Food & Drink

Adapt this simple pasta salad to whatever vegetable is in the fridge or freezer

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad With Crispy Broccoli. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post.
Whole Wheat Pasta Salad With Crispy Broccoli. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post.

Adaptability. That’s what the world is requiring of us right now, and that’s certainly what we need in our recipes. Because who knows what we’ll find the next time we check our phones, open a paper, scroll through social media?

Will we want to go to the grocery store? Will we be able to? Just in case, I take comfort in knowing I can cook with what I’ve got around, and I want to stock up on things that will last.

Frozen vegetables are a godsend, really. They get a bad rap because if you don’t know how to cook them they can turn out mushier than you might like, but there are ways around that. One is to roast them at high heat. I’ve used that technique with frozen broccoli florets, with good results. One of the keys is something I recommend anytime you’re roasting vegetables that you want to get crispy-edged (and don’t you always?): preheating your baking sheet right along with the oven. It’s particularly effective with frozen vegetables; you leave them unthawed, and when they hit the pan, the water melts and evaporates in a flash, without time for it to get them soggy. The other tip - again, something that I always do when roasting vegetables - is to make sure there’s room for air to circulate around each item. That means they steam less and roast more.

While the broccoli is roasting, you boil some pasta (You do have pasta in your pantry, don’t you?), and then when both are done you toss them together in a simple dressing, along with feta and almonds.

The combination seems born to work, and it does. But as I said, we need adaptability, and this recipe offers that, too. Use whatever frozen vegetable you might have on hand. My top picks would be Brussels sprouts or cauliflower, but peas or spinach (blanched instead of roasted) would work well, too. And if you’ve got anything green in the refrigerator - maybe you haven’t quite started eating from your freezer yet - here’s a good place to use it.

WHOLE WHEAT PASTA SALAD WITH CRISPY BROCCOLI

Active: 25 minutes | Total: 1 hour

4 servings

Roasting frozen broccoli florets at high heat gets them nicely crisp. This makes a pantry-friendly take-to-work (or work-from-home) lunch, or a breezy, satisfying dinner.

1 (16-ounce) bag frozen broccoli florets (do not thaw)

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, or more as needed

8 ounces whole-wheat farfalle, fusilli or other short pasta

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more as needed

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup); may substitute vegan feta, such as Violife

1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Place a large, rimmed baking sheet in the oven as it heats.

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Pour the frozen broccoli florets on the hot baking sheet, arranging them in one layer. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast 18 to 20 minutes, stirring once and rotating the sheet halfway through, until the broccoli is crisp and browned in spots. Let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, for 1 to 2 minutes less than the package instructions indicate.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons oil, the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and whisk until thoroughly blended.

Drain the pasta (do not rinse), and add it to the oil mixture. Toss to coat the pasta in the oil and let cool for about 10 minutes. Add the broccoli, feta and almonds and toss gently to combine. Taste, and season with more salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes as needed. Serve at room temperature.

Nutrition | Calories: 570; Total Fat: 34 g; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 25 mg; Sodium: 590 mg; Carbohydrates: 55 g; Dietary Fiber: 7 g; Sugars: 1 g; Protein: 18 g.

Source: Adapted from “Cook90: The 30-Day Plan for Faster, Healthier, Happier Meals” by David Tamarkin. Little, Brown, 2019

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