By Jenny Osburn, “The Union Street Cafe Cookbook”
Last month I got to cook lunch with grade 5 students at our local elementary school. The kids had started a vegetable garden in the spring. Dedicated volunteers tended the garden all summer so there was plenty to harvest in October. A celebration was in order! I was thrilled when my friend Megan, a teacher at Somerset, asked me to pitch in. We made a plan to cook with the vegetables the students harvested. There were purple carrots, zucchini, beets, and a mountain of kale. Maybe not the most exciting vegetables as far as kids are concerned!
I’ve been known to put anything in a creamy pasta in the effort of enticing people to try something new and figured the trick might work with the kids. Three fabulous volunteers, and the grade 5 students, worked for hours peeling carrots, shredding kale, mincing garlic, and dicing beets. We made an Alfredo sauce, cooked some whole wheat pasta, and combined it all together.
The whole school filed into the gym to find that it had been turned into a beautiful dining room. We held our breath as the kids tentatively came forward to give our harvest pasta a try. Most enthusiastic were the ones who helped make the food, but soon many of the kids were lining up for seconds of pink noodles. It was one of my best days ever.
A little cream and butter makes a simple and delicious sauce that can convince anyone to try a new vegetable! This works for grownups too. The sauce also makes a great pizza sauce, or try combining it with cooked diced turnips and baking it in a casserole dish for a holiday dinner!
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, place all the sauce ingredients. Stir from time to time as the mixture comes to a boil. Watch carefully, it can quickly bubble over! Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture coats a spoon. Remove from the heat while you cook the pasta and veggies.
In a smallish pot, place the beet and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until the beet is tender when pierced, about 30 minutes. Drain and let cool, then peel and cut into dice. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a generous amount of salt (between 1 and 2 tablespoons!). Most of the salt will end up going down the drain but you want your veggies and pasta to be seasoned. Carefully add the pasta, carrots and kale. Boil for 12 minutes, then add the zucchini. Boil for another two minutes, then drain and return the vegetables and pasta to the pot. Add the beets and the sauce to the pot and stir until combined. Taste and add a little more salt if needed.