Ciambotta Pasta

I was about to make our favorite pasta puttanesca the other night when it occurred to me that capers and olives aren’t exactly what you call fresh vegetables. I found string beans and celery in the refrigerator, made a quick trip to the store for bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. And–in no time–my quicky puttanesca pasta had morphed into ciambotta (Italian vegetable stew) pasta.

Many people use potatoes as starch in their ciambotta recipe, but I prefer mine over pasta, and I found a perfect match waiting in the pantry: whole wheat organic chioccole (large curvy tube pasta with ridges). Next, an online search proved I’m certainly not the first one to use capers and olives in their ciambotta.  OK, I’m not original, but there’s safety in numbers!

As great as this dish was the first time, the following day I mixed the leftovers with Teese mozzarella (photo) and baked in a casserole pan for  a bubbly-crispy and totally comforting late winter lunch.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 carrot, (slice lengthwise, then 1/2″ pieces)

1 large eggplant (slice lengthwise, then 1/2″ cubes)

1-2 zucchini (slice lengthwise, then 1/2″ thick)

1 bell pepper, chopped

3-4 leaves fresh basil (or 1 T dry basil)

1 t thyme

2 bay leaves

1 large can Italian tomatoes (chopped briefly in blender)

1/4 cup capers (drained of brine)

1 cup olives (green, black, or mixture) chopped

salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh parsley for serving

1lb whole wheat pasta (large tubes like rigatoni or rotelle work best)

Method:

Heat oil in medium heat skillet and add red pepper flakes, onions, garlic, celery, and bay leaves. Saute until onions and celery begin to soften.

Add rest of vegetables in order above and continue sauteeing for about 5 minutes

Add tomatoes remaining herbs, capers and olives. Bring to boil, then reduce and simmer until vegetables become slightly soft (about 15 minutes).

Cook your pasta just prior to al dente, then drain and mix around with ciambotta at medium-high heat for another minute.

Add salt, pepper and additional fresh basil when serving

Tip:

I like to warm up plates (leaving them near the stove) to make sure pasta is still piping hot when it reaches the table.