Pasta with Grilled Vegetables

(serves 4 as an appetizer)

The first time I went to restaurants in Milan, I couldnt get over how many vegetarian entrees were on the menus; this was something rare in Tuscany, where vegetables were eaten as side dishes. But I liked the idea, so when I went back to Vipore, I raided our garden, and went to work in the kitchen. This was the result.

  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salt, plus 2 teaspoons
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ pound short pasta, such as penne or fusilli
  • 1 small zucchini, ends trimmed, sliced
  • 1 sprig fresh basil, chopped into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 small red onion, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 2 scallions
  • ¼ bulb fennel, fronds trimmed, cut into ¼ inch slices

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the 1 ½ tablespoon of salt.

Heat the outdoor grill or oven broiler. Sprinkle the vegetables with the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and the red pepper flakes, then drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

When the grill is very hot, add the vegetables, cooking them for 4 minutes on the frist side, 3 on the second. (If you dont have a grill, you can broil the vegetables for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become soft and slightly browned.) When the vegetables are cooked, cut them into strips. In a large sauté pan, sauté the garlic in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until it colors slightly, about 5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.

Add the chopped herbs to the sauté pan, sauté for 1 minute, and add the vegetable strips. Cook the mixture for 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, toss it with the vegetables and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve immediately.