When you have a craving for two types of food and can’t decide which to have, combine them instead. I did that recently and the results were very delicious.
One of the dishes I had a yearning for was a hot bowl of cheesy, bite-size pasta.
Craving No. 2 was a desire to make and eat ratatouille, which came about after seeing the just-picked, wonderfully fresh mix of produce needed to make it at a farm market.
Ratatouille is a southern French-style stewed vegetable dish made with such things as eggplant, zucchini, peppers, garlic, onions and tomatoes, ingredients that also work well with pasta. Ratatouille is fairly saucy, so I thought it would make a great topping for pasta.
To satisfy the desire for pasta flavoured with cheese, once the cooked pasta was in the serving bowl and a generous amount of ratatouille was spooned on to it, I then topped it with two types of cheese. One was tangy, fresh goat cheese, pulled into small nuggets; the other was freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Both sublimely elevated the taste of the ratatouille and pasta.
You can use any kind of bite-size pasta for today’s recipe, such as penne, rotini or bow tie. But I opted to use what is perhaps my favourite type, radiatori; pasta that is radiator-shaped, hence its name.
A company in B.C. called Kaslo Sourdough Pasta makes the type of radiatori I used in my recipe. Its texture and taste are fantastic, but because of the ingredients and technique used to make it, it is pricier than other types of pasta.
I definitely think it’s worth the added cost. If you have not tried it, you’ll find it for sale at several food stores around Vancouver Island. To find a store selling it near you, go to the company website pastafermentata.com and click on “shop.”
Pasta with Ratatouille and Cheese
Locally grown vegetables, including tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and peppers, are stewed, French-style, and then spooned on hot pasta and topped with two types of cheese.
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: About one hour
Makes: Four servings
1 medium eggplant (about 7 oz./200 g), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium to large zucchini (about 7 oz./200 g), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp herbes de Provence (see Note)
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided)
• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 ripe roma (plum) tomatoes (about 1 1/4 lbs/500 g)
1 medium white or yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2/3 cup dry white wine (see Eric’s options)
3/4 cup vegetable stock
375 grams bite-size pasta, such as radiatori, penne or rotini, boiled in lightly salted water until just tender
• chopped fresh parsley, to taste
75 to 100 grams soft goat cheese, pulled into small nuggets
• freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the eggplant and zucchini on a large parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Add 3 Tbsp of the olive oil, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread vegetables into a single layer. Roast 30 minutes, stirring once, or until tender. Remove eggplant and zucchini from oven and set aside.
While the eggplant and zucchini roast, bring a medium to large pot of water to a boil. Cut the stem end out of each tomato. Cut a small, shallow X into the blossom (curved) end of each tomato. Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for one to two minutes, or just until the skins start to loosen from the flesh. Lift tomatoes out of the water, set on a plate and let cool a few minutes.
Pull the skins off the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the peeled tomatoes and place them and any juices on the board in a bowl. Set the tomatoes aside.
Heat the remaining 3 Tbsp oil in a wide pot set over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook vegetables until softened, about five to six minutes. Mix in the tomato paste and cook one minute more.
Add the chopped tomatoes, wine and stock to the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface), and adjust the heat as needed to maintain that gentle simmer.
Partially cover mixture and cook 15 minutes. Mix in the roasted zucchini and eggplant. Return to a gentle simmer, and cook, partially covered, and 15 to 20 minutes more, or until the vegetables are quite tender. Taste the ratatouille and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.
Divide the hot cooked pasta between shallow serving bowls. Top the pasta with ratatouille. Top the ratatouille with some nuggets of goat cheese, grated Parmesan and chopped parsley, and then serve.
Note: Herbes de Provence is a French-style blend of dried herbs available in bottled herb and spice aisle of most supermarkets and at specialty food stores.
Eric’s options: If you don’t wish to use wine, simply replace with another 3/4 cup stock.