Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: spring vegetables

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Keeping your ingredient list simple is often the most effective way to prepare pasta sauces. A simple sauce highlights only one or two different flavors, enabling you to enjoy the texture of the pasta. While basic tomato sauce is a classic choice, sauces featuring olive oil as the primary ingredient also lend themselves to a simple but flavorful preparation. Use an extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor. Grated Parmesan cheese adds a distinct flavor and creamy texture when mixed through the hot pasta. Sprinkling some chili flakes on the dish adds some spice. You can also add sautéed shrimp or diced chicken to make the dish more substantial.

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Pasta Cooking Tips:

Use a tall, deep cooking pot rather than a wide, shallow one. Remembering that the pasta will swell, generously fill up the pot with about 4 quarts of water.

Season the water with salt before you add the pasta. It’s the best way to bring out the pasta flavor.

Do not add olive oil to the cooking water. If you’re trying to keep the pasta from clumping as it cooks, make sure you have plenty of water in the pot and stir frequently, especially early in the cooking process. Don’t add it to drained pasta, either… it will only make your carefully prepared sauce slide right off the pasta.

There’s no need to rinse your cooked pasta with water. The starch helps the sauce bind to the pasta. Pasta for a salad can be quickly cooled by spreading out the pasta on a baking pan.

Before draining, save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce. Add enough to help loosen the sauce.

To reheat cooked pasta, place pasta in a colander and pour hot or boiling water over it or immerse it in a pot of boiling water for 15 seconds. Cooked pasta will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

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Shrimp Scampi over Whole-Grain Spaghetti

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Add garlic, crushed red pepper, wine and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet and simmer 1 minute. Stir in shrimp and heat.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Toss pasta with the shrimp mixture, lemon juice and parsley. Add reserved cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time to moisten.

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Linguine with Pancetta and Peas

6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz linguine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas, thawed
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 3 slices pancetta or bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat; add garlic, stir occasionally until they begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add peas; season with salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan with peas. Toss well and add some reserved pasta water, a little at a time to coat the pasta. Add the Pecorino Romano. Toss with the pancetta or bacon and garnish with black pepper.

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Thin Spaghetti with Sausage and Spring Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 8 oz thin spaghetti
  • 8 oz link of Italian pork sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup asparagus, sliced into 2″ lengths
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

Directions

Cook pasta al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta.

Mix together the parmesan cheese, mint, basil, parsley and lemon zest. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage until brown. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel. Cut into thin slices.

Add the olive oil to the pan and heat over medium. Add the mushrooms, peas and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring.

Return the sausage to the pan and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until everything is warmed through.

Add the cooked pasta and sprinkle with the reserved pasta cooking water.

Serve in individual pasta bowls. Drizzle each lightly with olive oil and top with a tablespoon of the herb-cheese mixture.

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Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Artichokes

6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extras for the grill
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, rinsed or a package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted.
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving.

Directions

Light an outdoor grill or heat a grill pan. Oil the grill or grill pan.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the chicken until just about cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Let the chicken rest and, then, slice into 1/4-inch thin slices.

Cook pasta al dente in a large pot of salted boiling water. Reserve about 2/3 cup of the cooking water before draining.

Cut the artichoke hearts into smaller wedges.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute.

Add the artichoke hearts and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Add the pasta, chicken and some of the reserved pasta water to the pan. Toss and cook an additional minute.

Add the fresh parsley and Romano cheese and serve immediately with more grated cheese on the side.

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Spring Vegetable Pasta Salad

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Pasta

  • 12 ounces cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente
  • 4 ounces asparagus, blanched and thinly sliced on the bias
  • One 10 oz package frozen peas, defrosted
  • One 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Parmigiano- Reggiano, for garnish

Directions

For the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the pasta:

Mix the pasta with the asparagus, peas, roasted peppers, tomatoes, fennel, shallots and basil.

Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing to coat.

Let the salad rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to absorb the flavors before serving.

When ready to serve, toss and shave cheese over the top.


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Soup for lunch, soup for dinner or soup as a starter… it’s just great to have on hand!

Soup is good for you and it tastes good. A great soup starts with a stock. What is stock? It’s just the liquid you get when you simmer meat, bones or vegetables together with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. This is what forms the major flavor base for a soup.

A homemade vegetable soup is just so much better than anything you’d get in a can. For one thing, only ingredients that you like end up in the soup. Plus, you have the opportunity to make it much healthier. Vegetable soup is also a great way to empty your refrigerator before the next trip to the grocery store — you can put almost any vegetable in a good old-fashioned vegetable soup.

You can add any vegetable you like but it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that go well together. If you add some bitter vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or turnips, try to balance it with sweeter vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas.

If you want to avoid overcooking vegetables, add the veggies that need to cook longest first, letting them cook a bit before adding the vegetables that take the least amount of time to cook.

A soup is all about blended flavors. If you use smaller vegetable chunks, you can fit a few different kinds on a spoon and get a better taste. Smaller vegetable pieces also cook faster. The only rule to how much to add is that you should have enough broth to cover all the vegetables.

The last thing that makes up a homemade vegetable soup is the seasoning you add. The broth will tend to reduce the longer the soup cooks. That means that any seasonings added will get more intense as the soup cooks. You can avoid getting an overwhelmingly seasoned soup by adding the seasonings toward the end of the cooking time. There are plenty of seasonings that are suited to soup. Some popular seasonings are: ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

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Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion, onion skins reserved
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped parsnips
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • Salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (leave skins on)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and fennel and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.

Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetables. Discard.

Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a plain paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what’s in the strainer filter through and change the paper towels. Filter the rest of the stock.

To store, pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to a week.

If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom, so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar or use freezer ziplock bags.

Makes 5 quarts.

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Spring Vegetable Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 10 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large leek, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large pot, combine the stock with the red potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and leek. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the green beans and Italian seasoning and simmer until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve.

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Creamy Asparagus Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup light cream
  • Fresh chopped chives for garnish

Directions

Cut the bottom half of the asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths and place in them in a soup pot with the vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove asparagus ends with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl, pressing on the stalks to get as much juice from them as possible, then discarding the fibrous stalks. Add the extracted juice back into the soup pot and return the stock to a simmer.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring while cooking for 5 minutes. Cut the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces, celery and potato to the onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 5 minutes. Add the simmering stock and cover saucepan again, cooking another 7 or 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Process these cooked vegetables with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add this puree back into the soup pot, adding the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Served warm or chilled, garnished with fresh chives.

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Vegetable, Fennel Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.

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Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto

6 servings.

Pesto Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soup Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen)
  • 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Puree all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, stock and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes.

Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini beans and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Divide pesto among the servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.


With classic springtime ingredients arriving at grocery stores and farmer’s markets, it’s time to lighten up that suppertime standby, pasta. Spring’s produce not only brings a variety of fresh flavors to the table; it also gives you a broad range of nutritional benefits. Freshly harvested vegetables taste great in spring pasta recipes and they’re full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Pasta makes an ideal partner for the lightest, most delicately flavored spring vegetables.The job of the noodles is to make a substantial, but never heavy, meal. It’s also fitting to celebrate the season’s produce bounty with pasta that’s just as varied, such as, farfalle bow ties, fluted garganelli tubes, long, hollow bucatini noodles or broad pappardelle ribbons. Dried pastas are pantry-friendly and offer a satisfying chew, when cooked al dente. Fresh pasta will also work for these lighter dishes.

Whatever vegetables you use, bump up the nutritional content of your spring pasta recipes by skipping regular white pasta and using whole grain varieties instead. Whole wheat and other whole grain pastas make healthy recipes even healthier because they’re produced using grains that haven’t had their germ and bran stripped from the grain. Leaving the grain intact allows you to gain the benefits of the whole grain, which include extra fiber, B vitamins, protein and antioxidants, as well as minerals like selenium, magnesium and potassium. Studies have shown that whole grains help protect against cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Also, whole grains help with weight control. Luckily, it’s a lot easier to find a variety of whole grain pasta options at the grocery store these days.

Pair hearty pasta with these delicate spring veggies and you’ll create a meal that’s both nutritious and satisfying. As different vegetables turn up at your market, you can change up the recipes for added variety. For the healthiest results, prepare dishes using plenty of fiber-rich veggies, smaller portions of pasta and lean protein to make them extra-filling.

Sauces used in springtime pasta dishes are not heavy or meaty. They might feature light protein, such as tuna or chicken, but they are typically vegetarian dishes. Light lemon sauces, vinaigrette and other thin dressings are most commonly used on spring pasta dishes. Light pesto sauces are also good choices. A simple pasta dish can be dressed with some olive oil, sea salt and grated Italian cheese. Including eggs in the preparation may help the dressing adhere to the pasta, as well as provide additional flavor. Chopped herbs can be added as desired

Some favorite ingredients utilized in springtime pasta recipes are mushrooms and asparagus. Onions are popular inclusions, as are sugar snap peas. Fresh parsley is often included, too. Other fresh spring pasta herbs might include chives and dill. Escarole is frequently utilized in creating spring pastas dishes. Fresh spinach may also be tossed into the pasta. Another popular green used in spring dishes is Swiss chard. 

Pasta Primavera is a very popular spring pasta meal. Zucchini and other squashes are often used in this pasta dish, as can broccoli florets and plum or cherry tomatoes. Tasty elements of crunch or nuttiness, from pine nuts to fava beans, are often included, though many of the spring vegetables, like radishes, can also provide plenty of crisp texture and flavor. Fresh cheeses may also be grated, lightly, on top of spring pastas.

Farfalle with Spring Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • 1 pound farfalle
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed, or 1 pound fresh peas, shelled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the oil and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once, until golden. Let cool, then stir in 1 tablespoon each of the parsley and chives and 1/2 tablespoon of the tarragon. Season the crumbs with salt and pepper.

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccolini until tender, about 1 minute. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the broccolini to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

Boil the pasta in the same pot until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a deep skillet, heat the butter and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic, fennel, scallions, peas and chopped broccolini and cook over moderate heat until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.

Add the pasta, lemon juice and cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the water is nearly absorbed. Stir in the remaining herbs.

Sprinkle the pasta with the bread crumbs just before serving.

Pappardelle with Baby Spinach, Herbs and Ricotta

Fettuccine will also work if you can’t find pappardelle. Have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before beginning to cook—the pasta needs to be hot when mixed with the other ingredients to create a creamy consistency.

4 servings (serving size: 1 3/4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced pancetta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Cook pasta with 1 tablespoon kosher salt according to package directions. Drain in a colander over a bowl and reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.

Combine 1/2 cup reserved hot cooking liquid and ricotta cheese in a food processor or use an immersion blender and process until well blended.

Heat oil in a skillet and saute pancetta and garlic for a few minutes. Add spinach and cook just until wilted.

Combine hot pasta, cheese mixture, spinach mixture and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat. Add additional cooking liquid to moisten, if needed.

Chicken and Artichoke Fettuccine Alfredo

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound uncooked fettuccine
  • 1 pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup lowfat milk
  • 4 ounces reduced fat Cream Cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (14 ounces) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and halved or frozen and defrosted
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions

Cook fettuccine according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat oil and cook chicken over medium heat until no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add the milk, cream cheese and salt to the skillet; cook and stir until smooth. Stir in the artichoke hearts, red pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Drain fettuccine. Stir in sauce and chicken; heat through. Sprinkle with basil.

Pasta with Squash and Sage Leaves

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz whole-wheat penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash or any squash of choice (about 2 lbs), peeled and seeded, if needed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions:

Cook penne as directed on the package. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook sage leaves, turning once, until crisp on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel.

Add onion and garlic to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add squash, 3/4 cups pasta water, salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash softens, 5 to 7 minutes. Add pasta to squash mixture; stir over low heat, add remaining pasta cooking water, if a thinner sauce is wanted.

Cook until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Serve, garnished with cheese and cooked sage leaves.

Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts

Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

Makes: 4 servings 

This twist on classic pesto swaps arugula for basil, making a peppery sauce with toasted pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. For something extra, grate a little Pecorino or Parmesan cheese on top before serving.

Sun-dried tomatoes come packed dry or in oil and can be found in most grocery stores. In this recipe use tomatoes packed in oil (just drain well) because they give more flavor than their dry counterparts (which need to be reconstituted before using).

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette, gemelli, or conchiglie
  • 10 ounces arugula, washed and tough stems removed
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and thinly sliced

Directions:

Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, combine arugula, garlic, lemon juice and half of the pine nuts in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil and process until evenly blended, about 2 minutes. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and process again to blend in seasoning.

Drain pasta and return to the pot (but do not return to the heat). Add arugula pesto, remaining pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and  pasta water, if needed. Mix until evenly combined.

Serve immediately.

Linguine with Spring Vegetables

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 pounds linguine
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise (quartered if large) and thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces sugar snap peas, stem ends trimmed, halved
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

Directions:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes just short of al dente; add asparagus, zucchini and snap peas. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta and vegetable mixture and set aside.

In the same pot, bring half & half and butter to a simmer. Add in pasta-vegetable mixture , cheese and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce (it will thicken as it stands).

Season with salt and pepper and top with tarragon.


Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of color, variety and freshness. This way it should be easier to make healthy choices. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and more appealing.

Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isn’t realistic or smart. Changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different color vegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.

Every change you make to improve your diet matters. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Don’t let your missteps derail you—every healthy food choice you make counts.

Spring brings lots of healthy produce, These include asparagus, broccoli, fresh herbs, and leafy greens, which can be found fresh at farmers’ markets and the produce section of supermarkets. Other healthy spring ingredients include strawberries, artichokes, arugula, radishes, garlic, peas and mushrooms. In addition to being loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, these spring ingredients tend to lend themselves to lighter preparations, such as steaming and roasting. Fresh produce is often more flavorful than food that’s been stored for a long time, so a bit of lemon juice and a sprinkling of fresh herbs can be all you need to season it.

So, in the spirit of spring — as the trees are beginning to bud, the flowers are starting to appear and the days are getting longer — I’ve gathered some recipes using the ingredients of spring to inspire us all to keep it fresh and healthy this season.

 

Risotto with Chicken and Spring Peas

Make it a vegetarian option by using vegetable broth and eliminating the chicken.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked arborio rice
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup loose-pack frozen tiny or regular-size peas
  • 1/4 cup coarsely shredded carrot
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, shredded
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions:

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender. Add the uncooked rice. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until the rice is golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring broth to boiling; reduce heat to keep broth simmering. Carefully add 1/2 cup of the broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until liquid is absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup of the broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue to cook, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until all the broth is used; stirring after each addition until the liquid is absorbed. (This should take 18 to 20 minutes total.)

Stir in the peas and carrots with the last addition of the broth. Cook and stir until rice is slightly firm (al dente) and creamy.

Stir in chicken, spinach, Parmesan cheese and thyme; heat through. Serve immediately.

 

Parmesan-Crusted Fish

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless cod fillets (1-1/2 pounds total) or white fish fillets of choice
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1- 10 ounce package julienned carrots (3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Fresh salad greens mixed with Italian dressing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Rinse fish and pat dry; place on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl stir together panko and cheese; sprinkle on fish. Bake, uncovered, for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until crumbs are golden and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet bring the water to boiling; add carrots. Reduce heat. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover; cook for 2 minutes more. Add butter and oregano; toss.

Mix greens with dressing and place on dinner plates. Top with cooked fish.

Serve carrots on the side of the fish.

 

Tomato and Eggplant Fusilli

Ricotta salata is a salty, mild-flavored cheese with a crumbly texture similar to feta.

Serve this entre with a green salad and crusty whole grain Italian bread.

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 lb), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat fusilli
  • 1 cup fresh basil, hand torn
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded ricotta salata

Directions:

In a large lidded skillet, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Stir in tomatoes and eggplant. Cook, covered, 15 minutes. (If skillet does not have a lid, cover tightly with aluminum foil.) Stir in garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt; cover and cook another 10 to 15 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook fusilli according to package directions, reserving 3/4 cups of the pasta water. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the fusilli to skillet with the tomato eggplant mixture. Stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta water, 3/4 cups of basil, 3/4 cups of ricotta salata, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. (If pasta seems dry, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup pasta water.) Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup basil and 1/4 cup ricotta salata.

 

Pork Cacciatore

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 – 14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice or whole wheat orzo pasta

Directions:

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Stir in pork, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer on medium low, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Serve with the cooked rice or orzo and a green vegetable, such as asparagus.

 

Chicken Pomodoro and Garlic Spaghetti

Round out this meal with a green salad.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved, (about 8 oz. each)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk or half & half
  • cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions

Directions:

Season chicken with salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Coat a large saute pan with nonstick spray. Add oil and heat over medium-high.

Saute chicken until brown, 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to a plate.

Off heat, deglaze pan with vodka and cook until liquid evaporates. Add broth and milk and reduce until thick, 2–3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pan and simmer until chicken is cooked. Turn chicken over to coat in sauce before transferring to a serving plate.

Pour sauce over cutlets and garnish with scallions. Serve with Garlic Spaghetti, recipe below.

Garlic Spaghetti

Makes: 4 servings

  • 8 oz dried spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoons minced lemon zest
  • Salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions:

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain pasta.

Heat oil in the same pot over medium-high. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in pasta water, parsley, lemon zest and cooked and drained spaghetti; toss to coat.

Season spaghetti with additional salt, black pepperand red pepper flakes to taste.

 



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