Have you ever realised you have lots of fresh and cooked vegetables in the fridge that you can’t keep for more than a couple of days? I’m sure you have! And so did I on the day that I made this yummy dish. It was basically my fridge-cleaning day in preparation for the weekly vegetable shopping.
The fridge-cleaning day pasta turned out so delicious and so light I had to write down the ingredients to make sure I would remember how to make it again.
There had been a bit of this and a bit of that in the fridge. I had opened a jar of artichokes in olive oil a couple of nights before and there was some steamed asparagus from another meal. There were also a few fresh red bell pepper and three portobello mushrooms that I had to use up.
My first thought was to make mixed rice but then I remembered that was what we had the night before. I didn’t have much time and needed to make something that didn’t require long preparation and cooking. Pasta is always among my top choices at these times. So pasta it was going to be!
I put the water on for cooking the pasta and began sautéing sliced red peppers and portobello mushrooms. Portobello is a large flat mushroom and quite meaty. I use it in the place of meat/chicken in many of my favourite dishes. If you don’t have them to hand the next best choice will be chestnut (brown) mushrooms but any kind of mushroom, as long as it is not too delicate, will work in this recipe.
My marinated artichoke and asparagus were already cooked. Both added lovely flavour and texture to the dish but you can skip one or even both. You can also substitute cooked whole green bean for the asparagus or use leftover broccoli. That’s the beauty of this dish, it can be made with nearly any vegetable mix and will be delicious as long as you use the right seasoning, spices and herbs.
I know you are thinking: “So what’s so special about this dish? It’s just a mixture of vegetables and pasta!” But there was a difference. I love the Italian way of making pasta dishes but whether I want it or not, very often I end up adding a Persian twist to whatever it is that I’m making.
My twist was to steam the pasta briefly after mixing it with the vegetables in the same way that we steam Persian rice over low heat. This allows the flavours of the ingredients to meld into the pasta.If the heat is very low and you steam the pasta long enough you may even get a crispy golden layer of pasta in the bottom of the pan that’s simply heavenly!
I know this is not the Italian way but dear Italians, please please forgive me if I’m messing up with your lovely recipes because I’m a Persian cook after all!
While the pasta was steaming I made a lovely lettuce salad and set the table. I think it took me about forty-five minutes from beginning to putting the dinner on the table. Dinner was much faster than I had hoped and so delicious I could have it for several days without getting bored!
To make this dish for four people you will need the following ingredients:
- 400 g penne rigate or similar pasta
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 large red peppers, thinly sliced
- 3 large portobello mushrooms (or 250 g chestnut) mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika or sweet smoked paprika
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dried thyme or savory, chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- A small bunch of baby asparagus, cooked
- 1/2 jar artichoke in oil, drained
- Grated parmesan or grana padano cheese to pass around at the table
- Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
- Heat the olive oil in a large lidded frying pan over medium heat until very hot. Add the sliced garlic and sauté until golden. Remove from the oil and keep for using in other dishes. The garlic is needed only for flavouring the oil.
- Add the sliced peppers and sauté until slightly soft.
- Add the sliced mushrooms to the peppers and continue cooking until mushrooms are soft too. Sprinkle with the chopped thyme, paprika and sea salt. Add the tomato paste and stir over medium heat for a minute or two. Turn off the heat.
- When the water comes to boil add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until al dente. Drain well.
- Add the pasta and drained artichokes to the frying pan and stir gently to coat the pasta in the flavoured oil and vegetables.
- Cover the frying pan with the lid and cook on medium low heat for two minutes. Turn down the heat to very low and continue cooking for ten minutes or until steam begins to rise from the pasta. Add the asparagus and cook for two more minutes. Serve with the grated cheese and a bowl of lettuce salad lightly dressed in olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Enjoy!