Full disclosure: I am a huge Food Network fan. Most of the people on the network are total rock stars to me, I love watching people love food and make beautiful creations with it. Giada De Laurentiis is a perfect example of this. The woman is obsessed with food, primarily Italian. I can relate to her love of pasta, yet commitment to staying fit. She speaks openly about this in her book, “Everyday Pasta”, which was given to me by a close friend. She says:
“People are always asking how I can cook the way I do and not gain weight. The truth is that if I ate fettuccine carbonara or a big plate of baked manicotti every night, I probably would: fortunately, so many of my favorite pastas are light, filled with vegetables and loaded with flavor”.
As I said in my last blog post, it’s important to get your greens and vegetables in wherever and whenever you can. It’s a great way to balance out your diet if you love pastas as much as I do.
Tonight, I had my sister and brother-in-law over for dinner and wanted to make a pasta dish that was hearty and fabulous, yet healthy. My sister is expecting (YAY!!) so I also wanted to be cognizant of her dietary restrictions. I found both of these recipes in “Everyday Pasta” and they were a hit! The pasta dish seems like a lot of ingredients but most of the stuff you may already have, so it’s just a matter of buying the veggies and the cheeses. It’s easy to make.
Baked Caprese Salad:
- 1 baguette, sliced ½ inch thick
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 5 Roma Tomatoes, sliced
- 1 ¼ pounds fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet, brush with some of the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.
- Top each slide of bread with a slide of tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Top with a slide of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with salt.
- Return the baking sheet to the oven until the cheese and tomato are just warm, about 5 minutes.
- Arrange the toasts on a serving platter. Top each toast with a basil leaf.
- Using the brush, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.
Makes 6 servings.
Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables:
- 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch strips
- 2 zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 summer squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
- ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 tablespoon of dried Italian herb
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 3 cups of mariana sauce
- 1 cup of grated fontina cheese
- ½ cup of smoked mozzarella
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
- 1 ½ cups frozen peas, thawed
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 450.
- On a baking sheet, toss the bell peppers, zucchini, squash and onion with the olive oil, salt, peppers and the herbs. Bake until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Make sure you do not cook all the way, it will continue cooking in the oven. Drain in a colander.
- In a large bowl, combine the pasta with roasted vegetables, mariana sauce, fontina and mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese, and the peas. Add in some salt and pepper. Mix together.
- Pour the mixture into a greased baking dish, top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and put the butter pieces on top. Bake until the top is golden and the cheese melts, about 25 minutes.
Makes 6 servings.