Tuesday, September 4, 2012

a match made in foodie heaven

Parmesan pasta with balsamic roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli

Oh, y'all.  There are things I dearly love: pasta with parmesan and butter, roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli and balsamic vinegar.  Put those together and you wind up with this glorious gastronomic goodness.  And it is so easy.  Have I told you how I discovered my love of roasted vegetables?  My "cooker" as they call them in Belfast was, er, antique and persnickety.  Basically the oven only heated from the top, so baking or cooking meat thoroughly was tricky.  But, heating from the top, that ol' cooker roasted beautifully.  And it turns out that roasted veggies is the nicest way to treat them: the flavors intensify and caramelize until they're divine.  Let's get started on this hearty supper (this makes enough for 2).

Peel one large sweet potato.  I find using a knife to be the easiest way to peel things.  Cut your tater in half, place flat side down and work a sharp knife along the curve of that spud.  Easy.  Cut the sweet potato into small cubes (about 1/2" size).  

Make a quick balsamic glaze: in a small saucepan simmer together 2 T of butter, 1 T of balsamic vinegar, 1 T of dark brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a fair amount of pepper.  Simmer for about 5 minutes on medium until it begins to thicken.

Cut or break half a head of broccoli into small florets.  Toss the sweet potato and broccoli in the balsamic glaze until well coated.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast (yipee) for about 20 minutes at 400ºF/204ºC, giving it a stir halfway through.  They're done when caramelized and the sweet potatoes are tender.

In the meantime, make your pasta.  I actually used the same saucepan I used for the glaze, just boiling water in it and keeping all that balsamic flavor there.  I realize Ina would tell me it is way to small a saucepan to be cooking pasta in.  Ina, dahhling, feel free to mail me a hand-crafted copper pasta pot hammered by French nuns!  It worked fine, and before I drained my al dente pasta, I saved 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.  It's amazing what that cloudy water will do for a sauce!  Drain pasta, put empty saucepan back on the heat, add 1 T of butter (Julia would approve), that cooking water and simmer for a few minutes.  Add in the cooked pasta, season with a bit of salt and pepper and 1/3 cup (or as much as you please) of freshly-grated parmesan.  Toss together and there you have the easiest, most flavorful pasta to go with your roasted veggies.

Normally, when making pasta, I mix the pasta and veggies/sauce together and let them get to know each other for the last few minutes of cooking.  But, if you do that here, you wind up making those delightfully crunchy vegetables mushy.  So, don't mix 'em together, just let them hang out next to each other.  Top with a few shavings of parm and there you have it!  Tangy and sweet with the balsamic glaze, peppery from the pasta, creamy from the parmesan and butter and crunchy  with hearty vegetables, it's just so good.

Bon appetit!

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