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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:

Mr. 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, 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 cherry tomatoes, stemmed
1 head broccoli, lower portion of stem removed and discarded, cut into large 4-inch spears
1 orange, yellow, or red bell pepper(s)
8 garlic cloves, skin removed
1 cup 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 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.

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