Cooking veggies in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) increases the antioxidant-rich phenols of the vegetables. Phenols are known to be anti-inflammatory and have a preventative effect against cancers and chronic illnesses. They’re present in vegetables and EVOO, but cooking them together by frying or baking increases their availability. Cooking veggies like this obviously increases the calories, but EVOO has been shown to keep us feeling full for longer after meals, so it reduces calories from snacking!

These veggies can all be grown in the area where I live in the Coal River Valley region of Tasmania, but my vegetable patch is still in its infancy! I’m lucky to be able to find many of them at local markets when they’re in season though.

This recipe takes a while because of the time for the veg to roast, but the chopping is the most difficult and time consuming part! I scale this up or down depending how many people I want to feed,and what veg I’ve got available. It’s a good way to use up a few leftover things that are past their best too!

Colourful Roast Veggie Pasta
Servings = 4-6
Time = 60 minutes
Difficulty = Easy
Description = A colourful and nourishing veggie pasta dish

Recipe Ingredients
– 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 2 onions (red or white), chopped
– 2-3 medium zucchini (courgettes), chopped
– 1 large or several baby eggplants (aubergines), chopped
– 1 or 2 capsicums (peppers), any colour, chopped
– a can of chopped tomatoes
– 500g penne pasta
– grated cheese (optional)
– salt and pepper

Recipe Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 180degC.
2. Chop all the vegetables into similar size chunks, a little bigger than 1cm cubes works well.
3. Put the chopped veggies into a baking dish, add the extra virgin olive oil, mix it all together, season, and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven, mix the veg around to help them brown evenly, and return to the oven for 15 minutes.
5. Heat up a large pan of salted water to cook the pasta.
6. Take the veggies out of the oven, stir in the can of chopped tomatoes, and return to the oven for 10 minutes or so.
7. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain.
8. When the chopped veggies and tomatoes are bubbling and slightly reduced, remove the dish from the oven and add the drained pasta, then mix until combined.
9. Serve in warmed bowls with grated parmesan cheese, and more fresh extra virgin olive oil for drizzling.

Possible substitutions and additions:
– Use whatever vegetables are available, and vary the quantities depending on your needs.
– Try fresh tomatoes instead of canned.
– Substitute wholewheat pasta to increase the fibre content.
– Use different herbs and spices to mix things up a bit. Mediterranean herbs are great, and paprika and cayenne pepper add a little heat.
– A few capers provides a touch of sharpness, add with the tomatoes.

Other tips:
– This can be made in advance, put in a baking dish, and baked later on. Sprinkle with grated cheese and breadcrumbs to make the top crispy.
– Divide into portions and freeze for a quick single serve meal. I often take this to work and reheat in the microwave for lunch.
– Cooking times vary a bit depending on the size of your veggie chunks, and whether they’re in a single layer in the baking dish!