Penne + Family = Pasta Propensity

Pasta and I better friends than we should be, but alas, we’ve been through many a hard time together, and our bond seems unbreakable.  While not the best food, I defend my dear friend by saying it’s also not the worst, and taken in a proper proportion with other healthful ingredients, pasta can be a comforting energy booster and tummy filler.  This dish is definitely vegetarian, but it can also be vegan sans the cheese.

I tend to just cook by taste, so all these are rough estimates and can be altered according to your preference.


  • 1 1-pound box of whole wheat penne pasta, cooked to your liking (I prefer mine a bit more “done” than al dente, but keep a little bite as it will continue to cook when you put  it in the hot sauce)
  • 3/4 cup reserve starchy pasta water
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 lemon (zest and all)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 quarter of a large red onion, chopped
  • 4 – 6 sprigs of fresh basil (leaves chopped, stems reserved)
  • 1 tbsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp of garlic powder
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces of tomato sauce
  • 2 tomatoes or about 2 cups diced, depending on the type of
  • 1 zucchini, quartered and chopped
  • 1 head of broccoli, florets chopped, stalk sliced and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced black olives
  • 3 – 4 tbsp Parmesan cheese to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

(Note: many vegetables would be great in this, including carrots, peppers, green beans, mushrooms – really whatever you like and whatever is in the house)


While your pasta cooks, in one bowl, put 2 tbsp of olive oil, about a tablespoon of the chopped garlic, zest from half the lemon and all the lemon juice.  After squeezing my lemon, I tossed the peel in the salted water in which the pasta was cooking.  Not necessary, but it helps give those hints of flavor that brings everything together once it is all finished.  In a large pan, put the rest of your olive oil and cook down the rest of the garlic and onion until it is nearly transparent.  Add the stems from the basil leaves to add flavor (but don’t forget to take them out before serving).  Drop in the the broccoli, zucchini, and half the tomatoes.  Toss them in the oil and let them grill for a few minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and the starchy water from the pasta.  Find and remove the basil stems.  Sprinkle in half of the fresh basil and all of the oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper.  Mix all the ingredients while coating the vegetables.  Let simmer for about 6 minutes, adding more water or tomato sauce if you need it (the tomatoes will also provide some liquid).  Pour over the pasta, and add the olives and the rest of the tomatoes, basil, and lemon zest for a fresh finish.  For those who are not vegans, now is a good time to sprinkle the Parmesan cheese and then toss the pasta all together.

This makes enough pasta for four to six people and is very easy to manipulate to make the numbers you’re going for.

Eating at home is the best because you can serve this up with whatever you want, even if the accompaniments do not make the most sense.  I presented it with watermelon and mini blueberry muffins on leftover Halloween plates.  Indeed, nothing has to make perfect sense when the people you are eating with are just this side of insane anyway…I mean, are your family members…


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