Around 5:30 tonight I still wasn't sure what I wanted to make for dinner. Meat wasn't the only thing I needed to avoid. Because my daughter, Olivia, and I are vegetarian, we aren't eating seafood on Fridays either. And I've decided to take it all the way to vegan on the Fridays of Lent. So...What to feed a family of mostly omnivores when meat, seafood, cheese, eggs and anything related to animals was off the table, so to speak?
When in doubt, find something that goes on pasta. It always works in our house. So here's what I did and it turned out to be a big hit:
1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), rinsed
6 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in boiling water, drained and chopped in slices
1 8-ounce container of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, rinse and drained
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted (optional)
1 pound rotelle pasta (or ziti, rigatoni, whatever you like)
Bring pasta water to boil. Rinse broccoli rabe and blanch in boiling pasta water for four minutes. Lift broccoli rabe from water with handheld strainer, reserving pasta water in pot. Drain broccoli rabe and cut into bite-size pieces. Reserve. Keep pasta water boiling, and throw in pasta.
Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat olive oil and saute garlic until it begins to sizzle. Add mushrooms and sundried tomatoes and saute for two or three minutes. Add cannellini beans and saute for two minutes. Add broccoli rabe and heat for a few minutes so the flavors can marry. If it begins to dry out, ladle in some pasta water to keep it moist. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When pasta is al dente, drain and place in serving bowl. Pour broccoli rabe-tomato-bean mixture over the top. If needed, ladle in more pasta water so the pasta is not too dry.
Serve with grated parmesan cheese (if you're not eating vegan), crushed red pepper and toasted pine nuts (if using). Note: To toast pine nuts, shake them in a dry skillet for a few minutes until fragrant but not brown.
We served our dinner with Italian bread and a side salad heavy on the arugula and "fixed" with olive oil and vinegar.
Delish! This dish is definitely a keeper. Remember, if you don't have the exact ingredients, don't be afraid to improvise. Use broccoli instead of broccoli rabe, or even kale. The best thing about this kind of pasta dinner is that you can change it up or use up whatever you have in the fridge and come up with something that looks and takes like it came from an elegant restaurant. Mangia!