As with my Fall Weeknight Pasta and Winter Weeknight Pasta recipes, so too does this variation represent the way I like to cook on busy spring weeknights: quickly, without frills, and with just enough heat to soften the bite of winter. It’s not that I need dinner the second I come home from work; it’s that I don’t have the mental wherewithal to read, let alone abide by, a recipe from start to finish. So I riff.
I chop up a few vegetables (here, red onion for savoriness, asparagus for heartiness, radishes for a touch of bitterness, and frozen peas, i.e. little bursts of joy). This medley of spring produce meets a small nub of one big-flavored protein (I’ve used bacon here, though you could swap that out with loose ground sausage, pancetta, or nothing); I toss all of that in some olive oil, and let it roast in the oven as I wash up and feed my dog.
While I appreciate the vast expanse of a half sheet—more room for the vegetables to make contact with the hot pan means better caramelization—I typically go with the compact quarter sheet because it's smaller, cuter, and easier to clean. Regardless of your vessel choice, use whatever vegetables you like or have lying around, and leave behind what you don’t. I especially love the way radishes blush into an even more vibrant magenta once roasted, and how beautiful they look against the barely cooked (still crisp) green asparagus and peas. That color combo always reminds me of Kermit and Miss Piggy. 🐸🐷 —Eric Kim
2 to 4
thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
medium red onion (about 8 ounces), thickly sliced into half-moons
radishes, trimmed and cleaned, halved if large
pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
frozen peas (about 1 cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
dried thyme (optional)
sherry vinegar (white balsamic would taste great, too)
Heat the oven to 400°F. In a quarter sheet pan, toss the bacon and onion with olive oil and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bacon has crisped a bit and rendered some of its fat.
To the pan, add the radishes, asparagus, and peas, season with salt, pepper, and dried thyme, and toss with a spoon or spatula. Return the pan to the oven for 15 more minutes.
In the last 10 or so minutes of the vegetables’ cook time, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the cavatappi according to package instructions. Drain and return to the pot.
Stir the vinegar into the roasted vegetables and transfer to the pot with the cooked pasta. Add as much cheese as you’d like (the more you add, the meltier and more comforting the final dish will be), toss, and serve.
Eric Kim is a senior editor at Food52, where his solo dining column, Table for One, runs Friday mornings. Formerly the managing editor at Food Network and a PhD candidate in literature at Columbia University, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.