Fresh Ideas: Squash, zucchini tortellini

When it comes to pasta, I often rely on the familiar spaghetti, fettuccini, macaroni and ravioli dishes that are easy to make and dress up nicely with a good homemade sauce.

Simply follow the package’s cooking directions for a bowl of comfort food any night of the week. With our seasonal cold snaps and holiday baking demands, pasta has recently become my go-to dinner when the creativity necessary for a four-course meal just happens to elude me.

But, pasta isn’t necessarily “fresh” nor is the concept of pasta as a comfort food a terribly new idea. Plenty of vegetables grow beautifully this time of year (beets, broccoli and hardy greens), but it seems increasingly difficult to bring freshness to my everyday table.

Fortunately, greens don’t have to come in the form of salads or celery sticks, as one of the perks of living in southern Louisiana is the availability of freshly grown produce all year round. Granted, many of my favorite vegetables have a limited growing season — English peas, for example, grow best in April and May — but you can still find healthy summer vegetables like squash and zucchini at our local markets.

If you’re one of the many people I know who are prone to picking up those premade tortellini we see in the grocery store, then I’m certain you’ll love this dish. It takes advantage of simple premade pasta with the addition of olive oil, squash, zucchini and Parmesan cheese in a deceivingly elegant way that’s well … incredibly easy.

For this recipe, I’ve suggested the Buitoni brand’s premade tortellini as it’s not just tasty, but also widely available.

In fact, I know a few local restaurants that order these exact ones for their pasta menus. But, any good quality premade tortellini will do.

The key, of course, is to keep the dish simple and to include fresh ingredients like squash and zucchini (or broccoli or spinach, so long as it’s fresh) that can bring life to the dish.

Helana Brigman is a food writer, photographer and cookbook author. She can be reached with daily recipes at http://clearlydeliciousfoodblog.com or via email at hbrigm1@tigers.lsu.edu.