). Season with more black pepper, then sprinkle parsley over everything. You know I can’t resist a sundried tomato, so I add a couple in at this point. Feel free to leave them out (I’ll eat yours).
I like to add a ton of nutritional yeast on top for an extra cheesy kick, Mom prefers fresh parmesan cheese. Neither option is necessary, both options are delicious.
Note: *You can use regular eggplant if you can’t find grafitti (it’s light purple with white stripes), but grafitti has thinner skin and cooks more quickly. Peel the eggplant or increase roasting time if using regular eggplant.