Mushy vegetables get no culinary respect. But, when it comes to finding a veggie's sweet spot, nothing does it like cooking it almost to death. And soft, long-cooked vegetables make the perfect match with freshly cooked pasta.
When I first tried to cook Brussels sprouts, I couldn't understand how anyone could get any flavor out of them. I'd roast the little suckers until they were technically cooked, but still they were mediocre and kind of bitter tasting. Then one day I forgot about them in the oven. Blackened, soft, and ugly, I was ready to throw them away. But then I tasted one. Sweet, melt-in-your-mouth veggie candy. I've never cooked them any other way since.
Lesley Porcelli at Saveur knows the secret of mushy vegetables. Her ode to the somewhat forbidden texture puts the common practice of cooking vegetables so they remain crisp and maintain their color up against the way her grandmother, and many grandmothers before her, cooked vegetables long past this point. The trick is cooking vegetables until they release their sweetness.
The soft, sweet flavors of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, broccoli rabe, and many others couldn't be a better match for pasta. Already deeply rich, they create their own sauce. Try tossing your roasted veggies with hot pasta, a little olive oil, and a dusting of Parmesan and you'll start praising mushy vegetables too.
(Images: Todd Coleman/Saveur)