My brother, Joey, has been keeping the ‘Our Italian Table’ spirit alive on the west coast by cooking for throngs of friends, his church and even the occasional friends-of-friends. He was recently invited to cook lunch for kids of The Episcopal School of Los Angeles for their summer STEM program (science, technology, engineering and math) and called to ask if I wanted to join him in our first ‘official’ cooking gig! We had a blast! Having cooked together over the years for many holidays, we were like a ballet in the nifty professionally-sized kitchen. Our menu included seafood salad (frutti di mare), parmesan-crusted pork cutlets, pasta primavera, tomato and cucumber salad and a blackberry-cornmeal cake to wrap up the meal. By putting octopus in the seafood salad, we thought we were giving the kids a ‘challenge food’ – were we ever wrong! They devoured every morsel of the seafood salad and loved the octopus! What a fun afternoon. Our recipe for Pasta with Oven Roasted Vegetables is below along with a photo of the cooks in action – with our nifty matching ‘Our Italian Table’ chef’s coats! Fun!!
1 head of fennel, trimmed and cut into thin strips
1 medium sized onion, cut into thin wedges
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into strips
3 small zucchini or 2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise and cut into cubes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large basket of cherry tomatoes
1 pound of short pasta such as rigatoni or penne
Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
Fresh basil leaves, diced (about 1/4 cup)
1 large baking sheet for roasting the vegetables, 1 large pot for cooking the pasta, 1 large serving dish
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. On the baking sheet, toss together the fennel, onion, peppers, and zucchini with the olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for approximately 15 minutes. Add in the cherry tomatoes and continue to roast until all vegetables are tender – about another 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium high heat. Add the pasta and cook until ‘al dente’ (according to package directions). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain pasta.
4. Place the pasta back into the pot. Drizzle pasta with a few turns of olive oil. Mix to coat pasta. Add in the roasted vegetables and 1/2 cup of pasta water. Gently stir to blend. If pasta mixture is too dry, add in additional pasta water.
5. Transfer pasta to a large, heated serving bowl. Sprinkle with lots of freshly grated parmigiano and fresh diced basil.
6. Serve and enjoy!