Summer Succotash Pasta with Garlic Avocado Cream

Last night for dinner I whipped up a delicious pasta salad. It was chock full of seasonal vegetables and tossed in a light, garlicky cream sauce. I got the idea from a few recipes I’ve seen on blogs that use avocado to make delicious, creamy sauces without actually using heavy cream.

Start with 1 pound of short pasta in any shape you like (elbows, bow ties, etc.). I used a fun shaped pasta from Trader Joe’s. Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente, making sure to salt the pasta water generously. Drain, transfer to a large serving bowl, and set aside to cool.

Prepare the following:

  • 2 zucchini, sliced into rounds and the quartered
  • 1 bag of broccoli, cut into tiny florets
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped (basil would be delicious here, too, but we had cilantro on hand)

In a large skillet, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the zucchini and broccoli. Saute until slightly softened. Add the corn and sauté for another few minutes. You want the vegetables to be softened, but not overcooked. I like my corn to still have a bite to it. Remove from heat and add  the sautéed vegetables to the bowl with the pasta and set aside. Add a drizzle of olive oil and still to combine. After it has cooled slightly (you don’t want the cheese to melt when you add it!), add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and cilantro. Stir to combine. While the pasta and vegetables cool, prepare the sauce.

In a small food processor, combine a few teaspoons of olive oil and one clove of roasted garlic. Pulse until the garlic is minced. Add one small avocado, and 6 ounces Greek yogurt. Pulse until smooth. This will create a delicious, fluffy sauce. If you think it is too thick, thin it out with additional olive oil.

It is important that you do NOT add the sauce to the pasta/vegetables. Leftover pasta will turn brown from the avocado (because of enzymatic oxidative browning – one thing I remember from my food preparation class in college). To serve, portion out the pasta/vegetables into bowls. Top with a dollop of garlic and avocado cream and stir to combine. This is also good because each person can control how much sauce they have. Top with a few cubes of avocado and enjoy!

The result is a light, delicious, creamy pasta salad that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating. The corn and tomatoes are sweet and brighten up the dish and serve as a good complement to the creamy, rich avocado and mozzarella.

A few notes/words of caution:

  • To increase the protein quotient in this dish, you could add a can of rinsed and drained beans (garbanzo, black, or cannellini would all be delicious). You could also add cooked and diced chicken sausage.
  • I may or may not have used 4 cloves of raw garlic in the sauce instead of one clove of roasted garlic, resulting in an overwhelming garlic flavor (I believe Artie actually said it burned his tongue…). I would highly NOT recommend doing this.

To store leftovers, put the sauce in a separate container from the pasta. The top layer of sauce may turn slightly brown but it will still be fine to eat. The pasta actually tastes better after the flavors have had a day to merry. I guarantee this dish will be making an appearance in our house all summer long!

A Quick, Seasonal Ravioli

As much as I like to cook, I don’t always have time to make a delicious dinner from scratch. Judging from the popularity of the 20- and 30-minute meal cookbooks, I’m not the only person with this problem. When I came across pumpkin pasta sauce at World Market, I bought it thinking I’d find someway to use it. A few days later I came across Rising Moon Organic Basil, Asiago & Pine Nut Ravioli in the freezer section at Publix and thought it would pair perfectly with the pumpkin sauce.

World Market Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
World Market Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
Basil, Asiago & Pine Nut Pesto Ravioli
Basil, Asiago & Pine Nut Pesto Ravioli

For a quick meal one night, I heated up the pumpkin pasta sauce with a pinch of dried sage, served over the boiled ravioli, and garnished with a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Although pumpkin can sometimes be sweet, this pasta sauce was light and savory. The ravioli was tender with a creamy filling. The asiago cheese and the pine nut pesto in the ravioli really complemented the pumpkin sauce. While Jill and I both agreed that we prefer a hearty tomato sauce with chunks of vegetables, the pumpkin sauce was a nice, seasonally appropriate change of pace.

Ravioli with pumpkin sauce
Ravioli with pumpkin sauce

Eggplant and Zucchini Pasta Bake

This dish is a recipe I created based on several ingredients that I happened to have and needed to use. I harvested three Japanese eggplant and a bowl full of heirloom tomatoes from my garden and wanted to use them while they were still fresh. Also, while visiting our friends Joshua and Erika Spence over the 4th of July, we stopped at the Winter Park farmers market and bought whole wheat mafaldine pasta from the Pappardelle’s Pasta stand. I had been waiting for the perfect time to use the pasta and decided not to wait any longer.

Ingredients
The ingredients

To make this dish, you need the following ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • 3 zucchini, cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • Tomatoes (I used three medium-sized tomatoes and five small, slightly larger than cherry tomato-sized, tomatoes), quartered
  • 2 bell peppers (I used one red and one yellow pepper), chopped
  • 8 oz Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 26oz jar pasta sauce (I used Field Day Organic Roasted Garlic pasta sauce)
  • 1/2 lb whole wheat pasta (I used mafadine, but a farfalle, ziti, or rotini would work well too)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Saute the onion and garlic in about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Then add the eggplant and the zucchini. Saute for five minutes.

Eggplant
Eggplant fresh from my garden

Add the diced tomatoes to the pan and cook for another five minutes, stirring gently to distribute the heat. Add salt and pepper.

Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes from my garden

Stir in the jar of pasta sauce and turn the heat down to low. Simmer the vegetable mixture for 10 to 15 minutes minutes, stirring occasionally.

Vegetable mixture
The vegetable mixture before adding the pasta sauce

Prepare the pasta according the the directions on the package while the vegetable mixture simmers.

Pasta
Dried whole wheat mafaldine

When the pasta has finished cooking, add the pasta to a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and cover with the vegetable mixture. Stir to mix well.

Pasta and veggies in a baking dish
The pasta and veggies in a baking dish

Top the pasta and veggies with a layer of mozzarella cheese.

Mozzarella Cheese Topping
Mozzarella Cheese Topping

After adding the mozzarella cheese topping, bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the cheese turns a light golden brown color.

The cheese has turned golden brown
Bake until the cheese turns a light golden brown color

Serve and enjoy.

Finished dinner on a plate
Enjoy!

This dish is reminiscent of a spaghetti casserole, but the tomatoes make the sauce is a bit more vibrant than I typically find in a casserole and the whole wheat pasta complements the dish well without dominating the flavor. The whole wheat pasta also holds up well with the hearty sauce and vegetables.

Veggie Pasta Salad

Alternate names for this recipe include Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Pasta Salad or Clean-Out-the-Fridge Pasta Salad.  Once you have the basics down, you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand.  This is great to take to a potluck because it can be made in advance.  Also, this is a great dish to make on a Sunday afternoon and eat for lunches throughout the week.  You can bulk this up with as many veggies as you want and personalize it to suit your taste.

Veggie Pasta Salad

16 ounces rotini

teaspoon olive oil

8 ounce block of cheddar cheese

pint of grape tomatoes

crown of broccoli

orange bell pepper

large zucchini

15-ounce can of chickpeas

8 ounces light Italian salad dressing

handful of parsley

In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.  Drain the pasta, toss it with a teaspoon of olive oil, and set it aside to cool.  While the pasta cools, prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Dice the cheese into small cubes.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.  Wash the broccoli and cut into small florets.  Dice the bell pepper and the zucchini.  Rinse and drain the chickpeas.  Chop the parsley.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Chill until ready to serve.

Variations:

Southwest: tomatoes, corn, pepper jack cheese, bell pepper, black beans, spicy vinaigrette, cilantro

Greek: tomatoes, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, bell pepper, black olives, chickpeas, parsley, light Cesar salad dressing