Tomato Cappelini Pasta with Zucchini and Beans.

The Italian way to name this dish is “pasta e fagioli,” but I am so far from Italian, tomatoes get offended. That said, I do get along with many bright, veggie-filled Italian summer dishes in spite of my thick GermIrish heritage. This recipe is totally boring in the best way. It has few ingredients and lots of potential for additions. It’s filling and full of fiber but! leaves room for dessert later which is a must for this fat kid over here. It’s August; you still have plenty of time to throw this together with fresh local varieties of the listed ingredients. Go on, now! Get to it!

1/4 c onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

4 oz angel hair pasta

3 c boiling water

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed

Fresh basil, optional

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

In a large skillet, saute onions over medium-high heat in 2 tbsp olive oil until softened, about 4 minutes. Season lightly with salt. Add garlic and a pinch of salt; stir for 30 seconds. Toss in zucchini with another pinch of salt and stir to evenly distribute garlic and onion with the zucchini. When zucchini begins to barely soften and release moisture, add tomatoes and more salt and reduce heat to medium. Allow to simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove vegetables from pan and set them aside. In the same pan, pour in boiling water and 1/2 tsp salt. Add pasta and cook for 2 minutes or until noodles are fairly limp. Drain most of the water and add vegetables back into the pan; turn heat on high and allow pasta to finish cooking in the vegetable juices until it absorbs most of the liquid. Remove from heat and toss in beans. Top with basil, if desired.

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Cauliflower Celery Soup.

I don’t have a picture of this because while I was contemplating taking one, I finished it. Next time, swerr! This is 100% kid-approved. My firstborn, who is classically picky, slurped his portion right up before I even had a chance to convince him to try it. Win! Pro tip: put anything into soup you want, puree it, and your kid will probably eat it. It’s like a warm smoothie. The things I’ve gotten my kids to eat because it was unrecognizable…

You’re going to see “season with salt” at every single point of this recipe. It’s probably going to get annoying, but it’s important to enhance the flavor of all the layers of this soup for a few reasons: 1) potatoes and cauliflower are huge salt suckers, 2) you’re not using vegetable stock, which comes already seasoned, and 3) it’s a big damn pot of soup, and big damn pots of anything are gonna need a little salt. When I say “season lightly with salt,” the amount I mean is probably between 1/4-1/2 tsp at a time. If you taste the soup at any point before it’s totally done, it might taste a little watery, but hold off on final seasoning until you’re about to eat it. You’re less likely to biff the batch with an overload of sodium that way. (I speak from [very bad] experience.)

Last but not least, I didn’t add a lot of herbs to this soup because I wanted the flavors of cauliflower and celery shine. Something I do to release the oils (oils = flavors) of the dried herbs is rub them between my fingertips before sprinkling them in the dish. Adding them before adding the water allows the heat to hit them directly, therefore toasting (toasting = flavor) them and giving you more flavor punch.

1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 large head cauliflower, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
8 stalks celery (center is best), coarsely chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt & pepper
Olive oil and parsley to garnish

Put 2 quarts water on to boil. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, saute onions over medium-high heat 4 minutes in 3 tbsp olive oil. Season lightly with salt. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more, seasoning lightly with salt. Move onions and garlic to edges of pot and drop in potatoes, allowing to lightly scorch on the bottom of the pot. Add bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and 1/2 tsp salt and stir frequently for 2 minutes. Dump in cauliflower and celery, season with salt, and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables soften a little bit. Pour in hot water and 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and puree soup with an immersion blender (or in batches in a traditional blender). Taste; add 3/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper and adjust salt if necessary. Reheat if desired; serve hot in bowls garnished with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of parsley.

Vegan Broccoli Spinach Walnut Pesto.

I have a few addictions: 1) coffee, 2) thrift stores, 3) shoes, 4) peanut butter, 5) … 5328945372) hiding vegetables in my kids’ meals. I don’t always need to hide the veggies as both my kids readily eat most things, but hello, addictions don’t usually make sense. What I’ve found is most pesto recipes out there include Parmesan, and that’s not our style. My sister was all, “Just throw stuff in a food processor, and it’s pesto!” Never one to back down from a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants recipe challenge, I did just that, and it turned out great. Green goddess noodles for the win! I should note a few things: I used frozen broccoli, so it was pretty easy to puree once it was lightly cooked. I also salted the water the broccoli cooked in, so you may need to adjust your salt accordingly.

1 c walnuts
1 lb broccoli, lightly steamed
1 c fresh spinach, packed
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
~ 1/2 c-3/4 c olive oil

In a large skillet, toast walnuts over medium heat until fragrant. Remove from heat and cool. Pulse toasted walnuts in food processor until they resemble a cross between gravel and sand. Add broccoli and pulse until the mixture is uniformly pasty, stopping to scrape the sides occasionally. Add spinach, garlic, salt, and pepper; puree. With the food processor running, start slowly pouring in olive oil until desired consistency is reached. You may have to pause to taste and scrape every once in a while. Serve with noodles or on pizza! Freeze leftovers.

Meatballs.

These are bona-fide carnivorous balls of meat. No lentils in the vicinity! I like them because they require the tiniest list of ingredients and pass my kids’/husband’s taste tests. I’ve used regular pork sausage but have settled on Italian turkey sausage because the one I buy has no nitrates. I think it’s simply a preference thing. So go bold! Go meatballs!

Meatballs:
1 lb sausage, casings removed (if necessary)
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c dry red wine
1 can tomato paste
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
Salt to taste
2 lbs pasta

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Set aside. Using your hands, combine sausage, ground beef, salt, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl until just combined. Do not overwork! Shape into 1-1 1/2″ balls. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my cast iron enamel dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place 1/3 of the batch of meatballs in oil and sear the outsides of them, turning so each side gets browned. Do not cook through. Remove meatballs from pot and repeat with remaining batches. Set meatballs aside. Toss onions and 1/4 tsp salt into oil and saute until wilted, about 4 minutes; add garlic and saute 1 minute. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of pot while wine reduces. Stir in tomato paste and toast it, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Pour in crushed tomatoes, dried oregano, pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt, stirring to combine. Gently place meatballs in sauce and bring to a high simmer; reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 20-25 minutes, gently stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through. Season to taste, if necessary. Serve with pasta.