Okay, I am going to get a little reminiscent today. This is the first recipe I truly learned to cook and was the beginning of my interest in food and cooking. Big props to give to such a simple recipe, right? I was in my early teens and had recently discovered The Food Network. Or maybe The Food Network was just coming on the scene…it was back in the days of cooking shows around the clock. The competition shows, Chopped, and kitchen sabotage shows weren’t even thought of yet (thankfully). After school I would watch cooking shows and work on homework; it was the first time I began to think about creating delicious and healthy foods for my family. Those early shows inspired me to try something new and taught me techniques of cooking that would have been much more difficult to learn from a book. Cooking is very visually focused; it is helpful to know what things look like throughout the process or how to peel/cut ingredients correctly. Because I found visual cues so helpful (and still do), I try to include some “check-in” photos of the progress of my recipes as well.
This is a recipe inspired by a pasta dish I created at Macaroni Grill. I suppose the cook in me was just waiting to be unleashed. I never went with a pre-designed dish when eating there; I always created my own concoction. This one really struck a cord and inspired me to try it a few days later for my parents and sister. I thoughtfully considered how the restaurant prepared the dish and tried my best to re-create it. I went grocery shopping with my mom to pick out olive oil, vegetables, and pasta. I carefully chopped vegetables. I boiled noodles while I sautéd fresh vegetables for the first time. I seasoned with salt and pepper; which to this day I believe is the difference between good food and delicious food. Everyone learning how to cook should buy a grinder each of salt and pepper and place it by their stove. And then use it on EVERYTHING. I used tomato basil pasta sauce to marry the pasta and the vegetables. Later I learned to make my own pasta sauce, but I am still a sucker for a good jarred tomato sauce and will use it 90% of the time. It took a good 30-45 minutes to create the pasta dish the first time, but at the end I felt incredibly proud. And it was a delicious success! I have since prepared it 1,057 times and still love it! There is no such thing as too many quick and delicious dinner ideas for busy weeknights. This is a go-to, for sure.
Because my pasta dish was such as success and filled me with a sense of accomplishment, it spurred me to on try new recipes. More complicated recipes. It challenged me to work with ingredients I was unfamiliar with and encouraged me to find out what to do with previously intimidating ingredients like beets, butternut squash, and brussel sprouts. Some recipes were a hit, some were a flop, but through many meals and experiments I found my confidence in the kitchen and it continues to take me places I never imagined. Like starting a food blog. And becoming a Registered Dietitian in hopes of awakening the passion for healthy foods in others. And to think I owe it all to a box of pasta and a few veggies.
- 1 box (16 oz.) bowtie noodles
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 head broccoli, florets removed from the stems
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms (white button or cremini)
- 4 oz. can sliced black olives, drained
- 1 jar (24 oz.) tomato basil pasta sauce
- Parmesan, for serving
- salt/pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt, if desired, and boil noodles according to package directions.
When fully cooked drain, and set aside.
While the pasta cooks, add olive oil to a skillet and warm over medium heat. Add broccoli florets; cook for 5-8 minutes until they are bright green and tender.
Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add olives and stir to combine with vegetables.
Pour in the jar of tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
Add cooked noodles and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and spoon onto plates.
Top with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and dig in! Enjoy!