Parisian Hotel Pasta with Spring Vegetables
Penne with vegetables (spring)
Parisian hotel penne with vegetables (spring)
My wife and I had the good fortune of spending some time in Europe a few years back, and we used a hotel in the northeastern part of Paris for our "home base." The hotel made a house pasta which was served every evening: penne with vegetables. It was slightly different each night, but each version was fantastic. The waiter told us it was simply a basic tomato sauce with whatever seasonal vegetables were lying around. He was being just a bit modest, and when we arrived back in the States, I tried a few variations until I came to this, very close, approximation. The meal as prepared here is vegetarian, but it could be made vegan with very slight modifications. Similarly, chicken could be added to this spring version, while beef or pork could be added to the version made with fall vegetables. I paired my plate with a Heineken while my wife went with a red wine. It's hard to argue against either.
If done correctly, you'll get a pasta dish that's both light and filling. Let the vegetables do the bulk of the work here. Most pasta dishes use the noodle as the main feature, but in this version, the vegetables outnumber the pasta. As for leftovers, I wouldn't bother. My wife thinks the meal heats up well, but I'm not crazy about it on the second day.
- 1/2 lb Penne pasta (or mezze penne)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 lb San Marzano tomatoes peeled
- 1 Yellow onion
- 1 Garlic
- 1 Carrot
- 1 Zucchini (green)
- 1 Summer squash (yellow)
- 1 Bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow)
- Small amount Green beans, (the thinner the better)
- Sea salt
- Pepper, freshly ground
- Red pepper flakes
- Pour a small amount of olive oil into a large pan and set the burner to medium low. Allow this to heat while moving on to the next step.
- Spread a small amount of sea salt on a cutting board and chop one small yellow onion and several cloves of garlic as finely as possible. Place the garlic, onion, and salt into the pan. As it cooks, keep an eye on this pan to make sure the onions and garlic don't burn.
- Dice the carrot and bell pepper into small pieces. Wait until the onion and garlic are soft and approaching translucency (between five and ten minutes) and then add the carrot and pepper to the pan.
- Slice or cube both the squash and zucchini. I prefer it cubed; my wife prefers it sliced, so we eat it sliced. Push the garlic, onion, carrot, and pepper to the sides of the pan and add the string beans, squash and zucchini. Let one side cook, then the other.
- Allow this to cook several more minutes and then add the San Marzano tomatoes. Add a few turns of freshly ground pepper and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust. You're pretty much limited to adding salt and pepper here, so it's a good idea to go easy on the stuff.
- Stir gently and add a small amount of butter and/or olive oil. The butter will make the sauce more velvety. If that's your thing, you'll like the butter. You want this sauce to be thinner than the sauce you're used to. A traditional sauce will stick to a spoon; this won't.
- Allow this sauce to simmer while cooking the penne. Most store bought, boxed penne takes roughly ten minutes to cook. Once the penne is done, toss it with a small amount of olive oil, spoon on to plate, and add the sauce on top. A small amount of parmesan goes well with this.