Plenty of pasta to please palates

Dinners: Meatless meals featuring noodles, vegetables, cheese and fruit are rich in protein, nutrients -- and flavor.

June 02, 1999|By Marge Perry | Marge Perry,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

When you think of a meatless pasta dinner, no doubt you have visions of a jar of tomato sauce or a little olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Here are three more interesting and unusual -- but very simple -- meatless dinners with protein and nutrients galore (and not an ounce of red sauce).

Serve this creamy, rich Greek Pasta With Feta with a like-minded salad made from romaine lettuce, fresh snips of dill, tomato and thinly sliced onion. You can buy feta cheese already crumbled in most grocery stores, or, to make crumbling easy, place a chunk of it in the freezer for a couple of minutes before you handle it before crumbling. Feta keeps well in the refrigerator and is well worth having on hand. As with all strongly flavored cheeses, you can use less and cut back on your fat intake without sacrificing flavor.

Notice in the Pasta and Vegetables With Garbanzo-Bean Vinaigrette recipe the great shortcut trick of cooking the vegetables in the pot with the pasta. Not only does this save you the effort of steaming several different vegetables and the worry of getting the timing right, it also makes cleanup a breeze.

Finally, as rich in nutrients as it is in flavor, Pasta With Apricots, Rosemary and Walnuts works equally well as the main course or served alongside poultry or meat. By all means, make a double batch -- it's great served cold and is ideal for a do-ahead buffet.

Pasta and Vegetables With Garbanzo-Bean Vinaigrette

Serves 6

PASTA:

1/2 medium head radicchio, cut into shreds (1 cup)

12 ounces penne

4 cups broccoli florets

1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half

VINAIGRETTE:

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare pasta, place radicchio in large bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. When almost but not quite cooked, add broccoli. Thirty seconds later, add zucchini. Drain pasta and vegetables in colander. Pour hot pasta mixture over radicchio to wilt it. Add onion and tomatoes and toss.

While pasta is cooking, prepare vinaigrette. Puree garbanzo beans, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice, water, salt, pepper and olive oil in food processor until smooth. Add Parmesan cheese and pulse to combine.

Pour sauce over pasta and toss to combine.

Greek Pasta With Feta

Serves 4

8 ounces bow-tie pasta (just over 4 cups dry)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 red onion, cut into thin strips

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 green pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon grated zest from 1 large lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, but do not rinse.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add green pepper, thyme, rosemary and marjoram and saute 2 minutes more.

Add tomatoes and beans and saute 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in feta cheese, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes before tossing with pasta.

Pasta With Apricots, Rosemary and Walnuts

Serves 4

8 ounces tagliatelle

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips (see note)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Using olive oil, saute garlic, rosemary, apricots and salt in skillet over medium heat until garlic is soft, about 7 minutes.

Drain pasta, but reserve 2 tablespoons cooking water. Toss pasta, reserved cooking water, apricot mixture and walnuts and serve immediately.

Note: Dried apricots get a little sticky when you cut them. Use kitchen shears or pile a couple on top of each other, cut them into strips and then separate them with your fingers.

Pub Date: 06/02/99

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