Alex Guarnaschelli believes that home cooks should use these ingredients more

Alex Guarnaschelli for ZENB pasta, photo provided Johnny Miller for ZENB Pasta
Alex Guarnaschelli for ZENB pasta, photo provided Johnny Miller for ZENB Pasta /

While home cooks watch Alex Guarnaschelli on Food Network and read her many cookbooks, many people are looking for cooking secrets, helpful tips and any little tidbit to make their recipes better. Although not everyone will be an Iron Chef, advice from a celebrated chef is reason to listen. When Chef Guarnaschelli recommends learning to cook with these root vegetables, home cooks need to listen.

Recently, FoodSided spoke with Chef Alex Guarnaschelli as part of her partnership with ZENB Pasta. As many people are looking for a better tasting plant-based pasta, Chef Guarnaschelli explained that she appreciates the texture of this plant-based pasta. That aspect lends itself to her creative recipes.

While she can find the perfect balance of flavors, textures and ingredients, Chef Guarnaschelli was very clear about particular root vegetables that home cooks need to learn to appreciate. Sometimes a few humble ingredients are just the components that a recipe needs.

Alex Guarnashchelli is cooking with these root vegetables, are you?

When asked which recipe a young chef should try to master, she quickly responded with her Stovetop ZENB Penne with Winter Vegetables. The winter vegetables, actually the root vegetables of rutabaga, and turnips, are the star of the plate.

As Chef Guarnaschelli stated, rutabaga and turnips are always available at a grocery store. She said that they might not be the “sexy” vegetables like the seasonal asparagus, but they need to be in the grocery list. She mentioned that they are cost effective. Although those root vegetables might not always be in the shopping cart on Supermarket Stakeout, but maybe they should be.

Her advice was clear. Most home cooks need to have some go-do recipes in their repertoire. While that “grumpy rutabaga” might not be forefront in home cooks minds, it should be. The versatility of rutabaga or turnips is great. Once a home cook learns to appreciate them, they can build confidence in the kitchen and keep cooking.

With a new appreciation for root vegetables, here is a special recipe from Chef Alex Guarnaschelli as part of her partnership with ZENB pasta.

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli Stovetop ZENB Penne with Winter Vegetables

  • 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12-15 sage leaves, stemmed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large turnip, peeled & cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 small head rutabaga, peeled & cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 large carrot, peeled & cut into 1⁄4 inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 box ZENB Penne Pasta
  • 2/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4

  1. Cook the sage leaves: Heat large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. When it begins to smoke lightly, shut off the heat and add the sage leaves. Stir them to coat with the oil and cook, stirring constantly, until the sage pales slightly in color and gets slightly crisp, 2-3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the leaves. Season them with salt and allow them to cool.
  2. Cook the vegetables: In the same pan, add the turnip and rutabaga. Season the mixture with salt and the red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the vegetables start to soften and brown slightly, 5-8 minutes.
  3. Finish the vegetables: Add 1⁄2 cup water and the carrots and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender when pierced with the tip of a small knife, 8-10 additional minutes. Sprinkle with the red wine vinegar. Taste for seasoning.
  4. The pasta: In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add a generous amount of salt. The pasta water should taste like sea water. Add the ZENB Penne to the pot and stir so it doesn’t stick to the bottom as it cooks. Cook the pasta until “al dente”, chewy but not hard or raw tasting, 6-8 minutes, and drain in a colander. Reserve 1⁄2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid in case.
  5. The dish: In the pot where you cooked the pasta, toss the sauce with the hot pasta and stir in the cheese. Taste for seasoning. Add some of the pasta water if the sauce is too thick or dry. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the sage leaves and a touch more cheese, if desired.

This recipe shows how the root vegetables can have various textures based on how long the vegetables are cooked. That concept is part of the reason why the dish is so satisfying.

Also, other root vegetables, like a radish or celery root, can be used too. It shows the adaptability of the recipe.

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Are you ready to push cooking with ingredients? Isn’t it time to discover some root vegetables?