Tag Archives: pasta dishes

Pasta Shells with Easy Arugula Cherry Tomato Sauce [vegan]

Sometimes keeping it simple is the best.

Every Easter when I was growing up – and really, almost every other holiday – my family would go over to my grandma’s for a big family get together. I’ve talked about my amazing grandma before, but she loved to cook for everyone – and she pretty much always overdid it with how much food she made.

There would be a ridiculous amount of dishes for everyone to enjoy. From a giant antipasto salad and homemade breads, to a gigantic spread for the main course, to probably half a dozen desserts, complete with her annual bunny-shaped Easter cake, my grandma always spent days preparing. She also always made me eggplant parmigiana because I loved it (and later on, I developed an allergy to it, probably from eating it too much!).

One type of dish that my grandma made for holidays was a simple pasta. It was usually designated as a go-to for the picky eater kids in my family, but everyone typically wound up scooping some onto their plates. She would often make a cavatelli pasta with just a homemade tomato sauce. It was maybe her most simple dish, but we all ate it every time.

Today, in honor of the upcoming holiday and my grandma, who we lost just about three years ago and I miss so damn much, I wanted to share an easy pasta dish. This one comes together in 30 minutes or less, and the stars of the sauce are heirloom cherry tomatoes and wild arugula.

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Zucchini & Rigatoni Parmesan

When I first became a vegetarian, I was the only one in my family to not be a meat eater. My grandma, a little Italian lady who spends approximately half of her life in the kitchen cooking, used to say things like, “How are you going to find a boy if you don’t eat meat? What are you going to make him for dinner or eat on a date?”

[Side note: I somehow nabbed a really great guy eating salads on dinner dates and never cooking him a steak 😉 ]

While she may or may not have understood my choice to go vegetarian, she always went out of her way to accommodate me with vegetarian eats, in addition to about 20 other dishes she would make for every family dinner. One of the things she used to whip up all of the time was eggplant parmesan. While I loved eggplant, I somehow developed an allergy to it in my teenage years. Whomp. From then on, instead of eggplant parmesan, she started making me things with zucchini – especially zucchini parmesan.

I thought of her on Monday night, when I made my own zucchini parmesan dish for dinner:

I first made my own tomato sauce, but if you’re short on time or want to simplify the process, use jarred tomato sauce instead.

Zucchini & Rigatoni Parmesan

Serves 4

  • 2 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into thin slices
  • 2 c tomato sauce
  • 6 oz rigatoni, or other short shaped pasta
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 c part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh basil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Boil a pot of salted water and cook pasta according to directions. Preheat oven to 350.

Meanwhile, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add half of the zucchini slices and cook until tender on both sides. Repeat once more.

Spread 1/2 of the zucchini slices into an 8 x 11 pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer 1/2 of the pasta on top. Next, pour 1 cup of tomato sauce over pasta. Arrange 1/2 of the basil over the sauce, then add 1/2 of the mozzarella evenly. Repeat this process 1 more time.

Bake the dish in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Nutrition facts per serving: 350 calories, 15 g fat, 16 g protein, 43 g carbs