One of my favorite things to do in Big Sur is visiting Henry Miller Library and just wandering around the property. The place is filled with such a strong sense of history and it’s surrounded by the redwoods. We admired the books, the flowers and the trees.
Mid-afternoon, we headed back up the two mile dirt road to our beautiful rental house, where a relaxing afternoon of drinking wine and talking in the backyard ensued.
Jeana had the really sweet idea to take a portrait of each of us to remember the trip. While Jeana started shooting, I started bringing a big pot of water to a boil. I wanted to make something very delicious for Joanna’s birthday dinner, as she had made a special request for Raspberry Cheesecake that I failed to deliver for myriad technical reasons. I settled on a Roasted Vegetable Pasta Bake (recipe below), which I have been making for years and modifying along the way. I served it with a simple arugula salad, dressed with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Having your picture taken by Jeana is really an amazing experience, especially when you’re roaming around the mountains through the fog. You can see the final portraits here. Meanwhile, I was having fun in the kitchen.
Despite the lack of Raspberry Cheesecake, I think the birthday girl was pleased. We tore through the pasta, prompting one diner (who shall remain nameless) to say, “I shouldn’t have had sevenths.”
And because this trip was all about embracing the love and coziness, we spent the remainder of the evening watching and rigorously discussing It’s Complicated. Yep, we totally went for it.
Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables
(Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis)
2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.
In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.
HBT Notes: I always add roasted garlic to this and have used every vegetable imaginable. Just use whatever is fresh and make sure that you do not leave out the smoked mozzarella. It’s the ingredient that takes this dish over the top.