Being a frugal home cook, I frequently have nights when I look into my refrigerator, survey the clutter of leftovers, and decide it’s time to see how I can use them to make a tasty meal. Usually, the leftovers consist of vegetables and cheese, sometimes meat, and sometimes condiments or sour cream. Last night it was broccoli and parsley as well as feta cheese. There was also some wine leftover from a dinner party from last weekend. In addition, I had some garlic from Farmer Kev, a little zucchini from my own garden, and a nice sweet red pepper from Stevenson’s vegetable stand, which, alas, will be closing this weekend. With such an assemblage, my mind turned to pasta, and luckily I had a mostly full box of penne in the cupboard. Below, is a recipe that I put together from what I had, but this is a wonderfully flexible dish that will take a variety of vegetables, leftover chicken, shrimp (who has leftover shrimp?), and herbs. I used parley because that’s what was in the refrigerator, but basil, mint, rosemary or a combination of all three would taste even better. In the summer, when I have all these things growing in pots on the patio, I often make an herbed pasta, using a cup or so of the fresh herbs. (Oh, summer where art thou?) If worse comes to worst and you didn’t have any fresh leftover herbs, then you could even use a little dried oregano or perhaps Herbes de Provence.
Pasta with feta and vegetables
Serves 4, depending upon age and appetite
3 tablespoons or so of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, cut in rounds
1 small head of broccoli, cut in small pieces and barely steamed
½ cup of white wine
1 cup of feta, crumbled
3 tablespoons of chopped parsley
7 or so ounces of pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmigiano-reggiano, if you wish, and I always do
Assemble the garlic, red pepper, zucchini, broccoli, wine, feta, and parsley in separate little bowls and place them on the counter next to your stove. In a large pot, boil some salted water and cook the penne, about ten minutes or so. In the meantime, after the penne has cooked for several minutes, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, zucchini, and red pepper, stirring constantly so that the garlic doesn’t burn. After the vegetables have softened but are still crisp, you might want to add a bit of the pasta water, say, half a ladle full. It all depends on how saucy you like things. Then add the wine and let simmer a bit. By now the pasta should be done. Before draining, reserve more of the pasta water, just in case, and then add the drained pasta to the skillet. Sprinkle the feta over everything. This makes a nice little cream sauce. If you want it creamer still, use a little of the reserved pasta water. If not, season with salt and pepper and top with parsley. Serve immediately with the grated cheese. Who said leftovers can’t taste good?