For a summer project, my oldest daughter decided to study cooking around the world. Every week, she chooses a country and makes a recipe that represents its cuisine. Like most kids, she loves pasta so it’s no wonder that her first country was Italy and the first dish involved noodles.
This being her project, I tried to keep quiet while she flipped through cookbooks, chose the recipe and prepped ingredients. Even if I’d wanted to talk I wouldn’t have gotten a word in edgewise. She narrated the whole time, talking into a non-existent camera in imitation of her favorite Food Network stars. The dish she settled on was Pasta with Spring Vegetables from The International Cookbook for Kids by Michael Locricchio, and in honor of the big night she invited good family friends over for dinner. (You know they’re good friends when they agree to come over for dinner cooked by an 8-year-old!)
According to the cookbook, this cooking technique originated in Florence during the Renaissance; if your child is so inclined, you could always incorporate a little geography and art history into your own cooking project. Mine was too wrapped up in narration to care!
When dinner was served, we all took a bite and decided the pasta was not only edible but delicious. I’ve since made it again, upping the carrots, zucchini and tomatoes, omitting the celery and asparagus since it’s not in season and adding some white wine for flavor. The altered version appears here; feel free to substitute vegetables at will. P.S. If you’re part of a CSA, you’ll love this recipe not just for its taste, but because it uses up much of what you’re probably getting now.
Pasta with Summer Vegetables
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound of greens such as chard, washed and coarsely chopped
2-3 large squash or zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
1 28-oz can of diced organic tomatoes, or the fresh equivalent
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or more
1/2 pound whole wheat noodles (capellini, linguini, spaghetti, etc.)
handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 pound Italian sausage, grilled and sliced into bite-sized pieces, if desired
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onion, garlic and carrots. Saute for a few minutes, then turn heat to low and cook for 7-8 minutes. Add chard, zucchini, tomatoes, salt, wine, oregano and 1/4 cup water (more if necessary, depending on quantity of vegetables). Stir well, then cover loosely and cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water and remove when al dente. Drain and toss with a splash of extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking. When the zucchini is tender, add sausage (if desired) to the sauce and stir, then add more salt, pepper and/or oregano. Put noodles in a large bowl, spoon sauce over noodles and serve with chopped fresh basil and plenty of parmesan.