If you have read my previous food posts, you know that we are not vegetarian in this house. However, we do have friends who either are, or have frequent dinner guests who are vegetarian. The recipe that we can most easily adapt to vegetarian is risotto, and I’ll do a post about that one of these days. In the meantime, still using the Italian theme, a friend recently passed me one of those great recipes that can be completely vegetarian or you can add in chicken, pork, shrimp, or lobster if you like. You can even chill it and serve as a pasta salad if you prefer. I don’t know exactly where the recipe originated from, so for the purposes of this post, we’ll call it:
Versatile Main Dish Pasta (No Meat) – Serves 4 1, 8-ounce package of penne or similar pasta; 4 cups chopped seeded tomatoes (or 1 15 ounce can, drained); 1/2 cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives; 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese; 1/4 chopped fresh basil; 1 tablespoon toasted pinenuts; 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar; 2 cloves minced garlic; salt & pepper to taste; 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (depending on taste). Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Combine pasta and all remaining ingredients into bowl and toss to thoroughly mix.
Meats to add:
While pasta is cooking, take 2 cups chicken or pork cut into strips. Salt and pepper to taste and saute in 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil for 4-10 minutes until cooked through (Cooking time will depend on how thick the strips are and whether chicekn or pork). Add cooked meat in with other ingredients to combine with cooked pasta. If use 2 cups peeled and deveined shrimp or lobster chunks, saute in olive oil for approximately 4 minutes and immediately put into the bowl to prevent overcooking. Then add the cooked pasta and other ingredients.
This is also a great recipe for using leftover chicken or pork. Re-heat the meat only approximately 1 minute in the microwave and place the meat in the bottom of the bowl before you add in the cooked pasta and other ingredients. This method prevents the leftover meat from being overcooked.
Pair the pasta with a salad, warm bread/rolls, and a bottle of your favorite wine (or other beverage).