Quite possibly my favorite pasta, which I make on repeat, this satisfying meal is nourishing comfort food at its best. It delivers a hearty dose of vegetables, allows for endless customization, and leftovers are a treat.
When it comes to comforting meals that the whole family enjoys, this pasta recipe ranks high.
It’s entirely different than the creamy mac and cheese (with that delectable crispy topping!), which is, without question, another crowd-pleaser. Yet somehow a plate of this pasta, tossed with a simple pesto and mounded with roasted vegetables, always garners high praise.
Though I’ve made this meal for years, I always threw it together, so to speak, eyeballing amounts and varying the vegetables based on what I had on hand. I also vacillated between sautéing the vegetables and roasting them, and while pesto was almost always a given, I sometimes drizzle with a little red sauce, too.
Because this is such a regular on our dinner menu－and I adore the leftovers for lunch－I figured it was high time I created an official recipe so I could share it for others to enjoy.
So while following the recipe, below, will reward you with what I hope will become a repeat meal in your house, too, feel free to use it as a framework.
I’ve included several options and variations that I’ve made over time, and I encourage you not to be dissuaded if, for example, someone in your house doesn’t enjoy mushrooms. It’s easy to plate the meal in a way that keeps everyone happy.
I’ve learned to go light on mushrooms for my younger son (a step up from the day when he didn’t want any!), and the rest of us are always happy to have more. If nobody likes mushrooms, you could skip them entirely and roast cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, sweet potatoes, onions, and/or red peppers instead. For the sake of the recipe, I’ve presented my go-tos, but they all work well in this meal.
I tend to use a protein-rich pasta, like Banza, for this recipe, and my family finds the meal to be very satisfying. That said, you may add an additional protein, such as cooked chicken, shrimp, or cannellini beans.
Broccoli and mushrooms, with the occasional addition of roasted sweet potatoes or winter squash (often if I have them leftover), are my standbys for this meal. As noted in the recipe, you may absolutely use other roasted vegetables that you enjoy.
I think cavatappi is a fun shape, so I often pick that. Alternatively, rotini, ziti, penne, fusilli, or your pasta shape of choice may be used.
Remember to save a cup or so of the pasta cooking liquid before you drain the noodles. If you make homemade pesto and like to make it somewhat thick as I do, the hot liquid is great for thinning and adding flavor and creaminess. You can also add a small amount to any leftover noodles just before reheating, as it will restore moisture and freshness to them.
For this recipe, I prepare 8 ounces of pasta. My family enjoys a high ratio of vegetables to pasta, but if you prefer more pasta to veggies, you can cook 12 to 16 ounces of pasta, increasing the amount of pesto used to coat the noodles proportionately.
If you enjoy topping your pasta with Parmesan, this meal offers a great opportunity to branch out and try gruyere, asiago, or even fontina cheese, all of which pair especially well with mushrooms and a variety of roasted vegetables.
Sometimes I add a drizzle of red sauce for a little something extra. A favorite marinara sauce will work well. Pictured is a pumpkin tomato sauce, which I have grown to love and will share if there’s interest.
Favorite pestos that work with a variety of greens:
We enjoy a high ratio of vegetables to pasta, but if you prefer more pasta to veggies, you may cook 12 to 16 ounces of pasta. SImply increase the amount of pesto used to coat the noodles proportionately.
1 pound broccoli, cut into bite-size florets (can chop the stems, too)
1 pound mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided use
Optional for serving: freshly shredded gruyere, asiago, or fontina cheese (or good old Parmesan!); red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 425℉, and begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta.
In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and sprinkle with a level ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper (you may eyeball/season to taste as preferred). Transfer to a large, rimmed baking sheet (no need to grease this one) and spread into an even layer.
Next, toss the mushrooms with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ pepper. Transfer these to a separate large baking sheet that has been greased or sprayed. Place the sheets in the oven (place one in the lower third of the oven and the other in the middle or upper third) and roast the broccoli for 15-20 minutes and the mushrooms for approximately 25 minutes, or until the broccoli is al dente and lightly charred in spots and the liquid from the mushrooms has cooked off and they are tender and golden. (Note: I’ve cooked the vegetables on convect roast at 425℉ and they cook about 10 minutes faster in my oven with slightly better caramelization. Also, since the broccoli is done a few minutes before the mushrooms, you can pop that pan back in the oven for a minute at the end to warm, if desired.)
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water according to the package directions. When finished, reserve a cup of the cooking liquid (see notes), and then drain the pasta well and return it to the hot pot. Toss with pesto to coat.
At this point you may stir in the vegetables and add an extra drizzle of pesto to taste. Or you may plate the pasta and pile the roasted veggies over top, drizzling with more pesto if desired. Serve with optional shredded cheese and red pepper flakes.
*When I make homemade pesto, I add just enough olive oil to make a thick paste, and then thin it with pasta cooking water. This makes for a flavorful sauce that isn’t so oily, and the starch from the cooking water adds a hint of creaminess to the pesto. Tip: If you have leftovers, refrigerate some of the reserved cooking water in a jar or small container and add an extra drizzle when reheating the pasta to moisten and refresh the noodles.
A few more things… Feel free to use a variety of roasted vegetables in this dish. I often add roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes, even leftovers if I have them. Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and onions are lovely options as well. Simply roast on separate baking sheets to account for any discrepancies in roasting times.
You may certainly add a protein to this meal, like cooked chicken, shrimp, or white beans. I tend to use a protein-rich pasta, like Banza, and my family finds the meal to be very satisfying without the extra addition.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/
This is one of the countless variations of this recipe I’ve made over the years. On this particular night, I sautéed onions and peppers, removed them to a plate, and then continued with mushrooms. At the end, I added chopped kale to wilt.
The mushrooms for this pasta dish are prepared just like these easy Roasted Wild Mushrooms. Any type of mushroom may be used, including the basic button variety. If you’re a mushroom fan, you may enjoy these mushrooms as a simple side dish, on burgers, mixed into rice, or on cheesy, crunchy mushroom toast.