Shavuot – that festival of cheese, cream, milk and indigestion! Often, this one-time-a-year excuse to load our food with diary products results in lactose overkill. Instead of overdoing the dairy, how about a dish that’s light on the diary, heavier on the veggies and the result is tasty and easy on the digestive system.
This is a recipe I threw together when I was vacationing at my sister-in-law’s cottage in Ontario last summer. Our niece was having a birthday, and because she’s a vegetarian, we made a diary vegetarian meal, with the whole extended family pitching in with their contributions – lots of fun and good food.
I opened the fridge and did a bit of forraging. There was a bag of fresh spinach, some sun dried tomatoes, piles of cheese, so I went to work on making a fresh vegetable-based pasta sauce. It went down really well. I made it again recently, trying to remember what I had done. Not sure it’s exactly the same recipe, but it’s one of those recipes that you can adjust according to your own taste (or what’s in the fridge!). Just don’t skip the spinach – it makes the dish. And please, for the love of all that is edible, use fresh spinach only. That frozen stuff is evil and does not in any way resemble spinach as nature intended it.
FRESH SPINACH VEGETABLE PASTA
500 g (1lb) penne pasta (or similar large hardy noodle)
2 tablespoons olive oil
10-15 sun dried tomatoes in oil chopped (not too small)
6-8 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
2 medium sized zucchinis quartered and sliced
2-3 cups of cherry tomatoes quartered
Salt and ground pepper
A pinch of dried oregano
A pinch of dried basil, or a few shredded fresh basil leaves
300 g (10 oz) fresh baby spinach leaves washed
200 g (7oz) Tzfatit cheese or any hard white salty cheese diced into small cubes
Water from the pasta pot
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
How to do it
- Add the olive oil to a large skillet or wok and turn the gas to medium high. Add the sun dried tomatoes, zucchini and garlic and saute till the zucchini starts getting soft (about 5 minutes), stirring every now and again.
- Make the pasta in a large pot of salted water.
- While the pasta is cooking, add the tomatoes and herbs to the skillet and allow to simmer on low heat till the tomatoes start breaking down. After the tomatoes are softened, add about a cup of the water from the pasta pot to the skillet, and stir and continue to simmer for a few minutes, until the pasta is cooked. Add just enough liquid so that you start getting a sauce, but don’t add too much water so that you dilute the flavors.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet or wok (if it’s big enough; if not, return the pasta to the post and add the vegetables to the pot.)
- Add the spinach leaves. The heat from the pasta and the sauce will wilt the leaves. If you are using a heavier spinach leaf, then keep the flame on low heat only just until the spinach is wilted – you don’t want to over cook the spinach.
- Add the slaty cheese and toss together, and sprinkle some parmesan over the top to serve. Serve immediately. (You can make the first part of the sauce ahead of time – till step 4).
Serves about 6.