Green Pasta Bits
“This is a dish from my girlfriend, Lucy, who is from a Sicilian family” says Jack Stein. Lucy usually makes this on a Monday, when we have a ton of green vegetables left over from the Sunday roast. You can use virtually any green vegetable. Be sure to leave the Parmesan rind in the pasta to give it a lovely depth of flavour. If I have been busy at work and really want something comforting and healthy to eat, this is it.
Once when I was working at The Seafood Restaurant, an Italian woman was invited into the kitchen. While I was showing her around, she told me that the best way to cook pasta was her way. So here it is. Cook the pasta as usual, then, when it’s ready, drain it through a colander, being careful to collect the water in a pan. Add butter to the hot pasta, stir it through and pour the water back through the pasta again. This is the way I have cooked pasta ever since!
Green Pasta Bits (serves 4)
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more if needed
1 onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g grated Parmesan cheese and Parmesan rind
500g dried rigatoni or penne
400g mixed green vegetables, such as fresh tenderstem broccoli, asparagus and spinach, and frozen peas (used here)
1 tablespoon butter plus an extra knob for the pasta
juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper
1. Fill a pan of water for the pasta. Salt generously and bring to the boil.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and chilli flakes and a pinch of salt, and cook slowly until soft but not coloured (about 5–10 minutes). Add the garlic and the Parmesan rind. Leave on the lowest possible heat while you prepare the rest of the dish.
3. Meanwhile add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the packet instructions suggest.
4. Prepare the vegetables. Slice the broccoli stems and asparagus spears into 2cm pieces, keeping the heads intact. Add them to the pan containing the onion mixture, and turn up the heat, stirring so that they are covered with oil. Add 1 tablespoon butter and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes until they are softened but still have a bite.
5. Wash the frozen peas under warm water to defrost them; drain off the water and add the peas to the broccoli and asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Cut the spinach into strips and add to the pan; let it wilt down and add another pinch of salt. There should be enough oil to coat all the vegetables; if necessary, add a little more.
6. When the pasta is ready, drain it into a colander set over a large pan. Put the pasta back into the pan and stir through a knob of butter. Pour the collected water back into the pan to coat the pasta and drain over the large pan again.
7. Remove the Parmesan rind. Pour in the vegetable sauce and stir to make sure it is all combined. Add the lemon juice and a handful of Parmesan and stir these through, along with a final tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water.
8. Plate up the pasta and vegetables and top with more Parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
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