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Oct 19, 2017

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Pasta Prima Donna
by Bob Blumer
Magazine Issue: Internet Only

Pasta Prima Donna

Don't be fooled by the common heritage of its ingredients -- this dish was born to be a real star:

Dr. DeMille, I'm ready for my pasta now.

(serves 6)

2 Japanese eggplants, ends discarded and sliced in half lengthwise
1 yellow Italian squash, ends discarded and sliced in half lengthwise
1 leek(s), white and pale green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise and thoroughly washed (leave the bottom root end on to hold it together)
1 handful(s) cherry tomatoes, stemmed
1 head(s) broccoli, lower portion of stem removed and discarded, cut into large 4-inch spears
1 orange, yellow, or red bell pepper
8 garlic cloves, skin removed
1 cup(s) of extra-virgin olive oil (1/3 cup* for veggies, 2/3 cup* for pasta)
1/4 t salt
12 ounces of dried fusilli pasta, or double the amount of fresh pasta (fusilli is best, because it "holds" the ingredients better but any shape or kind will work)
1-1/2 cups lightly packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 small dried red chili peppers, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon* dried red pepper flakes
1 cup(s) grated Parmesan cheese
1 t coarsely ground black pepper

1. . Brush the vegetables lightly with olive oil.

2. . Place garlic cloves on a piece of tin foil, dribble I tablespoon of oil over them and seal the foil.

3. . Cover the grill and cook vegetables for approximately fifteen minutes, or until they are nicely browned on all sides (except for the bell pepper(s) which should be grilled until entirely blackened). Grill the garlic for twenty minutes. Turn vegetables every three minutes or so. After a few minutes on the grill, spread the leek out like a fan to brown all of the layers evenly. The tomatoes and eggplant will cook the fastest. Remove them when they are done.

4. . Cut the eggplant, squash, leeks, and broccoli into 1/2-inch pieces. Mince the garlic. Place the bell pepper(s) in a paper bag, seal, and let sit for 5 minutes. Then peel off the charred skin by running pepper(s) under cold water (The skin should fall of into your hands.) Discard. Cut the pepper(s) open and discard seeds and membranes. Slice the pepper(s) into long 1/4-inch strips.

5. . Bring 12* cups of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions on the package.

6. . Warm a large serving bowl and place the chopped veggies, garlic, tomatoes, bell pepper(s), basil, pine nuts, and chilies at the bottom.

7. . Drain pasta and add to bowl.

8. . Add the Parmesan cheese, black pepper and the remaining 2/3 cup* olive oil. Toss thoroughly. Serve immediately.

le secret. . The more herbs and vegetables, the merrier

the adventure club. . Throw caution and calorie counting to the winds and add 50 percent more olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

garnish. . A sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprig of basil.

suggested accompaniment. . Crusty bread and a Caesar salad.

suggested appetizer. . Bruschetta or marinated olives.

alternatives. . Any vegetable may be omitted or substituted.

notes. . 1) ) Grilled broccoli may sound unusual, but it provides the surprising flavor burst essential to this recipe. 2) Use a robust green olive oil.

guest assignment. . Grillmeister and pasta boiler.

hints for advance prep. . 1) The vegetables may be prepped and grilled earlier in the day Reheat in the oven before tossing with pasta. 2) The remaining ingredients may be prepped earlier so that all ingredients can simply be tossed with the hot pasta at showtime. 3 The entire dish may also be prepared day in advance and served as a cold pasta. The extra day allows the grill flavor of the veggies to permeate the pasta.

cooking apparatus. . A grill, a pasta pot, and aluminum foil.

serving apparatus. . A large festive bowl.

prep time. . Thirty minutes.

cooking time. . Forty minutes.

music to dine by

  • Diana Ross & the Supremes Every Great #1 Hit (Motown)
  • Annie Lennox Diva (Arista/BMC)
  • Jane Siberry When I Was A Boy (Reprise)
  • Kiri te Kanawa Songs of Inspiration (London)
  • Madonna Bedtime Stories (Sire/Warner Bros.)

    wine. . Oregon Pinot Noir

    * Double for 12 servings

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