The secret to this great tasting pasta is in the sauce. I’ll admit that from the picture, it doesn’t look like it has much of a sauce, but believe me it’s there and it’s tasty! I was inspired to make this pasta after reading the May Italy Issue of Bon Appetite, which is packed with all sorts of yummy Italian recipes. Towards the back of the magazine there is an article called ‘Pasta Perfect,’ which shows you how to make your own restaurant-worthy pasta.
Prior to reading this article, I thought those restaurant sauces (the non-red sauce ones) were all butter and/or oil and even though they are really good, I couldn’t fathom the idea of dousing my home-cooked pasta with that much fat. As it turns out though, these sauces still do have a fair amount of fat in them, but the secret to making them so silky and luxurious is pasta water—yes, that leftover water in the pot after you cook pasta. The cloudy and starchy pasta water helps to bind together all of the liquids and melted cheese into a fantastically thick sauce that coats the pasta and any veggies you want to add to your dish.
While many of you may already know this trick, it has opened up a whole new world of pasta possibilities for me. As outlined in the magazine, all you have to do for an amazing pasta dish is:
- Boil up some pasta in well-salted water until it is almost done
- Scoop out and save some pasta water and drain off the rest from the pasta
- Sauté whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand in some butter and/or oil olive
- Add your pasta and some of the pasta water to the sauté pan with the vegetables and toss until well coated with sauce
- Remove the pasta from the heat when it is al dente and stir in a bit more butter or olive oil and some grated cheese
- Add fresh herbs, if you’d like, and serve!
I’ve already made a few versions of this dish with great success. Here is the recipe for my latest version:
Pasta with Cauliflower and Zucchini
Inspired by Bon Appetite, May 2011
Next time I make this dish I may blanch the cauliflower before sautéing it. It took a long time to cook and get tender when I added it raw directly to the pan.
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil or butter, divided
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1½ cups small cauliflower florets
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into thin crescents
- Salt and pepper
- 6 oz of pasta (I used rotini pasta)
- ¾ cup finely grated parmesan
- toasted walnuts and breadcrumbs for garnish
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add in the cauliflower and cook for several minutes until it begins to get tender. Add in the zucchini and cook until all the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
While the vegetables are cooking, bring 3 quarts of water a boil in a large pot. Add salt and pasta to the water and cook until the pasta is just about ready. Scoop out a cup of the pasta water (I used a coffee mug) and drain off the rest of the water.
Add the pasta to the vegetables in the skillet and add about ½ cup of the pasta water. Cook the pasta and vegetables, tossing often, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the remaining oil or butter and grated cheese. Cook until pasta is al dente and the sauce coats the pasta. Add more pasta water if needed. Garnish the pasta with toasted walnuts, breadcrumbs, and grated cheese.
Tasty Easy Healthy Green Recipe Ratings:
|Recipe Report Card||Notes About Recipe Ratings|
Four Chefs (Delicious!)
|You don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant for good pasta anymore! This dish definitely lived up to our expectations of being restaurant-worthy.|
Four Easy Chairs (“ABC, Easy as 123…”)
|This dish can easily be made on a weeknight and with whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand.|
Three Apples (Average Nutritional Quality)
|I used whole grain pasta and lots of vegetables, but there was still a good amount of butter and cheese in this dish.|
Four Leaves (Mother Earth Approved)
|The vegetables and walnuts were local and organic and many of the rest of the ingredients were organic. The Parmesan cheese was neither local nor organic though.|