Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spaghetti With Zucchini and Roasted Tomatoes

Gentle reader, at every Brooklyn street fair, it seems I end up disappointing myself. I gravitate toward the first greasy street foods in sight, then end up too full to try things I encounter later. (Hint: Avoid the mozzarepas—they expand in your stomach and ruin you for the rest of the day in one shot.) However, this past Sunday, at the Fifth Avenue Street Fair, I had the opposite problem: not getting enough street food. Oh, the irony!

See, after much cautious passing-up of various pulled-pork purveyors, I threw in my lot with a brisket slider from Benchmark. (Yummy, if messy. Note to self: Put Wet-Naps in purse before next street fair.) But by then it was getting pretty late, and it started to rain, and all the vendors started packing up, so I was unable to follow up with a chicken taco, much less funnel cake for dessert. And let me just say—at the risk of sounding melodramatic, which I would never, ever, ever do—that for a moment I hoped those people carrying signs about the End of Days coming next Saturday were right. Because seriously, what kind of a God would want to rain on His children’s funnel-cake parade?!

After I finished shaking my fists at the heavens, I proceeded to the after-party, chez the Beez (what, you don’t have after-parties for street fairs? Laaame), where I proceeded to overcompensate by eating pizza (you never saw a group of people tear into a pizza like that straight off a street-fair fried-food crawl) … at which point someone brought over a triple-crème cheese and crackers … and then I may have stopped for a couple of fried chicken drumsticks at Yafa Deli on the way home. What? Don’t judge me! I did a lot of walking at that fair!

Anyhoo. My point being: For the past couple of days, I’ve felt the need to eat relatively healthy, vegetable-driven meals that are neither deep-fried or on a stick. Hence I came up with this simple pasta, with a low ratio of noodles to veggies.

(Yes, that’s where I was going all this time. I’ll pause for you to overcome your indignation.)

So, yeah! This is a no-brainer-easy, vegetarian alternative to your average pasta with preservative-laden jar red sauce. Ingredients total around $5—and might be even cheaper come summer’s end, if you have a garden overflowing with tomatoes and zucchini. Personally, I don’t have a vegetable garden, so if you do, gentle reader, the polite thing would probably be to share some of your extra produce with me. I did share this recipe with you, after all, so it’s really the least you could do.

The below recipe serves two. Feel free to vary and multiply the proportions—as is usually the case here at BGC.


  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 small/medium yellow onion
  • 1 small zucchini (a.k.a. green summer squash)
  • Minced garlic and herbs (basil and/or oregano, fresh or dried) to taste, or 1-2 TBSP pesto (I’ll allow store-bought, sigh)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • A splash of red or white wine
  • 8–10 oz. spaghetti or pasta of your choice (or more, depending on your desired sauce-to-pasta ratio)
  • Parmesan for garnishing, if desired (although, like, why would you ever not…ohhh, you’re vegan, aren’t you? I see how it is.)

  • Start by boiling a big pot of salted water, with the lid on. This is practically always the very first step you take when preparing pasta.

  • Now, in an oven or toaster oven at 400°, roast the tomatoes. In case you’ve forgotten how to prep them, I’ll remind you: Score the top and bottom with X’s, toss in olive oil on a foil-covered rimmed metal sheet pan, and sprinkle with salt. You want these to cook about 15 minutes, until the skin starts to wrinkle and pull back so it’s easily peelable.

  • In a medium saucepan, melt 2 TBSP butter with 1 TBSP olive oil on medium heat.

  • Dice and add the onion. Toss it in the buttery goodness.

  • Slice the zucchini lengthwise, repeat, then chop crosswise into quarter-circles about ½ inch thick. When the onion is soft, add the zucchini to the pan with a sprinkling of salt. Stir.

  • Cook, stirring every few minutes, until soft and slightly golden brown—at which point your tomatoes should be about ready. Add the splash of wine, and stir.

  • Let the tomatoes cool a bit before peeling and roughly dicing them. (Feel free to make dad jokes about fondling hot tomatoes.) I recommend using a ridged cutting board, so the liquid collects in the moat and you can just tilt the contents of the board, juices and all, into the pan.

  • Add the pesto or garlic and herbs, stir, and turn the heat down to low. (You might try also adding some capers, roughly chopped purple or black olives, prosciutto, or even anchovies if you’re into that sort of thing.)

  • Cook the pasta to package directions, occasionally stirring the sauce. You don’t want all the sauce liquid to cook down, so if it’s getting close, either turn off the heat and cover the pan until the pasta is done, or add a splash or two more wine.

  • Toss the pasta in the sauce, grate some Parmesan onto it, and you’re good. Enjoy!

    (Seriously, though, I’m not kidding about that vegetable garden thing. Can you hook me up?)

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