Tag Archives: Italian

A Warming Winter Dinner: Skillet Gnocchi with Spinach and White Beans

It’s no secret that for the past week or so, the weather in the Bay Area has been pretty crappy. Gloomy, rainy, and really cold! (well, cold for the Bay Area, that is). So a few nights ago I decided to make a really hearty, warming recipe that I found on EatingWell.com – for Skillet Gnocchi. I had never made Gnocchi before so I thought it would be a fun experiment – and it turned out really well!

Tell me that doesn’t make your mouth water 🙂 It was surprisingly easy to make, and didn’t take very long at all. Of course, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly – so my modified recipe is below. You can find the original here. To anyone who’s a “Gnocchi virgin” or hasn’t enjoyed Gnocchi in the past, I’d really encourage you to try this dish! My husband has never enjoyed Gnocchi before – but he loved it. The dish is also really balanced and healthy – tons of fiber and protein from the beans & veggies, balanced with carbs from the reasonable portion of Gnocchi.

The Ingredients

A couple of notes:

  • The original recipe calls for 1 Tbsp of EVOO to fry the gnocchi before you add it to the dish. I just used EVOO cooking spray to pan fry the gnocchi and it worked perfectly! That was one main modification.
  • I also substituted frozen spinach for the chard in the original recipe – mainly to save time & prep work.
  • AND – I found whole wheat gnocchi at Trader Joe’s so I substituted that for the regular gnocchi.
  • I also added 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper and fresh basil to the dish to amp up the spice & flavor.

My ingredients list:

  • EVOO cooking spray
  • 1 tsp EVOO (to pan fry the onions)
  • 1 package whole wheat gnocchi
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 package frozen spinach
  • 1 15oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings added
  • 1 15oz can white beans
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup part skim Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1-2 tsp fresh basil
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Cook the gnocchi in boiling water according to package directions. Drain, cool, set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tsp oil in a large skillet, and add the onion – cook for a few minutes
  3. Add the garlic and water – cover and cook until the onion is soft (4-6 min)
  4. Meanwhile, using EVOO spray, pan fry the gnocchi in a separate skillet until lightly browned
  5. Add the spinach to the skillet with the onion in it, and cook until the spinach defrosts/starts to wilt
  6. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, pepper, basil, crushed red pepper and salt to taste – bring to a simmer
  7. Stir in the gnocchi and sprinkle with the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
  8. Cover and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3-5 min.

Pictures – step by step:

Slicing the onions & pan-frying the gnocchi


How cute do those gnocchi pillows look? Once they were done cooking, I set them aside in a bowl

Meanwhile, the veggies were cooking

Don’t the colors look beautiful? When they were almost done cooking, I added in the gnocchi

And then, the best part – the cheese.

Look at all that melted, gooey cheese. With all the wonderful smells filling our house and the bubbling sauce & cheese in the dish, we couldn’t wait to dig in!

Amazingly satisfying, healthy and delicious. The perfect meal for a cold winter day.

I finished off my meal with a HUGE chunk of Fearless Chocolate – the Hibiscus & Ginger flavor to be exact. To try your own sample of Fearless Chocolate – enter my giveaway here.

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A Tale of Two Lasagnas

Food Bloggers visit other sites quite frequently to support, inspire, comment and learn. A couple months ago, I received a wonderful comment from Sanura of My Life Runs on Food complimenting the style and tone of my blog. I was thrilled to receive her comment, and clicked through to her blog to check it out. What I found was a beautifully written, healthy food blog that seemed really aligned with my philosophy on food. I decided to email her to request a guest post for my site – I thought she’d bring a wonderful and fresh perspective on food and health. After several emails were exchanged, we agreed to collaborate on writing about lasagna. Both of our versions are relatively healthy and they have plenty of vegetables and cheeses. My version is an “Old World” traditional recipe with the classic tomato sauce, and Sanura’s version is a “New World” traditional recipe sans the tomato sauce. To be historically accurate, both tomatoes and squash are ingredients from the “New World.” It’s the techniques and stories that separates our recipes, which makes them endearing and comforting to both of us.

Sanura’s “New World” Traditional Lasagna

The basic traditional lasagna dish we all know consists of pasta, plenty of cheese, and a rich Bolognese sauce. Occasionally, it’ll have a Basil Pesto sauce, too. The richness of the dish makes it the ultimate comfort food we all crave. The ingredients are basically the same, but every household’s technique for preparing the dish varies. The result is usually deliciously satisfying every time it’s served. Who would dare recreate another version with drastically different ingredients? One afternoon, I happened to catch a food show hosted by Tyler Florence. He’s a lucky guy, who travels around the world in search of the origin of classic dishes of popularity. Between Anjali Shah of The Picky Eater: A Healthy Food Blog’s recipe for lasagna, and watching Tyler Florence travel to Italy of which lasagna originates, both provided some inspiration. For a while, I was seriously thinking about breaking from the traditional holiday dishes to making a classic lasagna dish. When I mentioned the idea to the boyfriend, he begins telling me how to make the best lasagna, “It should have at least three types of cheeses…”

“Well, babe…” I thought. Tyler Florence had an Italian guest whose lasagna interpretation was not quite the same as our American classic. His version uses a freshly made basil pesto sauce, layered with freshly made sheets of pasta, blanched green beans and potatoes. Those ingredients on the show demonstrates the time of year the visit took place, in which everyone in the background were relaxing in short sleeves and shorts. My version uses a winter vegetable, acorn squash. I paired it with sauté mushrooms to add more texture. They’re plenty of differences between this freshly made Italian-Inspired and the American version. One, this recipe is not baked. Two, this dish is refreshingly light, but it’s still hearty. Lastly, it’s made sans tomato sauce. It’s a dish best serve at room temperature. With a nice Winter Salad, this Italian-inspired dish is also beautiful as an elegant meal to serve.

The Recipe: Roast Acorn Squash, Sauté Mushrooms, and Basil Pesto Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 Lasagna sheets, cooked and al dente according to the manufacturer’s directions, gently tossed with olive oil
  • Salt and fresh black pepper
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • Basil Pesto Sauce (see recipe below)
  • Roast Acorn Squash (see recipe below)
  • SautĂ© Mushrooms (see recipe below)
  • Good quality olive oil

Directions

  1. Gently take one lasagna sheet and visualize it into three sections forming an “S” curve. That is the structure of this lasagna dish.
  2. Smear 4 tablespoons of Basil Pesto Sauce on a plate.
  3. Lay the first third of it on top of the Basil Pesto Sauce on the plate. The excess two-thirds lasagna pasta will hang over the plate’s edge. Gently smear a tablespoon of Basil Pesto Sauce on top of the first third section of the lasagna pasta. Spoon a couple tablespoons of Roast Acorn Squash on top of the Basil Pesto Sauce that was smeared on the first third section of the lasagna pasta. Sprinkle a little basil on top. Fold second third of the lasagna noodle over the Roast Acorn Squash.
  4. Spoon a tablespoon of the Basil Pesto Sauce on top of the second third section of the lasagna pasta. Lightly smear a couple tablespoons of the sauté mushrooms on top of the pesto sauce. Sprinkle a little basil on top. Fold the last third of the lasagna noodle over the mushrooms.
  5. Spoon more Basil Pesto on top of the lasagna. Garnish with basil leaves, fresh black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Repeat to serve more people or for seconds. Enjoy!

…

Roast Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 Acorn Squash; slice in half horizontally, discard seeds (or toast as a snack), sliced a half inch wide thick
  • Salt and fresh black pepper
  • A dash of crushed red pepper
  • Olive oil
  • A drizzle of red balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove; minced

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven at 400°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easier clean up.
  3. Toss all ingredients together. Place on baking sheet.
  4. Roast squash for at least one hour, or until it is soft.
  5. Remove from the oven. Let cool before handling. Either use your hands or a paring knife to remove and discard the skin. Roughly chop roast acorn flesh.
  6. Place aside for the lasagna.

…

Sauté Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 3 to 5 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small red onion; thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove; minced
  • 1 lb. white button or baby bella mushrooms; cleaned and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup white wine
  • A dash of red balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Over a medium-high temperature, heat olive oil in a large skillet.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the red onions. Sauté until the onions are almost translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, salt and fresh black pepper, and stir for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the mushrooms, wine and a dash of red balsamic vinegar.
  5. When the mushrooms are soft, remove from the pan.
  6. Set aside for the lasagna.

…

Basil Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of Basil Pesto
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup thick Greek yogurt
  • Salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together until fully incorporated.
  2. Set aside for the lasagna.

About Sanura Weathers of MyLifeRunsOnFood.com

Since 2009, Sanura Weathers manages and creates sweet, savory, buttery, green and healthy food-related stories and recipes. With 15 years of combined experience in graphic design, social media, and project management, Sanura has a background of working with marketing, publishing, educational, non-profit, financial, and public relation organizations. Writing and managing MyLifeRunsOnFood.com is a project of passion inspiring people to prepare healthy, well-balanced meals using seasonal and fresh ingredients on a busy schedule. Read more about Sanura at MyLifeRunsOnFood.com/aboutme.

Anjali’s “Old World” Traditional Lasagna

One of my husband’s favorite meals is vegetarian lasagna, but we rarely ever ate it for two reasons:

1) It’s usually hard to find at most restaurants. Lasagna will often have a Bolognese sauce–which has meat in it!

2) Any veggie-friendly lasagna is often made with white pasta (no fiber), with egregious amounts of cheese (too much fat and calories), and barely any veggies (that’s just no fun).

So one day, soon after we had gotten married and before I had really learned how to cook, I decided to experiment and create a vegetarian lasagna that was both healthy and flavorful.

To try to recreate the lasagnas we’ve craved in the past, I decided to stick to more of the “traditional” route: using a tomato based sauce and traditional Italian cheeses, and baking it in the oven. I made healthy modifications without losing any of the flavor–e.g. using whole wheat lasagna noodles instead of white and adding more veggies to increase the nutritional value. I was really nervous as I served this meal, as I hadn’t really cooked before and I had no experience creating recipes from scratch. The good news is–it was a HUGE hit. And, I was able to stay true to my healthy mission–a double bonus! This meal has quickly become a favorite at dinner parties and potlucks, and is a great one-dish crowd-pleaser. After I created this dish, I started looking for alternative vegetarian lasagna dishes, and I came across My Life Runs On Food‘s approach to a creative and non-traditional lasagna. I love her take on modernizing and modifying the “old-world” lasagna, and I look forward to trying her dish!

The Recipe: The Healthy “Old-World” Traditional Lasagna

Ingredients

  • Whole wheat lasagna noodles (uncooked)
  • 4 fresh, organic zucchini
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 bag of organic baby spinach
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • Garlic; minced
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
  • 1-28oz. can of crushed tomatoes (with Italian spices added–like basil, oregano, etc. if you can find that)
  • 1 jar ready-made spaghetti sauce (I like the tomato basil marinara from Trader Joe’s!)
  • Olive oil & cooking spray
  • Fat-free ricotta cheese
  • Low-fat shredded mozzarella
  • Shredded Parmesan or 4 cheese blend (I used this shredded 4 cheese blend from Trader Joe’s that has Parmesan, Asiagio, Mozzarella and Fontina)

Directions – Noodles

  1. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions (leave them al dente)–salt the water, if you like.
  2. Once they’re done, lay them flat on foil and set aside.

Directions – Vegetables

  1. Quarter all 4 zucchini and thinly slice.
  2. Thinly slice one of the red bell peppers (I cut the slices in half so they’re not so long).
  3. Mince 3 cloves of garlic.
  4. Heat about 1 tbsp. olive oil in a pan over medium heat (I might have used a little less–maybe 2-3 tsp), saute the garlic, zucchini, red pepper together.
  5. Add the whole bag of baby spinach at the end (when the zucchini/red pepper are almost done cooking).
  6. Sprinkle oregano and dried basil to taste on top, stir, and let it cook a couple more min.
  7. When the spinach is cooked, turn the heat down to low.

Directions – Sauce

  1. Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic.
  2. Dice half a red onion (If it’s a small onion, dice the whole thing).
  3. Dice the other red bell pepper.
  4. Heat 2-3 tsp olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
  5. Saute the red onion, garlic, and red pepper for a few min (until the onion starts turning a little translucent).
  6. Add the crushed tomatoes.
  7. Add dried oregano (I’m not sure how much I put–I basically sprinkled it over the top and stirred it in–maybe 2 tsp.).
  8. Once the sauce is heated through, turn the heat down on low.

Directions – Cheese

  1. Combine 1.5 cups of the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella, 1 cup of the Parmesan (or 4 cheese mixture if you can find that at Trader Joe’s) in a bowl.

Assembly

  1. I used a casserole dish to assemble the lasagna in–and sprayed the bottom of the dish with cooking spray.
  2. Put a layer of sauce at the bottom of the dish (I did about half of the pre-made spaghetti sauce and half of the sauce I made myself–I did this for every layer except the top).
  3. Put a layer of the lasagna noodles.
  4. Put another layer of the sauce (1/2 pre-made, 1/2 self made).
  5. Put a layer of the veggies.
  6. Take the cheese mixture, and put little crumbles of the cheese mixture all over the veggie layer (don’t try to spread it out, the little crumbles seemed to work well).
  7. Put another layer of the lasagna noodles.
  8. Layer of sauce (if you have enough use the self made, otherwise add in the pre-made as needed).
  9. Layer of veggies.
  10. Cheese mixture crumbles.
  11. Layer of lasagna noodles.
  12. Layer of sauce (only self made).
  13. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese all over the top.
  14. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 min.
  15. Uncover and bake for 5 min. longer until the cheese has melted.

“The Picky Eater” sends a special thank you to Sanura Weathers of MyLifeRunsOnFood.com, for collaborating on this special feature post. Visit her food blog for additional flavorful recipes for healthy eating. Follow her on Twitter here, and check out her Facebook fan page here!

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Healthy & flavorful pesto (with rotini, parmesan, spinach and pine nuts!)

Hi Everyone!! I’m back from my trip to New Zealand and this is my first post in the new year 🙂 So first of all, happy new year to all of you – I hope you had a great holiday! As for me – my trip to New Zealand was absolutely amazing – probably one of the coolest vacations I’ve ever taken in my life! Later this week I’ll be sharing pictures of all the great FOOD we ate during our vacation, along with some fun stories about the adventures we had (one of which was a 400 ft bungy jump into a canyon which each of us did individually!)

But first – I’d like to share this recipe for an awesome, flavorful, healthy pesto that I made for dinner tonight and tossed with rotini, spinach, parmesan and pine nuts (note – next time I’ll be adding in diced tomatoes for some extra texture and flavor as well!) The reason I was so excited to try this recipe is that pesto is one of my favorite things to eat – but it’s always loaded with tons of fat and calories (coming from oil, cheese and nuts). And while those are all good fats (and you should definitely be eating those ingredients) – the amount used in restaurant pestos is really excessive and ends up with 1000 calories in your pasta dish!

The other reason I was excited is that most “healthy” pesto recipes don’t taste very good… or are super complicated to make so almost aren’t worth the time. But then I found this great recipe from Hungry Girl for a pesto recipe that’s actually really tasty and super easy to make! The recipe with my notes are below, and you can find the original here. Thanks Hungry Girl!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fat-free ricotta cheese (I might have used a bit more than 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tbsp. reduced-fat Parmesan-style grated topping (I actually used freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The grated topping thing weirds me out because it’s usually full of processed ingredients)
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1 tsp. olive oil (I used EVOO)
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic (I just used 2 cloves of garlic – might be more than 1 tsp but gave it great flavor)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper, or more to taste
  • Frozen Spinach
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (to top your pasta dish)
  • Whole wheat rotini pasta (or any whole wheat pasta you like!)
  • Pasta water (save about 1-2 ladle-fulls after cooking the pasta – it helps to make the sauce even creamier!)
  • Note: The Hungry Girl recipe suggests you use this pesto with Tofu Shirataki Noodles to save calories. I personally love pasta and I think eating whole wheat pasta is a good enough substitution (plus the Tofu Noodles thing kind of weirds me out a bit too haha). So I’d recommend eating this pesto with whole wheat pasta – but feel free to try the Tofu Noodles if you like!

Directions

  1. To make the pesto sauce, put all ingredients (basil through black pepper in the list above) into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserve 1-2 ladle fulls of pasta water to mix with the sauce.
  3. In a large pan, heated over medium heat, defrost the frozen spinach for 2-3 min. Add in the cooked pasta and pesto sauce, stir until blended. Add the pasta water a little at a time until you like the consistency and taste.
  4. Serve topped with 1-2 tsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a small sprinkling of pine nuts!

Nutritional Information: According to Hungry Girl, this portion of pesto + 2 packages of Tofu Shirataki Noodles is about 180 calories. The Tofu Noodles have 40 calories per package, so I’d estimate that this recipe for pesto is about 100 calories – which is great!!

Pictures!

Here is what the pesto looked like when it was almost done…

The frozen chopped spinach I used (I love that it’s organic!)

The ingredients all combined and almost ready to eat…

Dinner is served!

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15 Minute Gourmet Dinner: Butternut Squash Ravioli with Parmesan Olive Oil Sauce!

Ok, I know what you’re thinking – Butternut Squash Ravioli in 15 minutes?? Impossible. Well, technically, from scratch – it is. But my husband recently found the most AMAZING fresh ravioli at Trader Joe’s that only takes 4 minutes to cook! Pair that with my quick and easy sauce and you’ve got a gourmet dinner in 15 minutes with only 4-5 ingredients!! 🙂 Amazing I know, right? And might I add, it was DELICIOUS. Probably one of the best pre-made raviolis I’ve had. And it all starts with…

The fresh ravioli! (Ok so this is just the package but at least you know what to look for at your local Trader Joe’s 🙂 ). The other great thing about this ravioli is that it’s relatively low in calories. You can eat 2/3 of this entire package (which is one HUGE serving – 2 cups of ravioli) for only 460 calories, and you get 8g fiber and 18g protein along with it!

So here’s my super easy 15 minute dinner recipe:

Ingredients

  • Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Triangoli
  • High quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook the ravioli according to package directions. Drain & cool.
  2. In the same pot that you cooked the ravioli in, heat a few Tbsp olive oil and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese over low heat until the cheese is melted in the olive oil
  3. Return the cooked ravioli to the pot and toss in the sauce. Serve and top with 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

How easy is that?? My husband totally cleaned his plate he liked the ravioli so much. Doesn’t it look good?

Next time, I’ll probably try my Gorgonzola cheese sauce with it to mix things up a bit 🙂 Oh and for those of you who are interested in making butternut squash ravioli from scratch – try my Pumpkin Ravioli Recipe (you can just substitute butternut squash for the pumpkin). Hope you enjoy this quick and easy dish!

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Healthy Eggplant Parmesan (and other ways with Roasted Veggies!)

Say no to Eggplant Parmesan at restaurants!

I was talking to one of my friends recently, about how she LOVES Eggplant Parmesan, but always feels guilty eating it because it’s loaded with fat & calories. For those of you who don’t know, Olive Garden’s Eggplant Parm has 850 calories and 35g of fat! That is just way too much for one meal. I was watching Food Network, and I was totally inspired by Robin Miller’s Eggplant Parmesan Recipe. I’ve come up with a way to make it even healthier, and you can use this method to make a bunch of different meals. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • Eggplant Slices
  • Olive oil spray
  • Your favorite marinara sauce
  • Fresh, shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • Chopped fresh basil (1/4 cup)
  • Salt & pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet, spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray, sprinkle them with salt & pepper, and bake for 15-20 min until slightly crispy.
  2. Remove from oven. Top each eggplant slice with 1-2 Tbsp sauce and 1 Tbsp shredded Parmesan Cheese. Bake 8-10 min until cheese is bubbly. Top with basil before serving.
  3. You can also serve the eggplant with 1/2 cup cooked whole wheat pasta for a complete meal. Enjoy!

Note: Each eggplant slice shouldn’t have more than 50 calories, so you could have 4 huge eggplant slices topped with cheese for only 200 calories! Add the pasta, and it’s still only about a 400-500 calorie meal depending on how much pasta you eat. And it’s full of healthy fiber, and still tastes great!

Now the fun part 🙂 Use this same method to make a bunch of different, healthy meals!

1) Mexican: Replace the eggplant with zucchini and other squashes to roast in the oven. Once out of the oven, top with a shredded four cheese Mexican blend and broil in the oven for 5 min until the cheese is bubbly. Top with salsa, guacamole, fat free sour cream, and serve with stewed black beans and brown rice. Yum!

2) Mediterranean: Replace the eggplant with tomatoes to roast in the oven. Once out of the oven, top with fat free feta cheese and broil for just a few min until the feta is slightly melted. You can serve the tomatoes on top of a Greek salad (romaine, cucumber, red onion, etc.), or you can put the tomatoes in a pita with hummus and romaine, or you can put the tomatoes on a bagel and eat it for breakfast! The possibilities are endless 🙂

3) American: Replace the eggplant with sliced new potatoes and sweet potatoes to roast in the oven (note the potatoes might have to roast longer in order to cook fully through). Once out of the oven, top with your favorite cheese (cheddar would be my pick), steamed cut broccoli, fat free sour cream, and any other veggies/toppings you like!

If you have any other ideas on how to customize this recipe, feel free to add them as a comment!

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Healthy Spicy Tomato, Bean, Veggie Soup!

Tonight I made a recipe I found on CookingChannel.com’s website – courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis. For anyone that doesn’t watch Food Network – she is awesome! She has great recipes and is super fun to watch on TV 🙂 Anyway, so I found her recipe for a Spicy Tomato Soup and thought it would make a great dinner this evening. I made a few modifications, and it turned out AMAZINGLY well! My husband even said “I wish my stomach was bigger so I could eat more of this soup!”

I topped the soup with a sprinkle of Parmesan Cheese, and served it with whole wheat toast spread with Laughing Cow Light Garlic & Herb Cheese. It was a huge hit, a great balanced meal, had a wonderful spicy flavor, and was super easy to make. The modified recipe is below, and the original is here. Hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (NOTE – I only used 1 Tbsp and it was totally enough. You don’t need the extra 2 Tbsp!)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (I added this because I had a red pepper left over, and it gave a great crunch and flavor to the soup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I actually used about 3 cloves of garlic)
  • 1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce (recommended: San Marzano brand) (Instead of marinara sauce, I used a 28oz jar of crushed tomatoes with Italian spices – gave the soup an amazing flavor)
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth (I used vegetable broth)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta) (I used whole wheat shell pasta for added fiber)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat
  2. Add the carrots, red pepper, onion, and garlic and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. I let the veggies saute a bit longer, like 5-10 min on medium heat. Gave them a great crunch but still were cooked through.
  3. Add the jar of marinara sauce (crushed tomatoes for me), broth, cannellini beans, red pepper flakes, pasta, salt and pepper.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes. I simmered it for a bit longer, maybe 15-20 min. Ladle into bowls, top with parmesan cheese, and serve (with garlic bread or my laughing cow cheese toast above!)

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Whole Wheat Penne with Walnut Sage Pesto, Spinach and Zucchini!

Last night I made a very healthy, light, scrumptious pasta – using this pesto recipe from CookingLight.com. The lemon and sage in the pesto really brought a springtime/summery flavor to a cold winter evening – felt like we were transported to April or May! The spinach and zucchini pack a powerful antioxidant punch, and the whole wheat penne ensures you get your fiber and whole grains for the evening. Hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients

  • 1 10 oz bag baby spinach
  • 4 zucchini, quartered and sliced
  • 4 cups cooked whole wheat penne
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2  cup  fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 1/2  tablespoons  chopped walnuts
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh sage leaves
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 2  tablespoons  extravirgin olive oil
  • 3  garlic cloves (use 1 for the pesto, mince 2 cloves for the spinach/zucchini mixture)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese per serving

Directions

  1. Cook penne according to package directions, cool and set aside.
  2. Spray a pan with cooking spray, heat over medium heat. Add zucchini and garlic and stir fry lightly (for about 5 min max). Add spinach, garlic salt and oregano and cook through until spinach is wilted. Set aside.
  3. Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley, and next 5 ingredients (through 1 clove garlic) in a food processor; process until finely chopped, scraping sides.
  4. With processor on, slowly pour broth through food chute, processing until well blended.
  5. Combine penne and pesto in a pot on low heat until combined and heated through. Add pepper and mix well. Add in vegetables and serve warm, top with 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese per serving.

Nutritional Information

  • Yields 4-5 servings
  • Calories: ~325 per serving
  • Fat: 11g
  • Fiber: 6-10g
  • Protein: 9g

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