I think we all make “clean out the fridge” dishes from time to time. Maybe you just got home from a long day at work without having had time to shop, so you make a gourmet dish out of the still-viable carrots, apples, and celery at the bottom of your crisper drawer. Or maybe you’re just determined not to buy more vegetables until you use that last lonely zucchini and the red bell pepper you grew yourself. In my case, some kind of brain cloud had caused me to buy gargantuan quantities of delicate veggies on Thursday when we were leaving on a 10-day vacation on Monday. Crazy. I realized on Sunday that I’d better use it all up or lose it to the compost pile.
So I did the best thing you can ever do to eggplants, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms: I roasted them. I stuck them in my toaster oven without actually knowing what the rest of the meal was going to be just because I knew that everything is better roasted. At the very least, they would be the perfect accompaniment to a simple bean dish. But while they were roasting, I caught sight of our flourishing basil and immediately craved pesto. Rather than go to the trouble of making a true pesto, I simply whirled the basil in the food processor with some balsamic vinaigrette, walnuts, and nutritional yeast, poured that over the roasted vegetables and pasta, and added some chickpeas to make it a one-pot meal.
It was one of those spur of the moment, easy, throw-together meals that turned out to be an instant family favorite. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos, so I filed the recipe away in my mental recipe box to make again later. Later came this weekend when I needed a dish for a potluck dinner. Everyone in my book group seemed to enjoy this pasta salad, which I dressed up with the addition of Kalamata olives. And because it makes a huge amount, there was plenty to go around.
Warm Pasta Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Pesto Vinaigrette
Use any balsamic vinegrette or Italian dressing that you like; even if if comes from a bottle it will be instantly transformed by the addition of fresh basil and roasted garlic.
- 1 medium eggplant (or 1/2 large), cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 head garlic
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
- 8 ounces grape tomatoes
- 16 ounces spiral pasta (whole wheat or gluten-free)
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cups cooked), rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (optional)
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, optional
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, optional
- 3/4 cup fat-free vinaigrette such as Fat-Free Balsamic-Raisin Vinaigrette
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425F. Arrange eggplant and zucchini on a non-stick baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle the chopped onion over them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the head of garlic in a corner of the baking sheet, and place in the oven. Stir after 15 minutes and add the bell pepper, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Cook until mushrooms have softened and tomatoes are beginning to collapse, about 10 more minutes. Remove from oven, reserve the head of garlic, and place the other vegetables in a very large serving bowl. (If your oven is small, see the Notes below.)
- While the vegetables are cooking, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and add pasta to vegetables, along with chickpeas and olives, if desired.
- Make the dressing: Place the basil in a food processor. Squeeze out 4-6 cloves of roasted garlic (or however many you like) and add it to the food processor, along with walnuts and nutritional yeast, if you’re using them. Pulse 6-8 times to chop the walnuts. Add the vinaigrette and process until smooth. Add dressing to pasta and vegetables, stir well, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
If you’re using a toaster oven or other small oven, roast the eggplant and zucchini for about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through; then remove them and roast the peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms for 10-15 minutes.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s) | Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Nutrition (per serving with optional ingredients): 356 calories, 50 calories from fat, 5.9g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 275.1mg sodium, 580.5mg potassium, 68.3g carbohydrates, 11.9g fiber, 6.9g sugar, 12.5g protein.
Nutrition (per serving, without optional ingredients): 320 calories, 23 calories from fat, 2.7g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 162.1mg sodium, 572.2mg potassium, 67g carbohydrates, 11.8g fiber, 6.8g sugar, 11.5g protein.
(Nutritional analysis assumes use of Fat-Free Balsamic and Raisin Vinaigrette. Using other dressings will change nutrition data.)
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