Anyone who has ever stepped into a Cheesecake Factory will vouch for the fact that indecision over what to order from appetizers to entres to desserts is tour de rigueur. For us vegetarians, it is a bit of a blessing that the choices are more restrictive. It is from this more limited menu option that we decided to order Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta. The description was mouth-watering.
“Penne Tossed with Broccoli, Oven-Dried Tomato, Roasted Eggplant, Peppers, Artichoke, Kalamata Olives, Garlic and Pine Nuts.”
After a non stop eating expedition visiting family and friends in DC, none of us was particularly hungry. So a single dish of Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta was scooped up by five of us, leaving not a single morsel on the plate. What was it about the dish that made it so delicious? The richness of olive oil infused with sautéed garlic, the crunchiness of the pine nuts, the rich flavors of the oven roasted veggies blending in with the saltiness of the olives all melded to create a sensory experience which lingered long after the meal was over.
A few weeks later, sitting in my kitchen in New Jersey on a cold, wintry day, I craved for this pasta. I did not want to drive, I did not want to wait in line, I wanted it now.
So, out came the ingredients from the pantry. I had no penne, but my beautiful batch of bow tie pasta seemed to be the perfect substitute. I heated up some extra virgin olive oil and on a lark decided to throw in some red pepper flakes to perk up the dish. In went some crushed garlic and roasted pine nuts and the kitchen was already smelling heavenly. I picked up some previously roasted eggplant bits, pulled out some sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, a small can of chopped black olives, some sliced orange peppers and a few quickly blanched broccoli flowerets. A swish here, a turn there and behold……what emerged in the pan was this absolutely beautiful pasta dish that tasted like a million bucks. And that’s the picture at the top of this post.
Since then, the dish has become a staple in our household and Evelyn has been relegated to the back room while Lakshmi has taken over:)
If you’ve experienced the joy of recreating a restaurant favorite in your own home, we would love to hear about your agony and ecstasy in getting there.