Rigatoni Al Forno with Roasted Asparagus & Onions

Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven
Preparation time: 30 minutes (10 minutes of work)
Yield: 4 to 5 servings

"Al Forno" means "oven-baked," and that's one of the wonderful features of this dish: the vegetables are cooked in a roasting pan right in the oven, and cooked pasta gets added directly to the same pan. Cover, return it to the oven, and then bring it directly to the table when it's done. This is a great make-after-work dish, and the cleanup is minimal.

* To make this for a crowd, bake two pans simultaneously. (It takes very little extra work to double the yield.)

* The rigatoni can be cooked a day or two in advance, lightly oiled, and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator – or you can boil it while you roast the vegetables.

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped onion (in large chunks)
1 pound rigatoni or penne
1 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more, to taste)
3 to 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (plus extra for the top)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Extra balsamic vinegar or Balsamic Drizzle (recipe follows), optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put up a large potful of salted water to
  2. Pour the oil into a 9 X 13-inch baking pan (preferably glass). Break up the onion pieces with your hands, add them to the oil, and stir them around a little so they get coated. Place the uncovered pan in the oven.
  3. Meanwhile, when the water reaches a rapid boil, add the pasta and let it begin cooking while you continue roasting the vegetables.
  4. After the onions have been in the oven for about 5 minutes, stir in the asparagus and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread everything out in a single layer, return the pan to the oven, and roast for 5 minutes longer.
  5. Drain the pasta as soon as it is al dente, and stir it into the panful of onions and asparagus. Add the vinegar, black pepper, and parmesan, and mix well. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top, and return to the oven.
  6. Bake uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are brown and crisp. Serve hot, and pass around the pepper mill, extra parmesan, and a cruet of additional balsamic vinegar-or a bowlful of Balsamic Drizzle, if desired.

Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven
Preparation time: 30 minutes (1 minute of work)
Yield: _ cup (easily multiplied)

Balsamic vinegar, that musty, dark, aged-in-wood variety many of us have fallen in love with, makes a wonderful syrup when cooked down to about half its volume. You can drizzle this amazing stuff over more foods than you'd ever imagine‹everything from roasted vegetables and bean soups to potato dishes and Pizzettas. It's even great on pancakes, fruit, and frozen desserts. This might just be the most versatile one-ingredient sauce ever. (Added bonus: it's fat-free.)

* You don't need to use an expensive brand of vinegar for this recipe. In fact, the ordinary, more moderately priced supermarket varieties work the best.

* Store Balsamic Drizzle in a covered container in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Theoretically, it will keep forever, but undoubtedly you will use it up sooner than that.

1 cup balsamic vinegar
  1. Place the vinegar in a small saucepan and heat to boiling. (You might want to open your kitchen windows-- this gives off strong fumes!)
  2. Turn the heat way down, and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the vinegar is reduced in volume by more than half.
  3. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly, and store indefinitely at room temperature. NOTE: If it becomes too thick as it sits around, you can loosen it up by zapping it briefly in a microwave.
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