When in Rome…

You know the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”? It means to respect the beliefs and practices of a local culture. I am always reminded as I travel that other countries do things quite differently than we do in America. I like to challenge myself to try to embrace and experience the culture of countries I am lucky enough to visit. I like experiencing the hustle bustle of big cities, but my true passion is visiting the small little villages that give a true, authentic glimpse into the every day life of the local residents.

When I was in Italy last month I ate at an amazing little restaurant in the small village of San Gusme called La Porta del Chianti. Chef Agostino brought us in and hand-selected an assortment of his favorite creations to serve to us for lunch. He brought out the most fabulous vegetable bolognese and I came home determined to recreate it! Mine may not be quite as delicious as Chef Agostino’s creation in Italy, but using locally grown fresh produce, it will run his a close second!

What a perfect time of year to celebrate all the fresh produce and herbs grown locally! I love going out to the garden every evening to see what needs to be harvested! Right now I am covered up with zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, and green beans! For the things I don’t grow, I have a friend, Nowlin, at Rising Kale Farms who keeps me stocked with eggplant and so much more!

If you don’t have a garden, farmer’s markets are loaded with veggies right now. Make it a point this weekend to visit one near you! Fresh produce is a fantastically delicious way to get vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that you can’t get any other way. I challenge you to look every day for ways to eat more veggies! You are guaranteed to LOVE the energy and good health that will come your way!

Vegetarian Bolognese

Vegetarian Bolognese

2 cups whole grain penne pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

½ teaspoon each fresh ground black pepper and salt

4 cups eggplant (cut into 1-inch cubes)

3 carrots, sliced

1 medium zucchini, cut into ¼ inch slices

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ cup red wine

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

¼ cup mascarpone cheese

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Optional: 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  1. In large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Stir in onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook over low heat until transparent. Stir in eggplant, carrots, zucchini and garlic. Stir and cook over low heat until vegetables are crisp tender.
  2. While vegetables are cooking, bring large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Cook to al dente; drain pasta reserving 1 cup of pasta water to add to sauce.
  3. Add tomato paste, red wine, crushed tomatoes and 1 cup pasta water; stir until blended. Cook over low heat until liquid is reduced by about half, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Stir in mascarpone cheese, oregano, basil and cooked pasta. Toss with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Makes 6 servings.


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