Hot Pasta Salad

This is a great recipe year-round, because it's flexible about what veggies you can put in it. It's simple to make and takes very little time. Here goes:

For two people you need:
1 tomato
1 leek (1 thing of leeks?)
2 in season veggies (I used 1 zucchini and a couple handfuls of mushrooms)
some goat cheese
coarse salt
enough pasta for two people (you want smallish pasta like macaroni or fusili)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 pot for pasta
1 cast-iron frying pan

You want to time things so that the pasta is ready just as the veggies are cooked. When you should start the pasta water depends on the size of your pot, the amount of water you're using, and which veggies you chose. I used a large saucepan, 2/3 full of water, and I started it just after I turned the heat on under the oil.

Pour your oil into the frying pan and turn the heat on low-medium. Slice all the white part of the leek into circles and toss it into the pan. You want the heat low enough that the leeks will turn transparent and sweet, not brown, even if you ignore them for a few minutes.
While the leeks are cooking, chop the other veggies into bite-sized pieces, stopping occasionally to flip the leek circles.
When the leeks are sufficiently done that all your veggies will finish at the same time, add the other veggies. Chop your tomato into bite sized pieces and reserve it. Saute all of the stuff in your pan, adding the pasta to the water when appropriate, until it's all cooked. If you've timed things right, the pasta should be done at approximately the same time.

Drain the pasta, but don't shake out too much of the water, and then add it to the frying pan. Dump the tomato on top, and add a sprinkle of course salt. Stir the whole mess around just until the salt is all dissolved, then turn the heat way down. (If you're using an electric stove, now would be a good time to turn the burner off, but leave the pan on the burner.) Let it sit in the pan for the time it takes you to crumble half the desired amounts of goat cheese into the bowls. Divide the pasta and veggies between the bowls, crumble the rest of the cheese on top, and stir to melt the cheese.

The noodles and veggies need to be quite hot to properly melt the cheese, so this is a dish you want to serve as soon as it is done.

A word on choosing your veggies:
Since salt is the only seasoning in this, you want to choose vegetables that can really hold their own, but are light enough not to bog down the dish, which is supposed to be light. I don't recommend green peppers, which are kind of blah when cooked, or any kind of fall or winter squash, which will overpower the dish in flavour, and be too heavy in texture. If you cook them only lightly, red, orange, or yellow peppers would probably be okay. I find mushrooms a really good choice because their juices tend to coat everything, which ensures that all your pasta will have some flavour, provided you stir sufficiently. To replace the zucchini, you can use asparagus, spinach, or pretty much any brassica (broccoli, cauliflower, red or green cabbage). Just make sure, if you use cauliflower especially, that it's fully cooked but not overdone. You can also use carrots, but if you do you'll want to put them in before the leeks. Carrots take a damn long time to cook.

cross-posted at Knife-Wielding Feminists.

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