Friday, August 26, 2016

Pasta-touille

My sister, Mom and I have somewhat of an inside joke when it comes to ratatouille. Every Summer when our three tomato and two zucchini plants in the backyard started their overproduction, us kids would dutifully go out and pick to our heart's content, eating our weight in cherry tomatoes and comparing the length (and width) of our zucchinis (insert NSFW joke here). Like most kids, the cherry tomatoes were always an easy sell veggie-wise, but before I really became as much of a veggie-addict as I am today, zucchini, eggplant and peppers wrinkled my nose. Not so with Mom. She'd pick out a big eggplant or two from the store on a "harvest weekend" and cook a big ol' pot of ratatouille, eating it all week on (and in) everything, often convincing my dad to do the same. However, the sudden influx of vegetation challenged the digestion of my parents slightly, leading to us re-naming the dish "rataTOOTy". Yes, it was (is?) hilarious, especially to a 9 year old at the dinner table.

Pasta-touille

That said, I'm now a proud member of the "rat pack", and when our garden's zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers start producing in sync you can bet various versions of the dish find their way into our weekly meals. I was looking for a way to make ratatouille more than a simple vegetable side dish without compromising the textures and flavours of the original, making it something to serve for dinner as opposed to with dinner. Inspiration struck when we were organizing photo albums and found a picture of mom with a bowl of ratatouille and a small scoop of KD (life with kids!). I started playing around with the idea of baking noodles and the veggie medley together in a casserole, and as I cooked, I added more and more goodies from the pantry, fridge and freezer. What I wound up with was a beautiful (if I do say so myself), hearty, healthy "pasta-touille". Not only did it contain TONS of the standard vegetables, but it had lentils, goat cheese, fresh Mozzarella and a teeny bit of skinless chicken breast too.

Since I was using pasta as an ingredient (and a surprisingly tasty potato-based one at that), I decided to add a second "noodle", spiralizing the zucchini. The whole medley bakes up into a delicious, full-flavoured dish that also freezes well - good thing too, because it made a ton!

Do you add extra ingredients that you have on hand as you go to a recipe, even if they're not called for? How do you like to eat summer veggies?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Pasta-touille
Makes 10 hearty portions
5 cups cubed, unpeeled eggplant (about 2 medium-large)
1 cup dry red lentils or dry split peas
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups marinara sauce (use
Ratatouille Sauce for an extra eggplant boost!)
1 (29 oz) can or 2 (14.5 oz) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tbsp no-salt-added tomato paste (I actually used a version of my
Roasted Garlic Tomato Paste that I forgot to put salt in)
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced dried onion
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups diced cooked chicken
1 ½ lbs short-cut whole grain or gluten free pasta (I had this potato-based wagon wheel one on hand)
4 medium zucchini, run through the "spaghetti" setting on a
spiralizer or julienned
1 (15 oz) jar roasted red bell pepper slices, drained
10.5 oz fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
5 oz chèvre, crumbled


Eggplant:
  1. Heat the oven to 425°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Spread out the eggplant cubes and mist with spray oil.
  3. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove and set aside.
  4. Reduce oven to 350°F.
Sauce:
  1. Combine lentils and water in a large pot.
  2. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer, covered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in marinara, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, dried onion, parsley, basil, fennel, paprika, salt and chicken. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Pasta and Assembly:
  1. Coat a large casserole dish or Dutch oven (love my Staub!) with cooking spray.
  2. Cook the pasta 3 minutes shy of al dente, drain and transfer to the Dutch oven.
  3. Stir in the zucchini, pepper slices, eggplant, half the mozzarella and chevre, and all the sauce.
  4. Top with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until bubbly around edges and cheese is melted.
  6. Broil for 5 minutes until cheese is browned. 

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 509.3
Total Fat: 12.5 g
Cholesterol: 46.6 mg
Sodium: 584.2 mg
Total Carbs: 76.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 13.7 g
Protein: 28.1 g