I think of myself as a “sometimes vegetarian.” I got my first taste of veggie happiness nearly 60 years ago at Farm Food, a vegetarian restaurant in Manhattan. My father always ordered the same things for us: creamed spinach, Harvard beets, sautéed white rose potatoes, and a vegetable cutlet. Today, my grandchildren claim that broccoli is their favorite food, and I’m thrilled to have passed along the veggie gene.
I enthusiastically embrace the concept of Meatless Monday to forgo animal protein. I see it as an opportunity to learn about the flavors and textures of the bounty available to us at farmer’s markets and better grocery stores. When I add pasta to these lovely veggies, I go the extra mile and serve whole grain pasta.
Many of us grew up eating white pasta, which has been stripped of its natural fiber, is high in carbs and is very high on the glycemic index. (Dr. Weil has a great description of the glycemic index and its effects on the body.) Whole wheat pasta is a healthier choice because it contains complex carbohydrates and is a good source of fiber. My two favorites are Garofalo Whole Wheat Fettucine or Bionaturae 100% Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti.
Meal 1: Weeknight Dinner
Whole Grain Pasta Primavera
For lunch leftovers, double the recipe
1 cans (14 ounces) vegetable broth
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, not oil packed, cut into strips
10 ounces penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup (4 ounces) mushrooms, sliced
2 medium zucchini cut into a 1-inch dice
2 small carrots cut into a 1-inch dice
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup Parmesan cheese plus extra for the table
1. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil in a small saucepan and boil for 3 minutes to reduce slightly and concentrate the flavor. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, cover the pan, and remove from the heat.
2. Bring a pot of water to the boil and follow the instructions on the package to cook the penne until al dente.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook for 1 minute or until the mushrooms change color. Add the zucchini and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the basil, salt, pepper, spinach leaves, broth and sun-dried tomatoes, cover, and allow to stand for 2 minutes.
4. Add the pasta and the Parmesan and combine. Pass the extra cheese when serving.
To spruce up this dish for company, use either use fresh egg pasta or herb pasta sheets. Tear them into 1×2 inch “rags,” and cook in boiling water for a minute or two, or until al dente. Instead of dicing all of your veggies, you can substitute baby zucchini, baby carrots and button crimini mushrooms. Toss in some baby turnips and grilled prawns, and this dish is all dressed up for a Saturday night!
Meal 2: Next Day’s Lunch
Whole Grain Pasta Salad
To quickly convert last night’s dinner into lunch, add some edamame or garbanzo beans to the pasta and sprinkle with some roughly crumbled Feta cheese. Keep your co-workers away from your lunch, or, give them the recipe.
Alice Stern loves to eat. And cook. And share recipes. After working in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, she taught cooking classes to both adults and children, is the author or two self-published cookbooks, and wrote the food column for her local newspaper. She lives with her husband and dog in northern California.