20 August 2014

Mediterranean Ratatouille Pasta

Around here summer is quickly moving in the direction of fall. Although I am anxiously anticipating the arrival of persimmons, parsnips, and Brussel sprouts,  I am sad to see summer coming to an end. So before it completely disappears I wanted to celebrate its fruitful bounty with a big pasta dish of my favorite Mediterranean flavors. I don't think anything screams summer to me more than a mix of grilled summer vegetables, glazed with balsamic vinegar, and tossed with al dente Papparadelle, lemon-garlic dressing, olives, and pine nuts.

I grilled the vegetables in my oven, but if you have an outdoor grill by all means use it. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and let it cook on the grill alongside the vegetables. And if you're gluten-free, don't think this pasta dish is not for you! Use brown rice noodles or quinoa pasta, or sub in cooked quinoa and turn this into a big quinoa salad platter.

This is a festive, crowd-pleasing pasta and a summer favorite for us. So get out the largest pasta bowl you own and make this for your next outdoor get-together. I hope it becomes a favorite of yours too.

Mediterranean Ratatouille Pasta
Serves 4-6
Notes: The length of the recipe is not to discourage, rather to take the guess work out of preparation. The preparation is simple, but there are 3 stages which I have organized sequentially for you below.

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables
Mix of summer vegetables*
1 large clove garlic, with skin on
1 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Turn oven to broil and place rack in upper 1/3 of oven. Place a silpat mat or aluminum foil on a large baking sheet.

Mix coconut oil and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. On a large cutting board, cut eggplant and zucchini in 1/4 inch planks on a diagonal. Remove core from bell pepper and cut into 4 pieces. Slice onion into 1/2 inch thick rounds, leaving layers intact.

Transfer vegetables to baking sheet (this will be done in ~3 batches, depending on the size of baking sheet). Add garlic clove with skin on to the first batch, and use a silicone or pastry brush to brush vegetables with balsamic dressing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in oven. Broil for 4-5 minutes, remove from oven, flip over with tongs, brush with dressing and return to oven for another 3-4 minutes. Repeat until all vegetables are cooked**, leaving garlic clove on sheet through at least first 2 batches, or until very soft to the touch. Transfer cooked vegetables to a cutting board and chop into bite size pieces. Remove garlic from skin and use a fork to mash into a paste. Mix into lemon dressing made below.

* I used 2 small-medium  zucchini, 1 small eggplant, 1 red onion, 1 red bell pepper, and 1 carton cherry tomatoes
** I cooked cherry tomatoes last because they need less time, 4-5 min total.

Pasta with Lemon-Garlic Dressing
Notes: Gluten-free? No problem...use brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, or turn this into a large quinoa salad platter.

375 gr (3/4 of lb.) papparadelle or tagliatelle
Mug full of reserved pasta water
1 juicy lemon
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (or leftover balsamic/coconut oil dressing)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Once the first batch of vegetables is cooking, bring a big pot of water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente (usually 1-2 minutes shy of package directions). Drain and rinse, but just before draining reserve a mug full of pasta water.

In the meantime, in a very large mixing bowl add zest and juice of lemon, olive oil, balsamic (or leftover balsamic dressing if there is any), and mashed garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper - at this stage you want the dressing to be slightly saltier and more acidic because it will mellow once pasta is added.

To Finish
Several handfuls pine nuts, toasted
Handful Kalamata olives
1 bunch basil

Destone olives by placing on cutting board, pressing down with your thumb and tearing olive in half.  Basil can be cut in chiffonade (leaves stacked, rolled lengthwise, and thinly sliced to make ribbons) or torn directly over pasta.

Add drained pasta to lemon dressing and toss with tongs, adding enough reserved pasta water to make a loose sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste, then layer vegetables, pine nuts, torn olives, and basil. Toss gently to combine and serve family style immediately, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to pass at the table.