Whole wheat pasta. Baked carrots and tomatoes. Herbs. Cheese. Sound familiar? It should. It’s simply a slightly different variation of one of my pasta standby recipes. Whole wheat pasta- fussili this time, to switch things up a bit- 3/4 of a pound of sweet baby carrots, copious amounts of cheese, herbs, and olive oil, some tomato chunks, and we’re in business. Procedures- see recipe linked above for more detail:
Herbs de Provence Baked Carrot & Tomato Pasta
- Half-box of fussili whole grain pasta (or your choice of whole grain pasta)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3/4 pound to 1 pound sweet baby carrots, sliced in half lengthwise (hot-dog style, if you will)
- handfull of cherry or roma tomatoes, diced into large chunks
- 1 cup shredded mozarella, gruyere, etc- pick a good Italian or French cheese
- 1/2 – 3.4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup herbs de Provence
- 1 cup tomato-basil/oregano pasta sauce (make your own or get a store-bought) (or use pesto)
- heavy sprinkling of seat salt & freshly-cracked pepper
- Preheat oven to 365 degrees F.
- Place carrots (cut) in tight rows on a baking sheet. The closer they are, the better- you don’t want to waste oil, cheese, or herbs that get lost between carrots.
- Sprinkle the herbs over all the carrots, making sure they’re well covered. You can go heavier or lighter on the herbs as desired, and don’t have to go with the Provence mix of herbs, either: any combination of the following works great: oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, fines herbes, parsley, etc… just makes sure they’re dried, and try to crush them as you sprinkle them onto the carrots. This will release even more flavour. Fresh herbs would burn and dry out!
- Sprinkle on the cheese in the same manner, making sure it’s evenly coating the carrots. Feel free to take my family’s approach of over-cheesing :)
- Sprinkle on the salt, pepper- and any additional spices, should you want to add some
- Once you’re happy with all your other ingredients, add the olive oil last- this will stop the cheese from burning on top and will keep the carrots moist as they bake!
- Place the baking sheet in the top rack of the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown/golden on top
- Then move the baking sheet to the bottom or middle rack and drop the temperature to 350 degrees, allowing the carrots to cook fully through but without applying as much heat to the cheese (so as to not burn and dry out)
- Once the carrots are cooked through (after another 10-15 minutes in the bottom rack), take the baking sheet out of the oven and set it aside for some cooling.
- While the carrots/tomato chunks are baking, prepare your fussili or other pasta (just a half box will give you 4-5 servings!) as designated on your pasta box. I’d suggest sprinkling in sea salt and a small dollop of olive oil into the water.
- Once the pasta is cooked to just being slightly al dente, drain out the water- but save a 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set aside for using later. Place the pasta into a large mixing bowl and add the parmesan and a quick sprinkle of salt and pepper. Toss thoroughly.
- Once the cheese is thoroughly tossed into the pasta, mix in the tomato sauce. If you revese this order, the pasta won’t stick to the cheese very well, and will be stuck within the sauce more than the pasta itself.
- Using a spatula or similar tool, break apart the carrots/tomato chunks- they will have stuck together- and then pour the pile of them into the pasta. Toss thoroughly again, and pour in a bit of the pasta water if things seem too sticky.
And you’re set! This is a healthy, hearty vegetarian dish that will turn any carrot-naysayer into a carrot-lover… guaranteed to work! Serve it warm for best results, but it’s nicely effective as a cold pasta salad as well for picnics and the like. My only warning there is to watch out for stains- the pasta sauce I used (O Organics) is quite hard to wash out, so if on a picnic, you may prefer to forgo the sauce. I do fairly often, and it’s very yummy, sauce or no- if you do forgo it, add a drizzle of olive oil at the end to give it a bit more moisture. Or, go more Italian and add in some pesto instead!