Summary: oh how I love pasta… although some of you wonder how italian cuisine can be healthy – I am here to tell that it can be! There are several modifications to take into account when making these dishes (1) sure, once in a while go ahead and eat out and enjoy the “real” stuff but make this the exception and not the rule (2) use whole wheat or whole grain pasta instead of refined pastas – why? a smaller portion will actually satisfy you earlier in the meal than the traditional white pasta due to its higher fiber content; plus you will receive all the nutritional benefits of fiber (3) pack that pasta with veggies not meat – meat raises the calories and fat content without providing nutrition; opt for nuts, beans, organic tofu and lean fish as the protein source in these dishes (4) skip the butter, use oil instead – this will pack your meal with healthy fats instead of the saturated kind (5) cut back on the cheese – I know most recipes are creamy and dreamy and topped with bacon…but those are the worst for your arteries, and love handles. Furthermore – we ARE in summer.. so prep that body for sunshine with a heightened feeling of self-worth! I am not saying you can’t use cheese just remember to measure it; 1/4 cup of shredded or crumbled cheese usually has around 80 calories. What I do is use that “individual portion” for the whole recipe; that way the pasta will get the amazing flavor of real goat cheese without being too overpowered by it – plus we save some calories in the process.
Besides those tips – being healthy is about being creative with the cooking process. For instance buy 1 new (healthy) product next time go grocery shopping so you don’t get bored. And it doesn’t have to be anything fancy; I always gravitate towards the produce section and pick a new fruit or veggie to experiment with during the week. Never be afraid to experiment with your food/or life…It might pleasantly surprise you. . . or you might need to throw it away (it has happened to me – not all experiments turn out well I am afraid).. but in the end it’s fun. It’s an active learning process.
Enough introduction. Let me tell you a bit more about this recipe. It’s very light in flavor. The lemon zest always make pastas feel light and fresh, which is perfect for those hotter months of the years. Besides that, lemon has its nutritional benefits – it’s considered a detoxifying fruit due to its high vitamin C content (which also applies to most citric fruits). Plus it has virtually no calories yet packs a powerful punch of taste. It is my go to light pasta dressing ingredient. About the vegetables I used – I used what I had at hand (honestly). However I will let you know that I love how the peppers add crunch, the cherry tomatoes provide sweetness, the onions add zing and the beans add creaminess. Plus you can eat this warm or cold. How great is that? Works perfectly for the busy week!
12 oz of pasta shells
1 cup of Lima beans, cooked (or any other green bean)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup bell peppers , chopped
3/4 cup red onion, chopped ~ 1 small onion
2 tbsp extra virgen olive oil
juice & zest from 1 meyer lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp italian seasoning
1.5 tsp dry parsley flakes
1/4 cup goat cheese or feta cheese *skip for a vegan dish
**ALTERNATIVE ingredient shortcut -> swap these veggies for 2.5 cups of mixed frozen or fresh vegetables that come in a bag. This will make everything about this recipe easier and faster.
(1) Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 tbsp of the pasta water (you will need this to finish off the dressing).
(2) Meanwhile chop all the veggies and toss into a big mixing bowl. Add ALL of the salad dressing ingredients EXCEPT the cheese!! For zesting the lemon, use any type of grater. Mix well and let sit until the pasta is done.
(3) Drain the pasta and toss into the mixing bowl. Add the cheese and reserved pasta water and blend until well combined. Garnish with extra dry herbs or freshly cracked pepper.
Eat right away or serve cold as a pasta salad (great for upcoming summer activities!)
Servings: 4 to 5
It’s incredible how colorful and creamy this looks..right? I know I am eating balanced when my plate looks like a rainbow. Right now I am kinda of obsessed about always incorporating something green into my recipes: either fresh herbs, or chopped spinach or green veggies… I guess years of brainwashing have finally paid off because I need greens in my meals!
Do you have any healthy obsessions? How about a food you can’t stop eating? Post below!