Tuesday, April 21, 2009

GF Penne and Fresh Vegetable Skillet Toss

I've been meaning to share some of my favorite main dish recipes for a while, because I understand that sometimes its those day to day GF recipes that can be harder to figure out than the special ocasion baked goods. As you can see, I'm not so good at naming recipes, but this is one of my favorite dinners because of its versatility. It started as a bland pasta side dish recipe from a Weight Watchers cookbook, but has evolved into a beautiful, tasty, and easy main dish, that I hope retains a lot of the healthful aspects. Also, as a celiac, Italian restaurants are pretty much out of the question, but this is a great dish that tastes like something you might get at an Italian place.
First off, you need to start with a great GF penne pasta. I love DeBole's rice pasta because I can get it at Walmart, usually for less than $2. Then, it just depends on what kinds of veggies are available. I really don't measure things out, and I love to have a variety of stuff, so I never quite make this the same, but I'll do my best to help you all recreate it.

For my family of four I used:
4 oz penne pasta
10 spears asparagus, ends cut off and cut into 1 1/2 in pieces
small handful of fresh green beans, tips trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 in pieces
2 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup diced sweet onion
1/2 cup diced sweet pepper (I used yellow for color)
1/2 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 cup diced cooked chicken (I love to use up leftover chicken, or turkey, whatever I have)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 TBSP chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 cup mixed shredded cheeses (it depends on what strong cheeses I have: Parmesan, asiago, romano, and even provolone)
1-2 large tomatos, diced

Okay, I hope that wasn't too confusing. Now, for the actual cooking.
1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. While it's boiling, start to chop up the vegetables, starting with the asparagus and the green beans. You'll have to adjust this next part based on the cooking time for your pasta. The DeBole's pasta only needs to cook for 5-7 minutes, and the green vegetables only need to be cooked for about 5 minutes of that time. I put the pasta in for two minutes, then add the green vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes.
2. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep stir fry pan. Once the oil is hot, add the crushed garlic to the pan, and then add the onion, peppers and mushrooms for sauteeing. After these begin to soften, I like to add the meat to heat it up, and soften it a bit in the oil.
4. Add the pasta and green vegetables, along with the reserved cooking liquid. Season with salt and pepper and stir until liquid is reduced.
5. Add the herbs and cheeses and mix until cheese is melted. Lastly, I add the tomatos so they stay firm and fresh.
Really, the fun of this is the experimentation. I always be sure to have the green beans, asparagus and tomatoes, but it's great to add more variety. My little children also love this meal, so it's a great way to get them to eat vegetables, and like it.