Pasta with Oven Roasted Vegetables

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I often get ask the questions “why are there so many different pasta type? Isn’t pasta all the same?”. The answer is, unsurprisingly, that each pasta shape is cleverly designed to serve a specific purpose, and, no, it is not all the same. You try talk a roman into matching amatriciana sauce with farfalle? You  are likely to get cursed at! How can you not know that only bucatini and rigatoni will do? By the same token, ask a genovese to replace spaghetti or trofie with orecchiette, to be lavishly coated in emerald green pesto sauce and he will tell you he’d rather set his own hair on fire than commit such blasphemy. Indeed, we do take the matter of pasta seriously in Italy. Each shape is suited for a particular type of sauce. Shellfish love spaghetti and linguine, penne is heavenly with a simple fresh tomato sauce and fusilli, the famous spiral-shaped pasta, is a perfect vehicle for chunky and rustic sauces, such as this one: oven roasted vegetables, rendered sweet by the addition of a little vincotto and the irresistible piquancy of extra-virgin olive oil.

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 celery sticks, chopped,

1 green pepper (capsicum) cut into small chunks

3/4 shallots cut into quarters

2 garlic cloves, skin off, bashed with the back of a knife

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of  vincotto (replace with balsamic vinegar if hard to find)

salt to taste

1 lb of uncooked pasta (fusilli or rigatoni work well with this sauce)

basil leaves

percorino cheese (omit for a vegan, dairy-free option)

How to

1. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl, add the oil, vicotto (or vinegar) and a little salt. Toss to combine and place the vegetables onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.

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2. Bake in a preheated 180C  (350 F) oven for 40-45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and slightly blistered. Set aside to cool at room temperature. Refrigerate if not using straight away. The vegetables will keep well in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Drop in your pasta and cook al dente, according to instructions.

4. Drain the pasta, but reserve 2-3 tablespoons of pasta cooking water.

5. Toss the pasta in the tray with the vegetables until well coated, add a little pasta cooking water if too dry.  Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

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6. Top with freshly grated pecorino cheese and a few basil leaves. Serve hot, or at room temperature as a summer pasta salad.

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Pasta Bake

This pasta dish tastes as good as it looks.

A generous amount of al dente pasta, layered with melting mozzarella, oven-baked sweet tomatoes, oregano, Parmigiano and crispy breadcrumbs.

What’s not to love about it?

It’s a family favourite and you will find most of you at the table will be fighting over the crunchy pasta bits of top!
It is the ideal meal to prepare if you have left-over pasta or left-over sugo, or both.

The other day I cooked a pork stew and I intentionally cut off the bones of the ribs to add to a garlic and tomato slow-cooked sauce to have the following day.

We Italians don’t waste anything when it comes to cooking!

All I had to do yesterday was boil up some pasta until just before al dente, as it will keep cooking in the oven, mix the sauce through, throw in a good amount of bocconcini (any melting cheese you have in the fridge will do), Parmigiano, dried oregano, black pepper.

Ingredients for 4 people

500 ml (2 cups) of tin tomatoes

250 ml (1 cup) water

2 garlic cloves, bashed

3 pork rib bones

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

400 gr (3/4 packet) of Fusilli or Rigatoni

1 cup of breadcrumbs

1 cup of mozzarella cheese

1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup of parmesan, grated

1/4 cup of dried origano

salt and pepper to taste

How to

Sautee’ the garlic in oil, add the bones, the tomatoes and the water and bring to the boil. Turn th wheat down, add 2 teaspoons of salt a 1 bay leaf and slow cook for 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

Drop in you pasta and cooked until 3/4 done.

Pour the pasta onto an oven dish generously smeared with sugo (tomato sauce) and dusted with bread crumbs. Cover with tomato sauce.

Top it with halved tomatoes, more Parmigiano, mozzarella, dried oregano and more coarsely chopped bread crumbs.

I covered it in foil and baked it for 20 minutes at 200 Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit), then uncovered for a further 15 minutes to create a crunchy crust.

My teenager niece and nephew polished off their plates so well I needn’t have put them in the dish washer…

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