We’re not a vegetarian family, but we do love our produce, and occasionally, I feel like cleansing our palates with a refreshing vegetarian meal. So, tonight, I made a version of the Orecchietti With Peas and Onions recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks At Home, with caprese salad on the side. Making this meal took a mere 30 minutes during naptime (we have a busy evening ahead, so I wanted to cut down on the dinnertime craziness by having something ready to heat up), but it’s healthy and flavorful. The sweetness of the peas and slightly caramelized onions is delicate and provides a nice foil to the saltiness of the cheese. Plus, the pasta’s bit of olive oil and cheese, and the creamy mozzarella in the caprese salad, make the meal quite filling. If you use whole wheat pasta, like I did, you get an extra boost of fiber and protein. Finally, for gardeners, the caprese salad is an excellent way to use up any lingering tomatoes and basil. Here’s the recipe:
Orecchietti With Peas and Onions (from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home)
- 4 medium onions (about 4 cups sliced)*
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups fresh or frozen petite peas (about 1 pound) – I used frozen
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound orecchietti (little ear-shaped pasta) or other small shell pasta**
- Freshly grated Pecorino cheese (about 1 cup)***
*The onions at the market were all huge, so I only used 1.5 onions to get four cups.
**I had a box of whole-wheat rotini laying around, so I used that instead. The book says that orecchietti or shells are especially nice because they catch the peas, which sounds so cute.
***The book recommends Pecorino for its sharp flavor, but I’m not a fan of goat’s milk or sharp cheeses, so I went with the Parmigiano-Reggiano I already had in the fridge. It tastes great.
- Bring a large covered pot of water to a rapid boil. While the water heats, cut the onions in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into thin slices. Cut the slices in half lengthwise. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown (this took quite a few minutes for me). Add the peas and salt and pepper to taste, and cook a few minutes longer (if you use frozen, as I did, you’ll have to cook it longer than if you use fresh). Add two tablespoons of hot water to the skillet (from the pot you’re using for the pasta — this will likely be before it’s boiling), stir, reduce the heat, and cover the skillet. (At this point, I turned off the heat.)
- When the pot of water boils, add the pasta, stir and cover until the water boils again. Uncover the pot. As soon as the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it with some of the grated cheese, so that the cheese will melt on the pasta (I used almost all of the entire cup). Top with the peas and onions, and serve. Pass the extra grated cheese alongside at the table.
For the adults’ caprese salad, I sliced an 8-oz ball of mozzarella and some tomatoes from my garden. I also picked the last leaves from my basil plant. Then, I arranged the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves in alternating layers in a small dish. I drizzled a tiny bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad, then sprinkled some salt and freshly ground pepper on top.
I knew the kids would have some trouble handling whole slices, so I chopped their tomato and mozzarella into chunks, tossed it with a small amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkled shredded basil on top, and topped it off with a heart-shaped piece of mozzarella cheese.
They were begging to dig into the meal while I was taking the pictures (naptime ended as I was putting the finishing touches on the food), so I have a feeling this dinner will go over well.