HEARTY VEGGIE PASTA (ITALIAN)
My favorite kind of meatless dinner entree is the kind that's so robust you don't notice there's no meat in it. This was certainly the case with tonight's multi-vegetable pasta, taken more or less directly from Carnevale Italiano, The Romagnolis' Meatless Cookbook. It's called "Conchiglie al Funghetto" ("shell pasta mushroom style") because all the veggies in it are cut up and sauteed in the fashion traditional for mushrooms.
I started by peeling a medium-size eggplant, cutting it into fairly small (1/2-inch) dice, putting them in a colander, salting them generously, and setting aside. Cut one small yellow squash into similar-size chunks; and quartered a half-dozen (about 6 ounces) of fresh mushrooms.
Slice a couple of large garlic cloves thin, and chop fine about 1/4 cup parsley and 1 teaspoon fresh oregano.
Start pasta water boiling, and cook 2 cups conchiglie (small "shell" pasta). While it's cooking, sautee the thin-sliced garlic with dried red-pepper flakes to taste in a nonstick skillet with a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil. When they're sizzling and aromatic but not yet turning brown, pat the eggplant dice dry with paper towels, and stir them in, tossing and frying until they've absorbed all the oil and start to turn golden. Add a little water if necessary to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan, and add the summer squash and mushrooms, parsley and oregano, with more salt (if necessary) and black pepper to taste. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for a few minutes until the mushrooms are cooked and the squash crisp-tender. Remove the cover, raise heat, and boil off most of the liquid; the eggplant will pretty much fall into a thick sauce; the mushrooms and squash pieces should still be al dente. When the shells are done, drain and put in bowls, and top with the vegetables. Serve with Parmigiano Reggiano, crusty bread and a salad.
This one went especially well with a German Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), but it would stand up to most Chardonnays, and for beer fanciers, would make a mighty nice match with a hoppy Pale Ale.