Penne Pasta with Lemon Infused Vegetables and Ricotta Salata

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound penne pasta
1 gallon water
2 tablespoons salt
4-6 ounces virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 lb. Shiitake mushrooms, quartered
1 cup red peppers, diced
1 pound broccoli, florets
1 each large fennel, cut into strips
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 lb. ricotta salata cheese

Parcook the broccoli and fennel by boiling for 3-4 minutes in salted water, drain and reserve. To cook the pasta, bring the salt and water to a boil. Add the pasta and stir frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Cook until the pasta is almost tender, approximately 8-10 minutes. Drain and reserve some of the cooking liquid.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and sauté the garlic, lemon zest, and the red pepper flakes in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes, being very careful not to brown the garlic. Add the red peppers and Shiitakes and continue to cook until the mushrooms are tender.

Add the cooked broccoli, fennel and fresh thyme and continue to cook without browning. Add the cooked pasta, half of the parsley and season with salt and pepper. If the pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid.

Portion the pasta into heated bowls and garnish the tops with grated ricotta salata and the chopped parsley.

Note: Ricotta salata is a dry salted ricotta cheese that has a sharp, almost tangy flavor; it is available in most Italian grocery stores.

This is a vegetarian dish with large pieces of Shiitake mushrooms that help give this dish a hearty, meaty flavor.