I missed the starting bell but the holiday hurry-up derby has begun. My inbox is full every morning with retail sales pitches, the post cards and catalogs are in the mail and the colored pages are sliding out from between the newsprint. Every store is urging me to buy, buy, buy before it’s too late. It’s time to Use Your Head to Save Your Feet! This aphorism, invoked daily by a supervisor early in my career, was annoying yet it did stick with me.
My reaction is to clean out the refrigerator–it’s time to make room for the holiday food! Thanksgiving is still more than a week away in the meantime we need to eat. So as we grow more preoccupied with each passing day a little advance preparation can go a long way.
A large roasting pan full of vegetables can enliven your staple pasta dishes in new ways. Line up an assortment of vegetable combinations in the pan, roast away at 425F for about 45 minutes and then you have the makings of delicious meals ready to go, just by boiling water for pasta. Recently I resurrected a few familiar dishes and for the fun of it constructed a menu of pastas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m not recommending you have them all on the same day though! I subscribe to a gluten-lite philosophy myself. And I have extended family with celiac disease so I always think of alternatives. My pasta inspiration was a book by Adriana Trigiani, The Supreme Macaroni Company. Trigiani mines her Italian American heritage for her novels and this one includes both pasta and shoes, two of my favorite things.
Orecchiette, the little ears, are great with roasted broccoli and pine nuts- you can substitute walnuts or add crunch with pumpkin seeds. Mix with olive oil, a few grinds of black pepper and grated parmesan.
Pastina is terrific in vegetable soup but the most nostalgic preparation is even simpler with a bit of butter and a little warm milk. Additions could be savory or sweet, with grated parmesan or tiny currants.
Each dish has a different shape of pasta. Give your dishes greater coherence by keeping the shape and size of all additions similar for each preparation.
Gluten free adaptations abound –there many good substitutes among pastas imported from Italy- look for the label senza glutine, without gluten, and remember to cook it al dente, a bit firm. You can also have great success with alternative grains like corn, millet, quinoa or rice.
The intensified roasted vegetable flavors will permeate your dish and later, satisfyingly nourished, you can get on with planning your festivities!
What’s your favorite variation on these pasta classics? Let us know!
And if I’ve piqued your interest in pasta, consider how ubiquitous it is. Writer and Restauranteur Jen Lin-Liu traced the journey of pasta along Marco Polo’s route from Beijing to Rome and discovered a world of pasta along the way in her book, On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta.