Rosemary & Lemon Roasted Veggie Pasta

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wow, it feels like it's been awhile since I've posted, can't say I've spent as much time in the kitchen this summer as I'd hoped. Luckily, a few things happened this weekend which reminded me why I need to get back on track. The good news is that I officially fit into my first pair of skinny jeans! The bad news is that I caved into having a couple slices of delivery pizza, against my better judgement. I knew it was going to upset my stomach and make me feel lethargic, just like fast food always does now, and it was probably not even going to be any good. I was right. Damn you Papa John's, for managing to ruin chicken, mushrooms and olives smothered in cheese.

It sounds like a silly thing to stress over, but old habits die hard. Between my son being away for the summer and my attempt to get out there in the dating scene, I know this summer will be filled with plenty more temptation to get lazy about my eating habits. It's easy to stay home and cook when I need to feed my son - it's not as easy to turn down late night binges or eating out at restaurants as I'm suddenly propelled into having a social life. While on my date, I found it awkward to maneuver through the "what should we order" discussion without coming across as judgmental that he clearly saw no issue with Chinese or pizza in the middle of the night. At 30 years old, that's just not something that works for my body anymore, and I need to do better in speaking up for myself in the future. Not to mention, it's ultimately a turn-off to think about getting involved with somebody who doesn't care about their diet. Yes, people change, but I would love to spend my time with a guy who already gets just as excited about a plate full of fresh food as I do!

This is not to say that the idea of having pizza bothers me. There's plenty of ways to make great pizzas at home with very little guilt factor. But as I was driving home from work tonight, I thought about what I might have been craving and realized it was just the freshness of vegetables and tomato sauce, the saltiness of the olives, the texture of melted cheese, and the Italian seasonings. Chicken never did cross my mind, and since it was "Meatless Monday" this would be a good opportunity to work on a vegetarian recipe for The Kitchenista Diaries. 

There is nothing easier than tossing roasted veggies, fresh herbs, lemon juice, olive oil & garlic together to create a light and delicious pasta. You don't even have to worry about making a sauce, which is great for me because it takes every ounce of strength not to drown some noodles in heavy cream. I hesitate to even call this a recipe because it's really just about using what you have on hand, so adjust it to suit your tastes and available ingredients. Skip the cheese to make it vegan if you need to, but please don't compromise on using fresh herbs! This is a useful dish to know how to make on the fly when you need to use up a lot of leftover produce. Serve it for lunch or dinner, or even as a side dish for grilled fish or chicken. It can be served warm or cold, so it's a perfect lunch to pack for a picnic or the beach. 

The best part? I satisfied my cravings and could comfortably have seconds without worrying about fitting into those skinny jeans for my next date! 

Rosemary & Lemon Roasted Veggie Pasta

1/2 lb Rotini pasta
Plenty of mixed chopped vegetables, recommendation as shown:
--1 large zucchini, sliced
--2 small summer squashes, sliced
--1 small eggplant, sliced
--1 sweet red onion, sliced
--1 orange bell pepper, cored and sliced
--1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 cup pitted black olives (I used a mix of Kalamata & Black Niçoise)
1 can diced tomatoes
Several cloves minced garlic
Several tbsp minced fresh rosemary
Several tbsp minced fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 or 2 lemons
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Good quality olive oil
Crushed red pepper, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Fresh basil leaves (optional)

Servings: 6 - 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Equipment Needed: Large pot for boiling pasta, roasting pan or large casserole dish

Preheat the oven to 400°. When chopping up your vegetables just remember to slice them all in similar size so they roast evenly. It's easiest to cut larger vegetables like the zucchini in half lengthwise, then half again, and then slice into quartered pieces. The fresh herbs should be minced as finely as possible, especially the rosemary which is a coarser herb. I like to use a jar of minced garlic for this to cut down on prep, but you could certainly mince fresh garlic cloves.

Toss the veggies together with half of the minced herbs, tons of garlic, the juice of a lemon, and several tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the veggies.)

Transfer the veggies to a large roasting pan or casserole dish, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 30 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile boil the Rotini pasta in salted water until just shy of Al Dente, 8 - 10 minutes. You want to let the pasta be just a tad bit under-cooked as it will continue to cook more in the oven. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Here comes the fun part! Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Add the olives, tomatoes and pasta. Now dress it up to your liking, adding the remaining fresh herbs, a pinch or two of crushed red pepper, sea salt & pepper to taste, and another drizzle of olive oil. If you love garlic add a little more, I did. Want a stronger lemon flavor? Squeeze another one in there. Have fun with it.

If you plan to serve this hot, top with fresh mozzarella cheese before roasting. If you'd prefer to serve at room temperature or cold, you may want to chop up some mozzarella and garnish it just before serving. You could certainly add a little more cheese than I did but the point is to keep it healthy, so don't go overboard!

Return the pasta to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes or so, until cheese has melted and pasta just begins to turn golden brown around the edges.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves, and dig in!

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