I’ve done some amount of regular batch cooking for a long time: since I started my dietetics program and even intermittently during my post-bacc, though I was much less organized about food prep back then. I’ve always tried to weave variety into the routine, but I’ve also relied heavily on the same set of dishes to make in advance: soup, stew, curries of various sorts, roasted vegetables, grains and beans.
Meal prep has become such a significant part of my life that I’m starting, little by little, to expand the list of things I regularly deem batch-cooking-friendly. I started making baked oatmeal in muffin tins this year, which has been a total win for portable breakfasts. I’ve found fun new ways to use my slow cooker. I used to think rice didn’t freeze very well, but I’ve learned that it depends on the rice (short grain freezes perfectly, though I’m still figuring out whether I like the texture of defrosted long-grain rice).
To these realizations I can add the fact that I’m learning to love batch cooked pasta dishes, including my new favorite winter balsamic roasted vegetable pasta.
This dish isn’t quite pasta salad, and it isn’t quite a traditional pasta, either: it’s something in between. The vegetables get roasted as you’d roast any baking sheet of winter roots. The pasta is boiled and drained, and everything gets a flash in a hot pan with some balsamic vinegar, oil and/or broth, and arugula, which wilts partially but not entirely into the dish.
The vegetables can be roasted ahead of time—that can be your batch cooking—or you can prepare everything in advance and enjoy your leftovers as the week goes by. Because it’s sort of a pasta/pasta salad hybrid, it’s very nice either hot or cold.
I used a combination of butternut squash, turnip, parsnip, and carrots for roasting, along with brussels sprouts and red onion. You can use these, or any of your favorite winter root vegetables. Their sweetness gets picked up nicely by the sweetness of the vinegar, but shallot and garlic and bitter arugula keep everything balanced.
It’s a no-fuss, no frills pasta that still hits the spot—and oh-so-perfect for this time of year.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons neutral flavored vegetable oil, such as safflower or grapeseed
- 2 1/2 lb root vegetables and/or Brussels sprouts, chopped into evenly sized (about 3/4") pieces (I used a combination of: parsnip, carrot, turnip, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts)
- 1 red onion, roughly chopped
- 8 ounces pasta of choice (I used cavatappi)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil*
- 1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
- 2 big handfuls arugula
- Salt and pepper as needed
- Vegan parmesan if desired
- Preheat your oven to 400F. Toss the root vegetables and red onion with the vegetable oil and arrange them on two parchment or foil-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for 35-40 minutes, or until browning gently and tender.
- Meanwhile, boil the pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
- When the vegetables are ready, heat the olive oil in a very large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, till the shallot is clear and tender (about 4-5 minutes). Add the pasta, roasted vegetables, broth, and vinegar. Warm everything through in the pan, stirring as you go. Stir in the arugula and allow it took until it’s gently wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, along with an extra splash of vinegar if desired. Serve right away, with parmesan if you like.
Nothing fancy here, but roasted roots make everything better, if you ask me. And pasta doesn’t need much improving on in the first place. If the combination sounds tasty to you, too, I hope you’ll give it a try! And keep in mind that it’s 4-6 generous portions, so feel free to cut the recipe in half if you’re not batch cooking.
It’s my last week at the hospital, with tons of loose ends to tie up and work to get done. But the holidays are on my mind anyway, and I’ve got an easy, holiday-friendly vegan side coming to you later this week. For now, happy Monday to you.