parsnip pasta

bob has been a Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper subscriber for 3 decades, trying to support the only watchdogs keeping tabs on our corrupt city and state as the paper itself steadily declines with the rise of electronic media. So reading the NYTimes did not occur to him, not having much time even for the Inquirer, though the latter is now a shadow of its former self requiring less and less time to blow through. However, Villanova University has a free weekday newspaper service for its community with donated papers from The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the NYTimes and the Inquirer, media institutions hoping to hook student readers or perhaps to reach more eyes with their advertising. The conservative WSJ is abundantly plentiful in multiple locations on campus, but the slightly less conservative NYTimes appears only to be available in one spot, which bob passed by chance one day looking for his annual Nova Fitness Health interview destination, so he picked it up and brought it back to ani at home who had more time on her hands teaching only one chem lab per week that semester. It clicked and ani asked for daily delivery, and bob was happy to trek across campus each day to grab one for his partner. Wednesdays is the NYTimes food section day, and as the paper of choice for the "liberal" wing of the ruling class, it can offer better stuff than our struggling Inky, as we call it.  Including better food stuff.

Our first free NYTimes food section really caught our attention with a terrific article on Lidia's Marinara sauce calling attention to her latest cookbook, another article on garlicky scallops, and then this parsnip pasta. bob insisted on buying 6 scallops at Whole Foods to try out the scallops (ouch, 12 bucks!), while Ani prepped and pre-roasted the parnips for the pasta recipe. bob was slightly skeptical. Parsnips are one of those veggies that are found in every supermarket, but never seemed to call his name "bob, buy me!" An additive for mashed potatoes maybe, but as the star ingredient in a pasta sauce, not really. Fortunately they had spoken to ani that week, so they were already on hand. It is important to try new things that before hand might seem unnatural. This one is a perfect example, delivering a delightful surprise. Somehow the combination with the parsnips gives the dish an unusually different flavor that we really liked. bob suggested using pancetta instead of bacon---the latter comes in quantities way too large for this application and in bob's mind has the reputation as a bad boy of the food world, gratuitous fat so to speak. Pancetta makes this more authentic Italian in spirit too.

We chose whole wheat farfalle for the pasta shape, in spite of the fact that friends had recently warned us of the deadly health effects of gluten, attacks the brain they say, and carbs are bad. How can we give up the foundation of our entire home cook cuisine: pasta, rice, grains, carbs? Maybe we are doomed, but so be it.

If you like us are still addicted to the foods of modern civilized man not available to our hunter gatherer ancestors, give this one a try. Cream is not on the paleo list of good fats either, so chowing down this combination is really living dangerously. At least parsnips are on the approved list. Small consolation.


3 medium parsnips (3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
Kosher salt and black pepper, as needed
1/2 pound dried campanelle or farfalle pasta [orecchiette?]
1/4 pound bacon, diced [we used 3 oz pancetta]
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
3/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley


  1. Heat the oven to 400�. Prep the parsnips and toss with oil, salt and pepper, then roast on a shallow nonstick pan, tossing occasionally, okay, at least once, until the little cubes are golden., say 25 minutes. Prep the leeks and fresh parsley.
  2. Meanwhile, calculating the time to reach the boiling and cook the pasta according to the minimum number of minutes on the package, minus one, so that it is real al dente, start the salted pasta water boiling and "butta la pasta" (toss in the pasta), cook and drain. Reserve some pasta water in case you need to loosen up the sauce a bit later.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet that will accomodate the pasta later, brown the bacon (pancetta) on medium high heat until crisp (until softened), about 5 minutes, then transfer to a paper towel on a plate to drain excess fat. [Bad fat!?] Discard all but 1 T fat from the pan (pancetta sheds less fat).
  4. Return the pan to the heat and saut� the leeks in the fat (if necessary add some olive oil for the pancetta variation) about 5 minutes until softened.
  5. Stir in the heavy cream and cooked bacon (pancetta) and simmer 2 to 3 minutes until the cream is slightly thickened.
  6. Stir in the pasta, parsnips and cheese and simmer till heated through and the cheese is melted, then remove from the heat.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, toss with parsley.
  8. Serve drizzled with olive oil and plenty of black pepper on each serving, we like a bit of extra cheese too.


  1. NYTimes January 2014: Mutually Beneficial to Pasta and Parsnip by Melissa Clark [article with video; recipe].
  2. NYTimes, ditto, Sea scallops, the bare minimum by David Tanis. Simple garlicky scallops.
  3. "Grain brain", as in "this is your brain on grain". The great gluten menace of the 21st century.
  4. The paleo diet: [1]
  5. Parsnips and paleo? [smashed veggies?]
  6. bob asked the nutrition consulant at his health interview about gluten. She said "don't worry", keep doing what you are doing.
  7. Illustrations available.
parsnippasta.htm: 6-feb-2014 [what, ME cook? � 1984 dr bob enterprises]