Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools initiative, Princeton University chefs are working with the city’s local school district, Princeton Regional Schools, operated by Chartwells, to create a school lunch with local flavor. The local emphasis has long been a focus of the university’s dining department.
One example: together, chefs from both organizations created Orechiette Locale, a vibrant pasta dish with a vegetable-heavy sauce. It fits school meal requirements and makes use of as much local produce as possible. In this case, “In January, we asked, ‘what local vegetables do we have in the Northeast?’” says Princeton Dining Services Director Stu Orefice. The university already was buying product from a New Jersey farm that freezes some of its annual pea harvest, and another local farm cans its own tomatoes.
When it was menued, the local ingredient components were highlighted in the day’s menu. The same recipe could be used by other K-12 operations to incorporate peas, tomatoes, or just about any vegetable that’s available locally into a similar dish.
“The students enjoyed the meal, and I think the teachers did even more,” Orefice says.
Additional future collaboration is planned between the chefs Princeton University Dining Services and Princeton Regional Schools, Orefice says.
Yield: 60 (6 oz. portion) servings
3 ¼ lbs. orecchiette (“little ears”) pasta
½ lb. local white onions, minced
½ lb. local leeks, sliced
1 bunch basil, sliced
1 bunch Italian parsley, coarse chop
3 lbs. diced tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
5 cloves local garlic
¾ lbs. local shiitake mushrooms
¾ lbs. local crimini mushrooms
½ lb. local white mushrooms
2 lbs. local peas (frozen or fresh)
1.5 qt. vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. sea salt
2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1. Boil, drain, shock pasta separately.
2. Heat oil and sweat onions and leeks until fragrant.
3. Add mushrooms and sauté for about 1 minute.
4. Add peas, pasta, tomatoes, stock; simmer until heated throughout. Toss in fresh herbs just before service. (Optional: serve fresh grated cheese on the side.)