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Leftovers: Garden vegetable creamy pesto pasta is a savory dish

This creamy pesto pasta recipe is made with leftover garden vegetables.  (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
This creamy pesto pasta recipe is made with leftover garden vegetables. (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

Is it possible for nature’s bounty to be considered leftovers? They certainly can, especially if they’re languishing in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator taking up space and begging for someone to notice them before they move on to that great vegetable garden in the sky. You know what I’m talking about.

The half-a-zucchini left over from the stir fry you made earlier in the week; the handful of mushrooms that didn’t make the cut for the lasagna a few nights ago; the cauliflower that you washed and chopped right when you brought it home from the grocery store, hoping that someone would choose it for a healthy snack, except no one ever did. Unless you want those veggies to die a slow, slimy death, you’ll need to intervene, and fast.

I found myself in a similar situation last week. With temperatures rising, fridge space limited and dinner fast approaching, I was thrilled when a quick trip through my crisper drawers yielded enough odds-and-ends veggies to create a creamy, savory meal that pleased even my picky eaters: garden vegetable creamy pesto pasta.

This recipe is in no way rocket science, but it was a revelation to me of just how delicious pasta and vegetables could be. I diced up all the veggies I could find – yellow summer squash, zucchini, onion and mushrooms – and tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper before roasting them in the oven for 20 minutes.

Feel free to add whatever vegetables you have on hand; you really can’t go wrong here. While the veggies were roasting, I cooked up some pasta. I used frozen tortellini, but gnocchi or any regular pasta would be delicious, as well. Now, I know that veggies and pasta are fabulous all on their own, but the real key to making this meal a knockout is the creamy Alfredo pesto sauce.

I used store-bought pesto, but it is definitely something you can make on your own if you’re overflowing with basil and feeling ambitious. I did, however, make the Alfredo sauce from scratch using a recipe that calls for cream cheese and regular milk in place of heavy cream.

It was so fast and flavorful that I vowed to never eat pasta without it again. Once the Alfredo was done, I added a dollop of the pesto, mixed them together and poured the sauce all over the pasta and veggies. Dinner done, veggies saved, family satisfied. Win, win and win.

Garden Vegetable Creamy Pesto Pasta

Adapted from tasteofhome.com.

1 yellow summer squash, sliced

1 zucchini, sliced

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

½ onion, chopped

Any other vegetables you want to add (broccoli, cauliflower, onion and red pepper are all good options)

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 package (16 ounces) pasta

½ cup Alfredo sauce (see recipe below)

¼ cup pesto

Heat an oven to 450 degrees. Place the vegetables on a cookie sheet and toss with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 18-22 minutes or until tender, stirring once.

While the vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

Once the vegetables are done, add them to the pot with the pasta. In a separate bowl, stir together the Alfredo sauce and pesto. Pour over the pasta and vegetables and gently stir until the sauce is evenly distributed. Serve immediately.

Alfredo Sauce

Adapted from melskitchencafe.com.

2 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 6 pieces

1 cup milk (1% or 2% is fine)

1½ cups grated parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Don’t let the garlic burn.

Add the cream cheese and whisk with the butter/garlic mixture until smooth and creamy.

Add the milk gradually, whisking constantly until incorporated into the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add more salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Serve immediately.

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