Ask a home cook what to do when that crisper full of vegetables threatens to become a slimy pile of mush, and you’ll hear all kinds of suggestions: Pickle! Preserve! Freeze! Soup! Those are lovely ideas, but my go-to is roasting.
A short(ish) session in a hot oven works magic on otherwise unappealing produce: It caramelizes the sugars in food—even food that’s not especially sweet, like zucchini or cauliflower—mellowing the flavor and deepening it at the same time. It adds lovely crispy bits to broccoli. It melts the inside of eggplant into a luxurious, smoky puddle.
The versatility of roasted vegetables astounds me. Toss with pasta for a luscious play on primavera. Wrap some in a piecrust and you’ve got roasted vegetable crostata. Top store-bought pizza dough for a pie that’s more sophisticated than takeout. Layer it with noodles and cheese to make lasagna that’s anything but ordinary. Add to soup for a subtly different flavor. Last night I used the mixture you see above for a quick weeknight barley salad; watch for the recipe next week.
And those are just ideas for roasted mixed vegetables. If I were to link to all the single-veg recipes on this site, you’d get sick of clicking. Tomatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, butternut squash, sweet potato… Pretty much any vegetable you can think of benefits from a trip to the hot box. And they all use the same basic technique:
Whatever vegetable you have, cut into uniform pieces. They might be small cubes, batons, halves, even left whole. Keep each type of veg separate, since cooking times will vary.
Olive oil (I’d start with 1 tablespoon per 2 cups of vegs, but use your judgment)
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease or line enough rimmed baking sheets to accommodate the vegetables.
- Toss the vegetables with the olive oil plus salt and pepper to taste. Spread the vegetables on the baking sheets—if you’re cooking more than one type at once, group them by density/size (root vegetables on one sheet, juicy items like zucchini on another). Do not crowd the pans or you’ll steam the food rather than roast it—you must leave room for air to circulate.
- Roast for 15 minutes, then remove pans and stir/flip the vegs and return to the oven. If they’re already browning, odds are you’ll need just 10 more minutes. If they’re softened but not colored, give them 15 or more—this will depend on both the density of the vegetable and the size of the pieces. (Obvs, smaller cooks faster!)
- When vegetables are both soft and browned, remove from oven and serve.
MAKE BABY FOOD: Roasted vegetables are faaabulous for babies—that soft texture is just perfect. Harry especially liked roasted sweet potato, cut into steak-fry shapes.
What’s your favorite way to use roasted vegetables?