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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: healthy pasta

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The earthy flavor of cauliflower is the perfect complement to pasta. Adding vegetables to pasta stretches the pasta and adds more nutrients to your diet. Though cauliflower has a bland taste on its own, it is a highly regarded vegetable. In Italian cuisine, cauliflower is often paired with pasta because it absorbs flavor from the spices and sauces used in preparing the recipes.

According to research studies, water boiling and blanching have the biggest impact on reducing cauliflower’s nutrients. These methods cause significant losses of  protein, mineral and phytochemical nutrients after five minutes of boiling. Instead, cauliflower kept its nutrients most intact when microwaved or gently stir fried. The very best method for cooking cauliflower seems to be gently sautéing it on the stove top, with a bit of water, broth, lemon juice or a healthy source of fat which can make its nutrients more absorbable. Of course eating it raw, perhaps dipped in some healthy hummus or another type of dip, also preserves its nutrients.

Since cauliflower is in season now, I try to think of a variety ways to cook this great vegetable and combining it with pasta is a family favorite. This recipe can be used with any vegetable that is in season.

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Cauliflower Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half a large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8-10 sage leaves, sliced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup of pureed sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup diced Italian Fontina cheese
  • 1 lb short pasta, preferably with ridges (I used trofiette – short, twisted spaghetti shape)

Directions

In a large skillet cook the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion is tender. Add the sage and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the cauliflower softens a bit. Don’t overcook cauliflower or it loses its taste and nutrients.

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Add the tomato paste and wine and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomato puree and crushed red pepper. Heat gently.

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Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the reserved pasta water. Stir well. Turn the pasta out into a large serving bowl and add the parsley and cheese. Stir well and serve.

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Cucumber Fennel Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways, deseeded and cut into thin half moons
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup oil cured Italian olives

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a medium salad bowl whisk the dressing ingredients together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover the dish and refrigerate until well chilled.

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If you are trying to eat less meat, substituting pasta dishes made with vegetables are not only healthy but quite satisfying. Vegetables that are especially good in pasta are frozen or canned artichoke hearts, mushrooms, broccoli/broccoli rabe, cauliflower, zucchini, peas and fresh tomatoes.

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Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs made from Italian bread with crusts removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 1/2 pound head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • Snipped fresh thyme or fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Directions

Bring a 5- to 6-quart pot of salted water to boiling.

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-low heat. Add bread crumbs to the hot oil; cook about 3 minutes or until crumbs are crisp and golden brown, stirring frequently (reduce heat and stir constantly if bread crumbs are becoming too dark). Stir in 1 clove of the minced garlic; cook and stir until garlic is fragrant. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the lemon peel; set aside.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt; cook about 3 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the 1 teaspoon thyme and the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds.

Add cauliflower, broth and capers; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in lemon juice and pepper.

Meanwhile, in the large pot cook spaghetti according to package directions, except cook for 2 minutes less than the time given on the package.

Drain spaghetti. Return to the pot and add the cauliflower mixture to spaghetti. Cook about 5 minutes more or until spaghetti is al dente.

Divide spaghetti mixture among six shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. If desired, garnish with additional snipped fresh thyme or thyme sprigs.

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Baked Rigatoni with Spinach and Cheese

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups (about 1 pound) ricotta
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces fontina, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the rigatoni until almost done, about 12 minutes. Drain. Put the pasta in the prepared baking dish and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Meanwhile, squeeze as much of the water as possible from the spinach. Put the spinach in a food processor and puree with the ricotta, 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan, the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in half of the fontina cheese.

Stir the spinach mixture into the pasta. Top with the remaining fontina and Parmesan cheeses. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the top. Bake the pasta until the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

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Creamy Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 4 ounces fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (you can leave these out if you are not a fan)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 8 fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups milk, plus extra if needed
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and return to the saucepan. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil over medium heat. Add asparagus, Brussels sprouts, if using, broccoli and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove vegetables from the skillet; set aside.

In same skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Gently stir in pasta and vegetables. Stir in additional milk, if the sauce needs thinning. Sprinkle with lemon peel and additional shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve.

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Baked Ziti with Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ziti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade pesto

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F. Oil an 8-by-8-inch square or oval baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta for 7 minutes. It will be partially cooked. Drain.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook until very thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, about half the Parmesan, the pesto and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Put half of the cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish and top with about a third of the tomato sauce. Spread the ricotta mixture on the sauce in an even layer. Cover with the remaining pasta and then the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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Linguine with Sweet Bell Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound red, green, yellow, orange bell peppers, sliced thin
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and bell peppers, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Add the cooked linguine, pasta water, tomatoes and basil to the skillet and toss over moderate heat for 1 minute; then serve.

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