As well as being quick and easy to cook, pasta is inexpensive and incredibly versatile, making it an ideal staple for busy students. And whilst white pasta doesn’t have a particularly impressive nutritional content, using a whole wheat variety will at least provide you with some fibre. Plus, it’s not difficult to make a tasty sauce using plenty of vegetables, so that the overall result is really quite a healthy meal.
Traditional ratatouille is a French dish of stewed vegetables, and recipes range from the ridiculously complex to the very simple. Although the former is likely (some would argue), to have a superior – and possibly more authentic – taste, those requiring a minimal amount of preparation can still be very good. I particularly like the idea of roasting the vegetables, which not only gives them a fantastic flavour (especially if they’re left to char or caramelise slightly at the edges), but also means that they demand very little attention once you’ve got them in the oven.
You can serve this dish on its own, but it also goes really well with a fresh green salad if you’ve got the time and inclination to make one (see yesterday’s post for some suggestions).
This makes enough for two portions. You can share it with a friend, or save half for the next day, when it can be eaten cold (or re-heated) for a quick supper or lunch. You could also make the roasted ratatouille mixture (without the pasta) to fill pitta bread, which makes another great midday meal.
A note about fresh herbs: It might feel slightly decadent for students to buy and use fresh herbs (especially if there’s concern that they’ll go to waste), but they really can make an incredible difference to the taste of food. Perhaps start with basil and parsley – two particularly flavourful and versatile varieties – and see how you go. If you’re not convinced, then you can use mixed dried herbs here instead, but the result probably won’t be quite so good.
[This is the third in a series of posts – you can find the first one here – prepared in response to a request from Jess, who has recently moved to London where she is a full-time student at LAMDA]
Recipe: Roasted Ratatouille Pasta
1 small aubergine, trimmed and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 courgette trimmed and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 red onion, sliced
1 green pepper
This is a good combination of vegetables – and roughly fits with the idea of a traditional ratatouille – but it’s perfectly fine to substitute what ever you happen to have available
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
That’s about 3-4 medium sized tomatoes
Enough pasta for two portions
I like to use whole wheat penne pasta
A handful of basil leaves, roughly torn
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: a handful of grated pecorino or other hard cheese
This makes 2 portions
Heat oven to 220°C / 425°F /Gas Mark 7.
Put the prepared vegetables and garlic into a roasting tin. Drizzle over the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss together.
Roast for 30 minutes, then add the tomatoes and roast for a further 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, and drain once it is ready.
Put the cooked pasta into the vegetables, add almost all the basil leaves and mix together.
Serve and finish with a good handful of grated cheese, as well as the remaining basil.
Note: If you’re saving half for another day, then leave to cool completely before tipping it into a suitable container (with a tight fitting lid) and putting in the fridge.