A fresh summer vegetable pasta sauce sounds easy, but it’s actually more difficult than you’d think. The trick was figuring out how to get distinct pieces of crisp-tender vegetables with a saucy, flavorful base. We gathered a variety of veggies zucchini, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and bell peppers and started sautéing. However, the flavors became too homogeneous and the vegetables cooked at different rates; some were mushy, while others were too crisp. We had better luck when we cooked the vegetables in batches.
First, we sautéed the tomatoes, onion, carrots, and bell peppers until the tomatoes started to break down and created a pasta-clinging sauciness that enveloped the just-tender carrots and peppers. Porcini mushrooms, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, and just a little bit of red pepper flakes gave depth to the sauce without overwhelming the delicate vegetable flavors. We added the zucchini towards the very end to keep them from overcooking and turning mushy. A hefty portion of chopped basil, added just before serving, ensured that our dinner tasted and looked like it was fresh from the garden.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- Total Time: 45 Minutes
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
- Salt and pepper
- ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced ¼ inch thick
- 1 pound penne
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, carrots, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and tomatoes are broken down, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in mushrooms, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth and bring to simmer. Stir in zucchini and cook until zucchini is just tender, about 4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add sauce and toss to combine. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency. Serve with Parmesan.