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Nigel Spence’s Perfect Pasta Recipe

By: Nigel Spence - October 3, 2021

This recipe is a game-changer for weeknight dinners.  It looks and tastes as if you spent all day cooking it, but it actually is quite quick and simple.  It also solves the issue of what to do with a bumper crop of any vegetables you may have from your summer garden, or even leftovers hanging out in the fridge. 

It is so versatile, you will be making new and exciting additions to this starter recipe every day of the week. It can easily be adjusted for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores too.  You can add chicken strips, beef strips, mozzarella cheese, aromatic herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano and basil. Add a fillet of fish on top of the finished dish. Add anchovies to the vegetables for a flavor explosion. Use bacon fat instead of coconut oil, then at the end add an egg yolk and parmesan cheese mixture when combining the pasta for the carbonara effect. 

The possibilities are just endless!

All you need to make the most delicious meals ever with whatever you have on hand is an oven, or in my case a toaster oven, an oven proof baking dish or cast-iron pan, and whatever starch or proteins you choose to highlight the dish. 

I went the route of a vegan because that’s the mindset I am working with for the moment, so in my case there is just one extra step with this recipe that will not be necessary if using regular cheese as opposed to the vegan cheese I had in my dish. 

It is still quite simple when it is all said and done. You will never worry about weeknight dinners ever again! Especially since the lockdowns are behind us, there just isn’t as much time for those elaborate weeknight dinners anymore.  You can thank me later for this gem of a technique.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups cooked Pasta, hot (I used gluten free Chickpea Rotini for this recipe)

1 cup whole fresh Mushrooms

1 cup multi colored Cherry Tomatoes

½ cup Bell peppers, sliced thick

½ large red Onion, sliced thick

8 oz vegan Feta cheese, whole

½ teaspoon Scotch bonnet peppers, fine chopped

2 tablespoons vegan Parmesan cheese, grated

½ cup tightly packed fresh Spinach, rough chopped

1 tablespoon Coconut oil

2 tablespoons Olive oil

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an ovenproof baking dish or cast-iron pan, add coconut oil to cover the base of the dish. Add all vegetables except spinach. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables.

Add the feta cheese on top of vegetables.  (If using a vegan feta cheese block, add it to the pan at the last 10 minutes of the cooking time.)

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes until all the vegetables are caramelized and cooked through and cheese is melted. 

Remove from oven and mix the cheese with the other vegetables. Crush the tomatoes to release more of their juices into the pan to create a natural pan sauce. Add the spinach and the reserved hot cooked pasta to the pan and stir to incorporate all into a one pot pasta dish. Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve directly from the baking dish or cast-iron pan.

Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for 3 years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cook offs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s The Today Show , Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavor.

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