A few weeks ago, someone I know vaguely from town said to me, “Oh, I know you, you’re the radical homemaker who makes everything from scratch.” Since then, I’ve gone back and forth a dozen times between been well pleased that my reputation precedes me (I do live in a very small town) and feeling slightly put-off by the label.
I make a lot of things from scratch because cooking is a hobby of mine. But it is not gourmet night every night in my kitchen. Despite my desire to participate in Meatless Monday, I often struggle to come up with anything besides leftovers after a hectic day of school, swim lessons, and the general chaos that accompanies our transition from the weekend back into the week.
Tonight, the thought of coming up with something creative and meat-free for dinner sounded especially daunting because my husband just left for a business trip to Helsinki. But what I came up with–a variation on one of the first recipes I ever invented back in college–is a recipe that is healthy, meat-free, and can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. I call it Festival Pasta not only because of all the different colors in the dish, but because there are so many substitutions you can make that you’re nearly guaranteed to have what you need to make this in your kitchen on any given Monday!
Serves 4 (if two are children, expect a few leftovers!)
1/2 pound whole-wheat pasta
2 cloves of garlic
1 T olive oil (you can cut back on this if you’re using cast-iron or non-stick. I used stainless tonight and needed the extra oil to keep things from sticking too much)
1 bell pepper, chopped finely
1 small zucchini, chopped finely
1 small yellow squash, chopped finely
1 c. button or crimini mushrooms, chopped finely
3 large roma tomates, chopped
1/3 c. wine
1 c. marinara sauce or 2 T pesto or 1 T olive oil
1/2 c. black beans (or really any kind of beans)
1 c. spinach, chard, or other greens, chopped or torn
1 c. fresh mozzarella, cubed, or 3 T grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. While water heats, clean your kitchen & pour a glass of wine. Seriously. You’ll feel better cooking in a clean kitchen, and you need wine for this recipe, so you might as well open the bottle up front. Put on some good music too, maybe Mon Monarch or Death Cab for Cutie. You have about 7 minutes, might as well use them wisely.
If you’re my best friend, your kitchen is already clean and you’re pregnant so you have to skip the wine. Spend your time on Facebook, or prep your vegetables so you can move more slowly later.
When the water boils, add the pasta and start 1 T of olive oil heating in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and chopped pepper and cook until the garlic is golden, 2-3 minutes. Then add the mushrooms, squash, and tomatoes and cook until soft, another 7 minutes or so.
Note:The more your children complain about eating veggies, the smaller you should cut the pieces in this pasta sauce, but there’s so much good stuff going on in here that hopefully they won’t notice. If they love something like cubed mozzarella or olives, add those to distract them from the green stuff 🙂 You can make this with any type of vegetables, the ones listed above pretty much represent what is available in my garden at the moment!! If your kids are really veggie-averse, I recommend pesto and really finely chopped veggies.
About now, the pasta is probably done, so drain it and throw it back in the pot to keep it warm. Add the wine to the veggies to deglaze any brown bits on the bottom of the pan and then add the beans and sauce. Stir to combine and heat until bubbling, then add the spinach and turn off the heat. You only want the spinach to wilt, not cook until it’s brown.
Pour the sauce into the pasta pot and stir to combine. Then add the cheese and season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve with a salad, a big glass of wine for mama, and fruit for dessert and you’re set! Meatless Monday in a snap!
Check out other Meatless Monday ideas from the Meatless Monday carnival over at Midnight Maniac.