Hopefully everyone reading this article is in the same position I am — garden vegetables are ripening quickly and harvesting occurs every couple days. This is the time of year to enjoy all those things that don’t preserve well for winter: summer squash, basil, fresh tomatoes. This week’s recipe is adapted from a pasta dish from America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve added 0.75 lb. ground beef to the recipe and kept the pasta amount the same to feed 4 heartily. (You’d be surprised how filling this dish is for being fairly low calorie.) Serve along with a salad or garlic bread if desired.

Rotini with Garden Vegetable Sauce and Ground Beef


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 5 minced garlic cloves (Be sure to really mince the garlic finely. More pungent garlicky flavor is released the more garlic is chopped.)
  • 3/4 c. chicken broth (Homemade is best here, obviously.)
  • 1 zucchini or yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly. (I prefer to take a spoon and scoop out some of the seed/spongy bits to keep the pasta from being watered down.)
  • 1-2 large carrots, shredded or sliced thin to preference
  • 3 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved. (See note regarding the use of other tomatoes.)
  • 1 bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, then diced
  • 1.5 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1.5 oz. greens, such as arugula, carrot greens, or spinach
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • Parmesan cheese for serving
  • 0.75 -1 lb. ground beef
  • 4 oz. (1.5 c.) rotini or similar shaped short pasta


  • 12 in. skillet
  • 10 in. skillet
  • pot for cooking pasta
  • medium bowl


  1. On one burner, begin browning your ground beef on medium heat in the 10″ skillet.
  2. On another burner, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in the 12″ skillet at medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the zucchini and cook until browned lightly, stirring often.
  3. Stir the tomatoes into the zucchini and cook lightly, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the tomato-zucchini mixture to the medium bowl.
  4. Add another tbsp. olive oil to the now empty 12″ skillet. (Be sure you’re keeping an eye on your browning ground beef. When the ground beef is browned, turn off the heat to the 10″ skillet and set the ground beef aside.)
  5. Add the carrot, onion, bell pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt to the 12″ skillet and cook the vegetables until softened, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste begin to slightly brown, about 1 minute.
  7. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  8. Stir in the chicken broth, scraping up browned bits.
  9. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat.
  11. Meanwhile, bring 3 qt. water to boil in your pot. (I suggest starting the water to boil right after you’ve transferred the tomato-zucchini mixture to the bowl. Then the water should be boiling right as the sauce is simmering or receiving the chicken broth.)
  12. When the pasta water is boiling, add the pasta and 1 tbsp. salt (don’t skip this). Cook until al-dente (5-8 minutes).
  13. Reserving 1/2 c. cooking water, drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the zucchini-tomato mixture.
  14. Add to the bowl the following: cooked ground beef, vegetable sauce from the 12″ skillet, chopped basil, greens, and 1 tsp. olive oil
  15. Toss it all to combine, and add the reserved pasta water if needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce. (I rarely need to actually do this.)
  16. Serve the dish with grated Parmesan on top.


I haven’t been growing cherry tomatoes, and I only had the bigger beefsteak and Roma tomatoes ripe at the time. You can use any tomato you like. Simply cut large pieces of tomato, about the size of half a cherry tomato. The amount of tomato you’ll add will depend on what you’ve got on hand. I ended up using 2 medium tomatoes, but you can add more or less to taste. The dish is very flexible.


  • America’s Test Kitchen. Pasta Revolution(2012). ISBN: 978-1-936493-04-3