My Great Grandma immigrated to America from Potenza, Basilicata, Italy at the beginning of the 20th century. She used to make this dish, as did my Grandma and my mother. Now I have inherited the recipe, and I have made it mine with a few modifications. I have made many versions of roasted vegetables, and my new trick is to roast them in a pre-heated cast iron pan, which gives them an extra crispy crust. What makes this more interesting than ordinary roasted vegetables, to my mind, is the addition of the cheese/breadcrumb/olive oil/spices topping. It emerges from the oven, golden and crunchy, and gives the vegetables a lovely texture and flavor. This side dish is divine with any protein, but I have taken to making it for holiday dinners, as an accompaniment to prime rib and roasted turkey, since my husband is not a fan of mashed potatoes. This recipe is also easy to put together and very versatile. I have written it, with the ingredients I most often use, but it is also yummy with other vegetables (small baby turnips are a good addition as are baby beets -- use golden or Chioggia beets if you can find them). —cookinginvictoria
4 but can be easily doubled
large red onions or 1 large Vidalia onion, each halved and cut into 2-inch chunks (the onion should yield about 6-8 pieces)
small potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold), each washed, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
small sweet potatoes, each washed and peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
bell peppers (ideally different colors: red, yellow and orange), seeded and sliced into broad pieces (2-3 inches wide is good)
carrots, each washed and peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
small fennel bulb, trimmed (slice off bottom and stalks and cut the bulb into 2-inch chunks)
medium garlic bulb, separated but not peeled
plus 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, plus a little more to grease the pan, divided
coarse bread crumbs, ideally made from an Italian artisan loaf, such as Ciabatta. Make fresh crumbs then dry overnight on a baking sheet or heat in a 325 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Panko crumbs will also work as a time-saving substitute.
Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
finely chopped fresh Italian herbs (I usually do a mix of basil, parsley, rosemary, and oregano) or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried herbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper)
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large cast iron skillet (or you can use a roasting pan, if you are making a large amount), add small amount of olive oil (roughly a few teaspoonss) to bottom of pan and with fingers or pastry brush, rub oil over bottom surface of skillet. Stick skillet in cast iron pan to preheat, about 8 minutes.
In large bowl, add vegetables (onions through garlic). Drizzle 1/4 cup oil onto vegetables and mix with your hands or tongs, until all vegetables are coated with oil. Add salt and pepper, and mix again.
Take skillet out of oven, and add vegetables to pan, and put in oven. Roast for about 20 minutes.
In small bowl, add topping ingredients (bread crumbs, through red pepper flakes, if using). Drizzle remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil onto breadcrumb mixture. Stir until combined.
Take roasting pan out of oven and add bread crumb mixture to vegetables. Mix together using a gentle hand. You want at least 1/2 of the bread crumbs as a topping for the vegetables, but you also want some of the bread crumb mixture to get crunchy on the bottom of the pan. Put back in oven and continue roasting. Vegetables are done when they can be easily pierced with a sharp knife or skewer and the breadcrumb topping looks golden and caramelized. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Mangia!
In 2009, after living more than twenty years in NYC, my husband, young daughter and I packed up our lives and embarked on a grand adventure, moving to Victoria, B.C. There are many things that we miss about New York (among them ripe, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh ravioli and New York bagels), but, I have to admit, that living in the Pacific Northwest has been pretty amazing food-wise. Now we have a yard with plum and apple trees, a raspberry and strawberry patch and a Concord grape arbor. I have a vegetable and herb garden, so I can grow at least some of our food. And we have an amazing farmer's market a block from our house.
I love cooking (and eating) seasonally and locally. And it's been very rewarding introducing my daughter to cooking and eating, and teaching her where our food comes from.