Saturday, January 25, 2014

Summer favorite: spaghetti with vegetable ribbon sauce

This is one of my family's absolutely tried and true, favorite dinner recipes, especially useful for either a quick meal or a hot-weather meal, or both. I devised it years ago following ideas taken from a woman's magazine, possibly Family Circle. The original version called for strips of zucchini and carrot to be peeled off with a vegetable peeler and tossed in to boil among the noodles, which assemblage you then drained altogether and sauced with (I think) a jarred tomato sauce.

I have imprew-ved it, which of course means adding butter, garlic, and mushrooms. If your family dislikes mushrooms, cackle evilly and add them anyway -- baby bella and oyster will be nice choices. In winter, the wine you want to accompany this is any spicy warm zinfandel or any buttery, caramel-y chardonnay. In summer, you shall choose a chilled dry rose. Really. I must insist.

Spaghetti with vegetable ribbon sauce

Start by melting 4 Tbsp of butter and/or olive oil in a heavy skillet. Then add 1 or 2 onions, diced, and soften them just to the point of browning slightly, cooking about 10 minutes. (The onions will caramelize better in butter than in oil. The chemistry behind this humble culinary truth is unknown to me.)

Then, add the strips you have peeled from 1 or 2 carrots (peel the rough outer parts of the carrots first), and 1 or 2 zucchini. 

Toss and stir the vegetables together, adding salt and pepper to taste, and then a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a few fresh basil leaves. (Substitute dried thyme and basil if you prefer, about 1/2 teaspoon of each to start.) Add an 8 ounce package of fresh mushrooms at any time, depending on whether you want to give them a little browning, in which case you will want to cook them in a fairly empty pan, or whether you want to just let them cook with everything else and release their juices anyhow.

Moisten everything with about 1/4 cup white wine, and then add a diced fresh clove of garlic. Cover the pan and simmer while you slice 4 to 5 fresh tomatoes. Place them on top.

Then, simply simmer away for about half an hour, until all the vegetables wilt, the tomato skins can be peeled off easily with a tongs, and you have a delicious (if somewhat watery, to be sure) sauce.

Meanwhile, you can boil a pot of water for noodles and grate some cheese for serving. Parmesan works, but at our house we have recently discovered Kasseri, of which I know as little as I do of onion-caramelizing chemistry. It is very tasty, however.

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