Looking for ways with pasta without the usual ground red meat, bacon, sausages, and everything fatty in thick red sauce? Ditch the red meat and use chicken and vegetables instead. Instead of the usual tomato-based red sauce, toss the hot pasta with pesto. Homemade, if possible. Kids might balk at the idea at first but, given time and with lots of encouragement, they can learn about new ways to enjoy their pasta.
My younger daughter, Alex, woke me up on Saturday morning with an announcement that she wanted pasta for lunch. With pesto, she said, and chicken. I said, sure, and figured I might as well go all the way and add mushrooms and a medley of vegetables too. She helped with the cooking, grated the cheese, cut the mushrooms and tomatoes, and did some stirring, then it was on to a great lunch. Too bad the man of the house was out at work and had to miss the spaghetti with chicken, brown button mushrooms, vegetables, and pesto.
Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, and toss with the pesto. If, like me, you prefer to make your pesto rather than use the store-bought kind, click here to learn how easy it is to make pesto at home. Heat the olive oil in a large pan (large, because you’ll add the pasta afterward and the pan should be large enough for you to be able to toss everything together). Add the eggplants (they take the longest to cook), cook until they start to soften then add the rest of the vegetables. Cook, stirring, for about a minute then add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add the pasta and toss until everything is heated through.
Now, the cheese. Here’s where you’ll have to make a decision. You can add the cheese (reserving some for garnish) to the pasta and vegetables before tossing them together or you can simply serve the cheese on the side and everyone can just add as much or as little cheese as they want. The thing is, adding grated cheese to the pan makes the sauce a bit thicker. The cheese melts right there, makes everything sticky and it’s nice. But some people have issues with cheese so it depends on who’s eating the pasta dish.
The basil leaves. They aren’t just for garnish although I must admit that visible greens on top of the pasta give the dish a more festive appearance. You might think that there has to be enough basil flavor and aroma in the pesto but, honestly, fresh basil adds so much more depth to the cooked dish.