In the blue-collar towns where I grew up the Italians were known for their colorful, productive gardens where they raised large amounts of food on tiny, urban plots. This colorful pasta dish, loaded with just-picked summer vegetables, is a tribute to that memory. But if fresh vegetables and herbs are not available you can use frozen veggies or dried herbs (1/3 as much). The recipe can easily be halved or doubled and it holds well for potlucks and picnics. Feel free to adjust the amounts and types of vegetables to use the fresh, seasonal items you have on hand. The goal is a colorful variety of flavors.
- 2 lbs ground beef, browned
- 1⁄2 lb wax bean, snapped
- 1⁄2 lb green beans, snapped
- 1 -2 zucchini, cubed
- 1 -2 yellow squash, cubed
- 6 -8 green onions, sliced
- 1 -2 green peppers (optional) or 1 -2 red pepper, diced (optional)
- 1 -2 eggplant, diced (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
- 2 -3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups fresh tomatoes, diced (or substitute 2, 15 oz cans diced tomatoes)
- 2 -3 lbs cheese tortellini, cooked according to package directions
- 1⁄4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 -2 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Brown ground beef and drain excess grease. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed, ovenproof pan.
- Saute green and wax beans, zucchini and yellow squash, onions, herbs, and eggplant/peppers (if using them), on medium-high heat until about half cooked.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add tomatoes and heat until tomatoes get sort of wilted and juicy, stirring occasionally.
- Add browned, ground beef and bring to a gentle simmer. If the amount of juice seems inadequate (plum or grape tomatoes are less juicy than the canning and slicing types), add about 1/2 cup V8, tomato juice, or beef stock. But don’t make it too wet or the tortellini will get mushy and unappealing.
- Remove from heat. Toss with hot tortellini.
- Stir in the Parmesan and half the Mozzarella. Top with remaining Mozzarella.
- Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and starts to brown.
- This is a meal in one casserole but, as with many pasta dishes, a salad of Italian greens and a loaf of crusty bread would add the final polish.
- Suitable for OAMC. Treat it as you would treat lasagna.