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Mouthwatering vegetarian pasta

By Anna Jursik

Section: Arts

September 18, 2009

<i>PHOTO BY Emily Berk/The Hoot</i>

PHOTO BY Emily Berk/The Hoot

Pasta with marinara sauce is great, but not every night! Tomatoes aren’t the only locally grown produce available this time of year. The following meal takes advantage of the fresh vegetables of harvest season. It’s also colorful, simple, and delicious.

Each dish uses minimal spices, both to keep the directions short and the cost low. Special seasonings can improve your dishes, but the staples we use here (red pepper flakes, cumin seeds, fresh basil) perform just as well. They enhance the flavor of the vegetables rather than overpower them, and we’ll be able to use them in many future recipes.

Preparing a meal isn’t only about matching flavors and textures. It’s also about timing. Before you start chopping veggies or heating oil, think about how long each dish will take to cook. This meal takes 1-2 hours to prepare, depending on how many chefs you have at your disposal. If you put the vegetables into the oven as you take the sweet potatoes out of the microwave, they should be done roasting around the same time as the gnocchi are done. That way, neither of the dishes gets cold or is neglected by impatient dinner guests.

ROASTED VEGETABLES

1 large eggplant

1 large or 2 small zucchini

1 red or orange bell pepper

1 large or 2 small onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic

1 14-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the eggplant into even pieces the size of dice. Put them on a cookie sheet and salt liberally, then let them sit. Sometimes eggplants are very bitter; this lets them sweat out the bad taste.

2. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Chop the onion and bell pepper into strips about ½ inch wide. Mince the garlic and basil.

3. Rinse the eggplant cubes and put them back on the cookie sheet. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, beans, onions, and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on the cumin seeds and red pepper flakes, and stir gently.

4. Put the sheet into the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes. Stir every 10-15 minutes, and taste test often.

5. When the veggies are done cooking, let them cool about 5 minutes before serving.

PESTO SAUCE

4-8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 ½ cup fresh basil leaves

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup pine nuts

Add all ingredients to blender and pulse until they form a sauce.

SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI

2 large sweet potatoes

¼ cup vegan margarine

1-2 cups flour

1. With a fork or knife, poke each sweet potato in several places. This will help avoid explosions.

2. Microwave them on high for 5-6 minutes, or until fully cooked.

3. Mash sweet potatoes and margarine in a large bowl.

4. Gradually add flour to potato mixture, until it has the consistency of bread dough.

5. Put a large pot of water on to boil.

6. Pour extra flour onto a plate, and have another plate ready for finished gnocchi. Form the dough into thimble-sized dumplings and roll them in the flour until lightly coated.

7. When floured, place on a cookie sheet or large platter. Try not to stack them; they tend to stick together and form single, giant gnocchi.

8. Drop them into the boiling water. When they float, they’re done cooking. It only takes 1 or 2 minutes, so stay close! Use a slotted spoon to move them into a colander to drain.

9. Toss with pesto sauce. Eat!

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