Fall inspires me to get back into the kitchen. Now if only it somehow also created lots of extra time for me to do that.
The best I can manage are compromise dishes — meals that are home cooked from scratch but require little hands on time. Because on beautiful fall afternoons the kitchen may call to me, but so does my son. And he wants me jumping in piles of leaves, not standing at the stove.
This ridiculously easy pasta topped with roasted tomatoes, green peppers, garlic and sausage is a great example. Dump everything on a rimmed baking sheet, toss it in the oven, then go outside and play in the leaves. A little while later, boil up some pasta, spoon the "sauce" over it, top with grated Parmesan and you're done.
To make this dish even more weeknight friendly, it's extremely versatile. Use whatever tomatoes you have handy. Ditto for the peppers and pasta variety. And don't hesitate to add any other vegetables you have. To save even more time, buy the pre-chopped veggies in the grocer's produce section.
AUTUMN ROASTED TOMATO AND SAUSAGE PASTA
Start to finish: 50 minutes (10 minutes active)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic
2 green bell peppers, cored and cut into thick strips
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
8-ounce package white button mushrooms
12-ounce package cooked Italian chicken sausage, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Heat the oven to 300 F.
On a rimmed baking sheet, combine the tomatoes, garlic, peppers, red onions, mushrooms, sausage and carrots. Drizzle the oil over the vegetables, then sprinkle with the oregano and basil. Use your hands to toss the vegetables and sausage until coated, then spread in an even layer.
Place in the oven and roast for 40 minutes. Walk away and do something fun for the first 20 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain, then divide between serving plates. Spoon the roasted vegetable and sausage mixture, including any juices that have collected in the pan, over the pasta. Top with Parmesan and pine nuts.
Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: JM-Hirsch
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