My dad took Leandro for a haircut when we got home from the workday– they love to do the man thing at the barber together — so I dashed off to do some solo grocery shopping which I find heavenly (It is a sad commentary on the state of my life that an unaccompanied trip to the supermarket has replaced dinner and a show on my top-five list of things to do). Then it was off to the farm for pick-up and then I headed home with no time to fuss over dinner, but nothing prepared and a child about to realize – with the suddenness of an improvised explosive device — that he is STARVING.
I did call my dad on the way home to see if he could get water on the boil, which he did! Masha danki, Padushi! (Mark Bittman – the NYTimes Minimalist food writer and one of my heroes — says whenever you get home you should get the water going, so you can throw anything in there, inspired or not). So on the rest of the 15-minute drive home, I did a mental inventory of all the scraps in my fridge and larder that needed using – Multigrain pasta, check. Leftover olive oil from tortillas, check. Unused peeled onion halves from another dish, yup. Too many peppers from the farm, uh-huh. The ever-present broccoli that represents probably 50 percent of Leandro’s vegetable consumption (heavy sigh), right. Dab of tomato paste I didn’t need for the meatloaf…etc. etc.
And by the time I got home, I was good to go and get dinner on the table in about 15 minutes (6-minute pasta was key). You should note that tomato paste is a great thing to add tomato tang and depth. I guess it is thanks to its concentration that it releases its flavors with just a bit of sauteing (unlike purees or whole peeled tomatoes, which much be cooked for a while to get really good). That’s a criollo trick I learned in Puerto Rico!
In this recent version, I used two tablespoons of the reserved olive oil that I had used to saute the onions and potatoes for a recent tortilla, which adds a nice flavor, but you can just use extra virgin olive oil as stated in the recipe.
Not only did this work for Leandro’s evening meal, but he asked for the leftovers for lunch the following day and I was very happy to oblige. You can see the lunch he took to school here!
Bang Together Bits and Bobs Broccoli Pasta (makes two kid servings)
6 oz whole grain medium pasta shells(about half a 13.5 oz box)
A handful of broccoli florets separated into forkfuls (and peeled and chopped stems, if you like)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, peeled and chopped fine (about ¼-1/2 Cup)
½ green pepper (Cubanelle, sweet or bell are fine), chopped fine
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 tsp chopped herbs of your choice (basil, oregano, thyme, culantro; halve for dried herbs)
Grated cheese (such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano) or nutritional yeast (optional)
Prepare pasta according to package directions in a medium to large pot, adding the broccoli 3-4 minutes before the boiling is finished. Drain, reserving ½ Cup cooking liquid.
Let the same pot dry over the burner, add the olive oil and heat at medium high until loose and fragrant. Add the onion and green pepper and stir to coat. Add garlic and lower heat to medium and cook for a minute. Add tomato paste and herbs and stir around until fully incorporated. Add the pasta and mix thoroughly (if you find it too dry, add tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid). Add cheese and serve.