In the Kitchen / Ingredients
Hot vegetables showing up outside of salads

(Asparagus is great grilled
and used in pasta and on pizza.)

By Pasquale "Pat" Bruno Jr.
Photos by Josh Keown

More and more I am seeing a bumper crop of vegetables showing up on restaurant menus –– and I am not talking salads here. From asparagus to zucchini and everything in between (arugula is the hottest green being used as a pizza topping right now), vegetables of every shape and color have become the go-to ingredients that add pizzazz to pizzas (and pumps up that pasta dish to pleasing perfection).

(Broccoli rabe –– also known as rapini –– is a distant cousin to the cabbage and turnip. )

I am seeing rapini (also known as broccoli rabe) and radicchio being used in pasta dishes with delicious effect. as simple as blanching the rapini until it is tender, followed by a quick sauté olive oil and garlic. That’s the prep. toss the cooked and drained pasta (short pasta such as penne, ziti orrecchiette or rigatoni) into the rapini, combine serve.

(This might look like red cabbage, but it’s actually radicchio. This colorful offering can be used in salads, but we have a recipe using it on pizza. )

Another vegetable that works in pasta dishes and as a pizza topping is asparagus. Trim and clean the asparagus, then toss brush with olive oil. Grill the aparagus roast it in the oven). Now cut the spears into 1-inch pieces. Use as is for a pizza topping or toss with cooked pasta.

Since the dog days of August are upon us, here’s a great dish to consider for a late summer special now through the end of September. I make this dish more than a few times during late summer when I have access to fresh, dead-ripe tomatoes and arugula. The dish comes out more or less like a pasta salad. Served with crusty Italian bread, it becomes an entree salad.

(Arugula has a tendency to be gritty, so rinse well before using. )

After you check out my fresh tomatoes and arugula recipe, I have a couple more for you to try as well.

(For the best flavor, choose smaller zucchini. It is younger and boasts more flavor. )

Rigatoni with Fresh Tomatoes and Arugula
Yield: 4-6 servings
(scale up in direct proportion)

3⁄4 pound rigatoni, cooked until al dente, drained, cooled slightly
3⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
½ cup chopped red onion
8 ripe Roma tomatoes (about 3 pounds), cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups, tightly packed chopped arugula
1 cup grated Parmesan

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar and olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, tomatoes and arugula, then toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooked pasta to the bowl. Toss to combine. Sprinkle on the Parmesan. Toss again. Divide into serving portions.

Arugula, Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella Pizza
Yield: One 14-inch pizza
(scale up in direct proportion)

1 14-inch pizza shell
2 cups fresh arugula leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 very thin slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces), shredded
6 ounces pizza sauce
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced or cubed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Toss the arugula with the olive oil and prosciutto. Set aside. Spread the pizza sauce over the pizza crust. Put the fresh mozzarella over the sauce, spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the mozzarella. Bake the pizza until the crust is brown and the cheese has melted. Let the pizza cool for a few minutes, then slice. Just before sending the pizza out, arrange the arugula/prosciutto mixture over the top.

Pizza with Sauteéd Radicchio
Yield: One14-inch pizza
(scale up in direct proportion)
1 14-inch pizza shell
1⁄4 cup olive oil
5 cups coarsely chopped radicchio*
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella

In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the chopped radicchio and the garlic. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes or until the radicchio is soft and wilted. Remove from heat. Set aside. Spread the sauteéd radicchio evenly over the pizza crust. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the radicchio. Bake. ❖

You can substitute escarole for the radicchio if the cost of the radicchio is too high. ❖

Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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