Bow Tie Pesto with Fennel, Zucchini, and Red Pepper

We have more basil growing in our garden than we know what to do with, so after collecting a big bunch over the weekend, I make Monday night a Pesto Night. The red peppers at our local farmstand were outstanding this week- whether roasted, grilled, or eaten raw, they were bursting with flavor and sweet fragrance. I love mixing grilled or roasted vegetables with whole wheat pasta to add more flavor and natural juices, and a basil pesto sauce goes divinely with succulent red pepper, zucchini, and as I discovered in this dish, grilled fennel. Each component brings a fresh aroma to the table in a recipe that takes no more than 20 minutes to prep, assemble, cook, and serve.

Ingredients (For about 3 good-sized servings): One pesto recipe, 8 oz whole wheat bow tie pasta, 2 large red bell peppers, 1 large zucchini, 1 small fennel bulb

Recipe: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make the pesto.

Trim the fennel bulb and cut in half. Place each half flat-side down on the cutting board and cut into 1/4 inch half moons. Slice the bell pepper into strips. Slice the zucchini lengthwise, then cut it the same way as the fennel (slice each half crosswise into 1/4 inch half moons). Heat a grill pan, drizzle with olive oil, and add the vegetables. Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Add the pasta to the pasta water. Cook until al dente, reserving a few spoonfuls of the starchy pasta water. Grill the vegetables until they are tender, turning occasionally to cook evenly.

Drain the pasta (don’t overdrain it, allow a little bit of water to remain), and return it immediately to the pot over a low flame. Drizzle with olive oil to keep from sticking. Add the grilled vegetables and the pesto. Add the reserved pasta water by the spoonful if necessary. Serve immediately with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

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