At first I wasn’t sure how to present this dish to you, other than ‘I made this for dinner and it was good’. Which (I hope) is not the approach Dig In takes. I mean, I did make this for dinner and it was good — no, actually, it was one of the best weeknight dinners I have made for some time. But still, the ‘what I ate for dinner’ angle is a bit uninspired.
Should I focus then on the brilliant combination of summer veg? Making the most of zucchini, beans, tomato, basil? They were treated differently, too, which brought out the best of each ingredient. The tomatoes were roasted, which made them soft and velvety. The zucchini was grated and sautéed with garlic, but because of its high water content, it remained pleasantly mushy (it is possible). The beans were steamed until just done, so they were still a little ‘squeaky’. The pasta also retained some bite, and the addition of toasted almond slivers added a bit of nutty crunch. So there was lots going on, but instead of being confusing, each forkful was a surprising mix of textures, tastes and colours. A bit of a culinary lucky dip: what will I get this time?
But as I did the washing up, I realised what I really need to tell you about this dish is that you will use every utensil, gadget, pot and pan in your kitchen. You will have tomatoes roasting, almonds toasting, pasta boiling, beans steaming and other stuff sautéing at the same time, or so it will feel.
Strangely, I didn’t find this multi-tasking stressful: I did a sort of mis en place and measured and prepped my ingredients, then made sure I had the microplane, mandoline, grater, knives and other essentials ready to go. And, because I changed the recipe, I even jotted down an action plan so I could stay orderly and in control. So I enjoyed the multiple processes, and felt really in control. Which really helps you enjoy your dinner even more.
So here, this is what I made for dinner – with lots of fresh summer flavours and textures, and made with every gadget I owned – and it was good.
Summer veg pastaBased very loosely on the taste.com.au recipe for nutty chicken penne. Take all these quantities as rough guidance only: put as much or as little of each ingredient as your hunger and preferences desire. It’s like a salad, in a sense, all tossed together, and who measures out salad ingredients? And if you use less beans or tomatoes than you prepare, for example, consider those leftovers as a head start on another meal. Oh, and by all means swap things if you like, as I did with the original recipe. I made enough for two meals.
- Cut five or six small tomatoes (mine were golf ball size) into bite-sized chunks. Slick with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast in a 180 oven for 15-20 minutes or until soft and collapsing.
- Toast some slivered almonds - enough to generously scatter over the final dish - either in the oven as the tomatoes roast or in a small frypan. Either way, they’ll only need a matter of minutes, so watch them carefully. Once done set aside.
- Meanwhile, boil up some short pasta like penne or rigatoni, enough for each serving you’re making.
- Meanwhile, cut a couple of handfuls of green beans into the same length as your pasta and steam until just done.
- Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large frypan and gently sauté a few garlic cloves that you’ve either crushed or chopped finely.
- Once this starts to soften, add a grated zucchini; add some grated yellow patty pan squash for extra colour if you have that.
- Once this starts to soften, add a small tin of good-quality tuna (drained), then the zest of one lemon and the juice of half that lemon. Stir it all until cooked.
- Finally, once everything is cooked – and it really doesn’t matter if one thing finishes before the other, as long, I think, as your pasta is piping hot – you can bring everything together. Fold the beans and the pasta into the zucchini mix. Divide into your dishes then top with the roasted tomatoes, toasted almonds, a little S&P, extra squeeze of lemon juice, and a good handful of fresh basil leaves.
- Enjoy – you’ve earned it!