Pantry/Freezer Pasta Primavera

I recently saw a social media post offering a list of “what’s in season” in New England right now. I had to laugh because, unless it’s growing in a greenhouse or under grow lights, there’s nothing “in season” here. Unless I have a different understanding of what “in season” means. I mean, I’m willing to call storage crops seasonal during this lean time, because under the right conditions many late fall harvested vegetables and fruits can remain in fine eating condition for months. We just finished our last few locally grown apples this week, and we picked them in late September. But collard greens? No one’s harvesting collard greens right now, at least not in the corner of New England where I live.

When I go to the indoor Farmers’ Market this weekend, I will probably find some pea sprouts or other microgreens, grown under growlights inside the farmer’s house. Another local farm’s recent email lists the following available crops, all growing in a greenhouse: spinach, hearty greens (likely a mix of baby greens), arugula, salad mix, tat soi (an Asian mustard green), Tokyo Bekana (similar to Chinese cabbage).

I say all of that to illustrate one of the many reasons I rely on frozen vegetables from the grocery store. While not technically seasonal in the strictest sense, plain frozen vegetables were picked and minimally processed in season, when they were ripe, with no additional ingredients. This is something I could do during the summer, with my own locally grown vegetables, but not with the same level of quality.

The technique of cooking the aromatics, herbs, and tomato paste together before adding the rest of the ingredients helps to bring out, or “bloom” the flavors of the dried herbs, and eliminates any off flavors from the tomato paste. Be sure to cook the sauce for at least 15 minutes to cook out the “tin can” flavor that can sometimes come from canned tomato products. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, taste your tomatoes before you add them to the sauce. There is probably a metallic taste to them, and you want to cook the sauce long enough to remove that taste.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon jarred minced garlic
  • 1 cup frozen chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 x 16-ounce bag frozen Italian vegetable blend (peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, squash)
  • 1 x 14.5-ounce canned diced tomatoes WITH juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

serve with:

  • cooked chunky pasta types like shells, rotelli, ziti, or penne
  • jarred grated parmesan cheese

  1. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, basil, oregano, and tomato paste to skillet, stir to combine, and cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning the mixture, for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes to the skillet, stir to combine, and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is hot and bubbly, and the vegetables are hot, about 15 minutes. (TIP: If some of the vegetables are in larger pieces than the others, use a fork to cut them into smaller pieces once they are soft.)
  3. Add salt and pepper, and stir. Taste the sauce, and add more salt if you like, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, tasting after each addition.
  4. Serve over hot pasta, top with parmesan cheese. Or toss your pasta in your sauce if you like it that way.

Ingredient Spotlight: Jarred grated Parmesan cheese

I am not talking about powdered “shaky cheese”. I am talking about shelf-stable, grated Parmesan, that you can find in the same aisle as pasta, pasta sauce, and tomato products. I tried it as an experiment when I was looking for an alternative to grated or wedged Parmesan from the cheese counter, which is expensive and doesn’t keep forever, and powdered Parmesan cheese which is less expensive but doesn’t provide much flavor besides saltiness. I was impressed by the flavor and texture, as well as the affordability of this product. I confidently recommend you add it to your pantry.

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