Pesto Vegetable Pasta

A lot of people think that I’m a vegetarian or tell me that they’re surprised when they find out that I’m not. I’ve considered “taking the plunge” before, but ultimately know that I will never be a full-fledged vegetarian. It isn’t that I don’t love animals or keeping my carbon footprint in check (to an extent, of course; I’m no saint); it’s more that, being a human and, therefore, an omnivore, and having as big of a passion for food as I do, I don’t see myself being tied down to any one label or food group. Plus, L will even more definitely never give up meat entirely, though he does enjoy a nice tofu or bean-based dish from time to time, and I don’t see myself being the type of home cook who will make multiple meals each night to placate everyone simultaneously. (Does that make me sound uncaring?)

Still, the excitement I feel for new vegetarian dishes is unparalleled, and there are times when I feel “meated out.” For example, this past week not only have I been eating my fair share of meat-based meals, but three of them have included red meat – an ingredient that I’m used to eating sparingly, as an occasional indulgence. What all of this meat has left me with is almost a heavy feeling that has blossomed into a strong desire for vegetables and lighter fare.

It’s times like these that I turn to meals like this one for Pesto Vegetable Pasta.  It was filling without being heavy, and while extra veggies are always welcome in my book, I did not find myself missing meat one bit. It also won me over not only by how delicious it was, but by how ridiculously fast it came together. I mean, really – I’m talking 15 minutes. I’m talking it took longer to boil my water and cook my pasta than to have the rest of the meal ready to go. My only complaint about the meal was that my tomato:pesto ratio for the sauce was off; the picture in the original was red from the tomatoes, whereas mine was decidedly green. My only guess as to what went “wrong” was that the recipe called for “1 can of tomatoes,” and perhaps it was implied that that can would hold 28 ounces whereas I stuck with 14.5, the only can of fire-roasted tomatoes I found at the store. Because of this, I’ve suggested using a 28 ounce can (or two smaller ones) in the recipe below. If you do this, just taste it and adjust the pesto to make sure that flavor isn’t completely lost by the added tomatoes.

Pesto Vegetable Pasta, adapted from Stephanie Cooks
Yield: 8 servings

The Ingredients
5 small zucchini, sliced thinly
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
28 ounces fire-roasted tomatoes
1 cup pesto
2 2/3 - 4 cups dry whole wheat penne

The Method
Start the pasta water to boil and, once ready, add in the penne. Meanwhile, sauté the zucchini and mushrooms in a skillet greased lightly with cooking spray until almost completely cooked, at least 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes for an additional 3-4 minutes, allowing some of the liquid to evaporate. Stir in the pesto and lower the heat to low to hold the vegetable sauce at temperature. When the penne is done to your liking, drain it and add it to the skillet with the sauce, tossing to coat well.


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