I don’t know about you, but when I have a particularly stressful day (which, lately is everyday), I crave carbs. Potatoes, rice, bread, and my absolute favorite and most desired; pasta.
This week alone I ate pasta, potatoes and bread at least three days. On Wednesday, pasta and garlic bread were my best friends. I polished off 1/2 pound of penne with two slices of garlic bread, followed by a full glass of wine; yum!
It’s been said that our bodies crave what it needs most to survive; well I listened to my body and gave it what it wanted. So you can call me a survivor, because pasta kept me going this week!
Eating all of this pasta makes me think of Nana and how pasta played in her meal preparations. Nana made the most varied and delicious pasta recipes. Her repertoire included baked ziti, spaghetti, home-made manicotti and ravioli, amazing peasant dishes menestre, pasta e fagioli, (which we called pasta fa-zool), and my favorite; pasta e peselli (macaroni and peas).
By the time I was in my mid twenties pasta became my main food staple, eating it at least three times a week. I ate pasta in every combination I could think of. I mixed pasta with vegetables, chicken, and eliminated red meat and pork from my diet completely. I became a “quasi-vegetarian” as Jeffrey used to call me.
My brother Jeffrey was a vegetarian. From the time he was a baby he shunned meat. He wouldn’t eat red meat, pork or chicken. The smell of meat made him gag. He didn’t eat Nana’s meatballs either, which I couldn’t understand! My brother did however eat fish; but his diet consisted mostly of vegetables, pasta and cheese.
I remember in 1999, Jeffrey had a nice studio apartment in the up-and-coming Chelsea area of Manhattan and was a few blocks away from the Javits Convention Center. One Sunday, Louis and I took the boys to the auto show at the Javits Center and went to Jeffrey’s apartment for dinner afterwards.
Jeffrey made rigatoni with mixed vegetables and fresh tomatoes and garlic bread. It was so yummy; everything Jeffrey made was out of this world. The thing is; this was something he just threw together. He didn’t pull it out of a recipe book; it came from his imagination.
Louis ate two huge helpings, and I wasn’t too far behind. Joseph and Andrew pushed the vegetables away and ate just the pasta and garlic bread. They didn’t know what was good for them. Ah, the folly of youth!
Since then, I’ve experimented with different pasta and vegetable recipes, but somehow it just doesn’t taste the way Jeffrey’s did. Maybe I’m romanticizing it because he’s gone, and as you know the good memories become more beautiful; but I doubt it. Jeffrey was a far better cook than I am, and my sweet memories testify to the truth.
I suspect my body is going to be craving this good stuff for the next three weeks, so here’s my version of Pasta with Vegetables. I plan on making it for Sunday dinner – I hope my version does Jeffrey proud and you enjoy it.
Pasta with Vegetables
6 garlic cloves – minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 can of tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh parsley – chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil – chopped
1 small onion – chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup of white wine
2 tablespoons Italian spices (I like Herbs du Provence)
2 small firm zucchini, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup peas (frozen)
1 cup string beans (frozen)
1 small firm eggplant – peeled and chopped in small cubes
5 or 6 ripe plum tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
1 pound of pasta – spaghetti, rigatoni, shells; whatever you like
Grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large 10 qt. pot of water to a boil.
On a medium flame, in a 10” skillet – sauté garlic in oil till just translucent.
Add vegetables (except tomatoes – I know; tomatoes are a fruit) and onions and simmer for about 10-15 minutes (don’t let vegetables get over-cooked and soggy).
Add tomato paste, tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, white wine, basil and Italian spices.
When water begins to boil, add pasta and cook 10 minutes until al dente – drain
In a large serving bowl, mix pasta and vegetables together.
Sprinkle top with more chopped basil and grated Parmesan cheese.
Serve with warm garlic bread.
Serves 4 – 6