Friday, 1 June 2012

Frugal Friday - Pasta Primavera Recipe

For today's Frugal Friday, I thought I would share this very frugal and healthy dish with you, which we eat often in the summer months, sometimes just as it is, and sometimes with a salad.  Although it could be eaten as an evening meal quite easily (perhaps with salad and some bread, or garlic bread if you prefer this), we usually eat it for our dinner (lunch).  This is what we ate today, as we were all at home!

Now this is not proper pasta primavera, which has asparagus peas and broad beans in it (though indeed you could use these, though it will then not be as cheap to make).  The idea behind this frugal meal (and why we often eat it for our dinner on Fridays) is that it is a very good dish for using up all the odds and ends of fresh vegetables that are hiding in the fridge!  We do our supermarket shop on Saturdays, so Friday is the day for eating up any leftovers before the fridge gets refilled. 

In Italian primavera means "springtime", so this dish normally has a mixture of fresh vegetables in it, and a tomato sauce.  In fact it isn't strictly an Italian dish - apparently it originated in New York!  Whatever it's source, we think it is delicious, and it is also very nutritious.

Today I made this as follows, using just what I happened to have in the fridge ...

1 onion, finely chopped
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
4 sticks celery, chopped
about 12 large tomatoes, quartered
2 courgettes (zucchini), chopped
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 graffiti aubergine (purple and white striped - if you can find one, do buy it, they are so pretty!), chopped
3 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons Italian herb mix
1 teaspoon garlic paste (or you could use the same amount of chopped fresh garlic - in which case add with the other vegetables)
pinch nutmeg
pinch sugar

A bag (I go by 2 large handfulls for Little Bear and myself, and 3 for the menfolk, which is pretty much a whole bag) of dried pasta of your choice.

1. Start as always by sauteeing the onion for a few minutes until soft in a large saucepan to which you have a well fitting lid.

2.  Add the rest of the vegetables (I tend to chop the harder ones, like the celery, smaller than the softer ones, so that they all cook at the same time).  Add chopped garlic too if you are using it at this stage.  Sautee until for a few minutes, until tender, but not soft (you want a wee bit of crunch left, to contrast with the softness of the pasta).  To stop them browning, add a little salt - this draws moisture out of the vegetables so that they simmer more slowly.

3.  Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings, and bring to a gentle bubbling.  Then turn down the heat and put on the lid of the pan.

4.  Allow to simmer at a low heat for about 40 minutes.  Halfway through cooking time, remove the lid to reduce down a little.

5.  At this point also put your pasta on to boil in another pan (I don't have 2 really large pans so I cook my pasta earlier, and keep it in the refrigerator in a plastic container with a drop or two of cold water, and then just reheat in the microwave for a few minutes when we are ready to eat it).

6.  When the sauce is nicely reduced down and the pasta is soft, drain the water from the pasta leaving just a very little water, about a tablespoonfull, in the pan with it, then add the sauce to the pasta (the remaining water will loosen up the sauce a tiny bit and help it stick to the pasta).  Stir well, and serve.

Although this tastes best when it is hot, it is also quite delicious cold, eaten like a salad.  You really can add any vegetables you like to it - I sometimes add mushrooms, as well, or even sweetcorn.  It is good with a little parmesan sprinkled on top as you serve it, or even (as Cubby and Little Bear like it ... ) with grated cheddar!