The other day, I was with my sister and mother at the grocery store as they were planning their dinner. I was only half paying attention because I usually make my own meals. It’s easier that way since I’m not only a vegetarian, but a picky one at that. My sister wanted mac and cheese, and my mother, who is on a health kick lately, retrieved a box of Velveeta to check out the nutrition stats. Both my mother and sister were appalled at the atrocious amount of fat and calories for one teeny-tiny serving. My sister then inquired, “Why don’t we make our own lighter pasta dish?” That was when my interest was piqued.
I butted into the conversation, offering to make the light pasta myself. I am always grabbing at opportunities to make bloggable dishes. Since my mother isn’t crazy about cooking, she was fine with me taking the reigns. And so, I began calculating how I could make something that tastes rich and flavorful like mac and cheese without all the fat and calories. Plus, I wanted to add in as many nutritious benefits as I could.
First thing first: I opted for whole-wheat pasta. To be frank, you’re a fool for ever using white pasta these days. Whole wheat and whole grain pastas are packed with protein and fiber, offering you way more nutrition than white pasta ever could. And it’s such a simple switch to make! No taste is compromised, plus you get a nice al dente bite.
Next, I knew I needed some cheese, so I went for lower fat, higher flavor options.First, I employed parmesan. It’s got some serious salty, tangy flavor, so a little bit goes a long way. Then, to get some awesome, indulgent creaminess, I used fat-free ricotta cheese. That adds a wonderful texture without adding all the calories and fat that milk, cream, or butter would.
Using olive oil instead of butter also helps us out. Then, because I believe light food does not have to equate to flavorless food, I bring in fresh garlic and shallots to really up the flavor ante. Finally, a trio of summery veggies bulk up this dish while providing tons of vitamins. Plus, they’re plain delectable!
This light and flavorful pasta is perfect for summer time. It’s not gunked up with cream, butter, and fatty cheeses that will drag you down like the summer heat. Instead, it’s got creamy ricotta, just the right amount of tangy parm, garlic, shallots, and fresh veggies. It’s a perfect medley that you won’t feel guilty about eating.
It’s obvious Kraft and Velveeta can’t turn out pasta this nutritious, but I guarantee that boxed junk won’t be half as delicious and flavorful either.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- You can feel free to use whatever veggies you like.
- You can use a different pasta shape, but I recommend sticking with something that has ridges to catch the ricotta.
- This is a great side for barbeque nights!
- This is also an awesome vegetarian meal. Between the protein-packed pasta and all those veggies, this is a hearty dish.
Light Summer Pasta with Ricotta & Fresh Veggies
By The Smart Cookie Cook
- 1 lb. whole-wheat rotini or fusilli
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 heads of broccoli, chopped
- 1 summer squash, sliced in coins
- 1 zucchini, sliced into coins
- 1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- kosher salt, to taste
- dash red pepper flakes
- In a large pot of salted, boiling water over high heat, cook the pasta according to the box directions. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, bring the olive oil to medium heat. Saute the the shallots for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.
- Add the broccoli and squashes and stir to coat in the oil. Add another tablespoon of oil if it seems dry. Cover and steam until veggies are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to low. Season veggies with salt and red pepper flakes. Add the pasta and cheeses and stir until well-coated. Turn off heat and serve immediately.