Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Pan Pasta Primavera. This is how I know.

My Take on 1 Pan Pasta Primavera

So today was Totally New Tuesday (hmm maybe I'll make this a weekly thing)! I had a "green smoothie" for breakfast (see blog post before this one), a turkey/provolone/pear/balsamic lettuce wrap for lunch, and I just got done with my take on pasta primavera for dinner. This blog post could not wait. Not only did I absolutely LOVE dinner, I realized that I finally had a pretty complete answer to the question my friends always pose to me: "How do you know how to make all this stuff?" But first, let's talk about the primavera.

Having already made two new concoctions today and having spent lots of money last night at the grocery store, it was time to check out the fridge. I decided that for dinner I had to try to use up as many fresh ingredients as possible, namely the ones that may go bad over the next few days since my meals are pretty much already planned out.

I poked around a bit and instantly tons of thoughts started going through my head: ricotta, mozzarella, pasta; pasta, spinach, tomato; spinach, feta, tomato, olives. Then I saw it: the zucchini. My mom had given me a small package of baby zucchini and a package of baby corns (think Chinese food) and I had yet to use them. I reached for the zucchini, grabbed the baby corns, took a handful of baby carrots and put them on the counter.

Hmm. The baby corns made it a little difficult since they don't really go with... that's when I remembered the bag of pre-cooked whole wheat penne. I pulled it out. Although corn and pasta means double starch, I decided I could just use less pasta. Pasta Primavera is one of my restaurant favorites.

But wait, I've never made it before. Nor have I seen it being made. Or heard how it's made. Or read a recipe on how to make it. Well, what do I remember? That's when it came to me: one of the ways that I know how to cook, or at least how to mix ingredients, has to do with my approach to food and my keen sense of observation.

I eat food slowly (most of the time) and thoughtfully (usually). I like to savor each bite and think about the flavors. Not to a degree where it's noticeable; I don't sit and contemplate the meaning of every bite, or what every single spice or seasoning could be. I just like to enjoy food rather than rush through it. It's an experience :). Observing how things look/taste/smell when I prepare them compared to the way that prepared food in restaurants look/taste/smell allows me to draw conclusions on how to achieve desired outcomes in the kitchen. This is how I know what flavors tend to go well together.

Then I noticed the pork tenderloin in the fridge. Hmm.. I should freeze that. So I called my mom, just to double-check whether or not I could throw it in the freezer the way the store packaged it or whether I should toss it in to a freezer bag. THIS is the other way I know how to cook: my mom. I know I am biased, but I love the way she cooks. And although our diets consist of almost completely different ingredients, I learned all of the basics from her. I've always watched my mom, two of my grandmothers and my aunt in the kitchen, but being around my mom the most, I learned the most from her. To this day I still call her every now and then to ask a question about time, temperature, etc.

Veggies before the peppers were added.
OK, back to the Pasta. So I realize that I'm not positive how to make Pasta Primavera but decide to just wing it. Why not?! I'm cooking for myself tonight so if it's a total flop, oh well! So I put a little olive oil in my grill pan and add cut strips of the zucchini, baby corns, baby carrots, and by this point I had decided to throw in the 1/3 of a red bell pepper I found in the fridge.

I toss them occasionally with tongs, then it hits me (again): the third way I know how to cook is my own research on the subject, mostly via the wonderful world wide web. I take the 3 steps out of my kitchen and in to my office/dining room and type "Pasta Primavera" in to Google. Thousands of search results come up, but I click on Giada De Laurentiis' recipe, having seen her show a few times on The Food Network and trusting that it's probably great yet simple. I was right.

Now I've added the pasta.
Wouldn't ya know! Carrots, Zucchini, Red bell pepper! Salt!  Pepper! Olive oil! Great! So far on the right track! I scroll quickly through the rest of the ingredients she lists and her instructions and decide that this will be good. Once the veggies are tender I add a little more olive oil, then the pasta followed by 3 heaping teaspoon fulls of parmesan cheese, maybe about 2 tablespoons of garlic powder, 2 tablespoons of italian seasoning, a little more sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. I toss with the tongs until the pasta is warm and all of the veggies and pasta are somewhat evenly coated with the cheese and seasonings.

I plate half of it and put the other half in to a tupperware container for tomorrow. I sit down on my couch and take a bite, thinking it will be good. WRONG: it was FABULOUS! I think that the word fabulous has a little bit of a joke-type connotation, but it works here. It was absolutely delicious. My thoughts went to a few people I know who I think would love it and how I can't wait to make it for them. I actually impressed myself.

And now the cheese and seasonings!
This dish is so full of flavor, several different textures, so many smells and tons of nutrients with all of the different vegetables! Because I didn't over do it with the cheese and the seasonings the vegetables have a chance to shine on their own. Meanwhile, the penne grabs the cheese and the seasonings for a garlicy, cheesy, strong flavor. My favorite bite was a piece of pasta, zucchini, red pepper and baby corn. The carrots are great too, though! I just snuck a single penne noodle from the container of leftovers and I think the red pepper is the star. It's flavor is so strong and delicious it is carried by all of the other ingredients. The baby corns were way better than I thought they were going to be. Sweet, crunchy and since I cut them in to similar shapes as the pasta, they played a similar part. Can't wait for leftovers! :)

Because I know you don't need my inner monologue when making this for yourself, here's the recipe in short form:

You will need:
  • Pasta, whatever kind you'd like (I used whole wheat penne)
  • Zucchini
  • Baby corns
  • Red bell pepper
  • Carrots (baby or regular, peeled and cut)
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic powder 
  • Pepper (I used fresh cracked black pepper)
  • Salt (I used fresh cracked sea salt)

How to:
  • My pasta was pre-cooked, so you'll want to start by making the pasta, draining and setting aside.
  • In a grill pan (any pan will work) put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat on medium. (Don't let the oil get too hot throughout this process since you don't want to fry the ingredients)
  • Cut zucchini, carrots, corn and pepper in to pieces - any shape and size you desire. Add to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with tongs until tender.
  • Add pasta and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toss with tongs.
  • Add garlic powder, italian seasoning, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.
  • Toss with tongs until coated evenly. Add more oil if it's too sticky and not mixing.
One big downfall I am trying to work on is measuring. I don't really measure anything. I just wing it, taste it, and go from there. Sorry if this makes things difficult when replicating recipes. If you want more specifics, e-mail me at brichter@udel.edu and I'll try to give more specific approximations.


  1. We may not need your inner monologue--but it makes it so much more fun!! :)

    I totally just wing it and taste it as I go too! Blogging has pushed me to actually start measuring though!

  2. Thanks for checking back here!

    I didn't think it would be blog worthy, but next time I make it (hopefully soon!) I will definitely try my hardest to measure and post back :)

  3. I always call my Dad for culinary questions haha! Parents know best!

    This sounds amazing and I adore your sense of humor..TWSS = my fave!