Spring Garden Pasta

   

Living in Texas it can sometimes be a little difficult to look forward to the oncoming summer, what with its droughts and relentless heat waves. That anxiety is quickly diffused once I glimpse the new crop of garden fresh veggies at the grocery store. Here is a crisp, healthy pasta dish to embrace spring’s bounty and warmer months.   

Spring Garden Pasta

This is a wonderful dish to prepare if you’ve blacked out in a farmer’s market and awoken in your kitchen to find yourself staring hazily at mountains of fresh produce. The first time I prepared this I was craving pasta primavera, but wasn’t wanting something heavy. I cut calories by removing half of the pasta and replacing it with loads of vegetables. Serving the dish slightly warm rather than piping hot really allows the texture and flavors of the vegetables to shine. 

Spring Garden Pasta

Spring Garden Pasta
Serves 4
A healthier pasta dish absolutely full of crisp, fresh veggies.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons salted butter
  2. 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets (about 2-3 cups)
  5. 1 cup carrots, sliced
  6. 1 cup frozen green peas
  7. 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  8. 2 tablespoons flour
  9. 1/2 cup milk (I used flax milk)
  10. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  12. 1/4 cup fresh basil
  13. 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  14. 1 1/2 cups Maffei fussili (or whatever pasta you like)
Instructions
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in high sided skillet. Add minced garlic and sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cover until the mushrooms release their juices.
  2. Stir in chopped broccoli and carrots, cover and let steam for about 7-8 minutes until crisp tender. Transfer veggies to a bowl (reserve any liquid in the pan if there is some) and leave covered while you prepare the sauce.
  3. Meanwhile cook pasta in well salted water according to package directions. I used a refrigerated pasta by Maffei which is 180 calories per 1/2 cup. You want it perfectly al dente or just a hair shy of al dente - you want the pasta to stand up to the crisp veggies.
  4. While pasta is cooking - in the same pan you cooked veggies in melt the other tablespoon of butter. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour - it will be very thick. Let cook for a minute or two to cook off the raw flour taste and then add milk, black pepper, fresh thyme. Remove from heat and whisk well.
  5. Transfer pasta plus 1/2-3/4 cup (depending on how thick you want your sauce to be) of the pasta cooking water to the pan along with all of the veggies, the green peas, and your grated parmesan. Toss well and cover to let the peas warm through. This will also slightly cool down the pasta and veggies. This is ok as the slightly cooler pasta maintains the fresh flavor and texture of the tomatoes.
  6. When the peas are warm add fresh basil and chopped tomatoes, toss well and serve immediately. Ideally your pasta water should have been salted well enough that you wouldn't need additional salt, but feel free to add more if needed.
Calories
  1. 358 calories for 1/4 of the pan as I've prepared it.
Variation
  1. Cooking the mushrooms in a bit of dry white wine (maybe 2 ounces) adds lovely flavor to the dish.
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Spring Garden Pasta

 


Fettuccine with White Wine Roasted Shiitakes

   

Perhaps this isn’t an issue in all areas of the country, but around here shiitake mushrooms can be incredibly expensive. At times I’ve seen them for as much as $19 a pound, though they seem to hold steady at closer to $9-12. That is the beautiful thing about Asian grocers. I can walk in and get a ginormous package of shiitakes for about 3 bucks. Other products such as jasmine rice which tend to be grossly overpriced in the normal supermarket are much cheaper at the Asian grocery as well. Oh and they have more types of tofu than you can shake a stick at, if you’re the sort of person that likes shaking sticks at tofu. I am.

Oh yeah, this post was about some food I made!

 

There is something slightly sexy about this style of pasta dish. Is it the earthy, smokey flavor of the mushrooms? Perhaps the small amount of spice from the addition of chili flakes? It could be the subtle flavor of white wine that comes through beneath the brightness of chopped, fresh herbs. Maybe I just saw Lady and the Tramp one too many times and now noodles conjure up mental images of smooching. Whatever it is I can’t help but feel that this dish is a great date night meal. That’s assuming that whoever you will be cooking for isn’t one of those crazy folks that recoil in terror at the mere mention of the word “mushroom”. I’m looking at you, Brian.

Whether it’s for a date or not, if you want a dish that is elegant yet effortless, get thee to an Asian market for cheap shiitakes and start cooking.

Fettuccine with White Wine Roasted Shiitakes
Serves 3
An elegant, easy to prepare pasta dish sure to please any mushroom lover.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced
  2. 1 clove garlic, minced
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 2 ounces white wine
  5. 6 ounces whole wheat fettucine (I used the brand Al Dente which cooks up in only 3 minutes)
  6. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  7. 1 teaspoon truffle oil
  8. 1 clove garlic, minced
  9. 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  10. 1 teaspoon salt
  11. 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  12. 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  13. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. In a bowl large enough to accommodate the mushrooms, whisk together 1 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 minced garlic clove, and the white wine. Toss mushrooms in this mixture and spread evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.
  3. While the mushrooms are in the oven prepare fettuccine according to package instructions and start the seasoned oil base for your pasta. Depending on the brand of pasta you use this step can come together very quickly, so start working as near to the end of the mushrooms’ cooking process as possible.
  4. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add 1 clove of minced garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring occasionally until the garlic is lightly browned.
  5. Throw the cooked, drained pasta, roasted mushrooms, and remaining ingredients (salt, cheese, fresh herbs, and truffle oil) into the skillet and toss to coat well. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional fresh herbs if desired.
Calories
  1. 407
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Green Lasagna w/ Spinach & Mushrooms

   

Back in August my parents gave me a generous gift card to Williams Sonoma, and I finally got around to spending some of it over the weekend. One of the things I knew I wanted to get was a small baking dish suitable for making reduced portions of tasty baked entrees like macaroni and cheese or enchiladas. I pretty much only ever cook for 2-3 people and since we try to mind how much we eat, making a massive casserole dish of cheesy carby crack is a dangerous idea. We either end up eating seconds (ahem.. thirds) or having too many leftovers the following day. Getting a smaller dish means each of us gets a reasonable amount of food with no temptation for trips back to the kitchen and no wasted food. Obviously I needed to put my new purchase to use, and what better way to break it in than by making a lasagna!

 

I must confess that I’ve never been a huge fan of traditional lasagna, simply because I’m not a fan of ricotta cheese. Of course there are eleventy billion variations of the dish that you can make that don’t require ricotta, and those are usually fine by me. Whenever I’ve made entrees that call for ricotta I generally prefer to use tofu as a substitution. That’s what I did in my green lasagna last night, but if you’re one of those people that has an intense fear of tofu you could go with what you know and incorporate ricotta into the recipe in its place. I will say though, that this dish is really ideal for experimenting with tofu – particularly if you have little experience with cooking it. It’s blended with mascarpone cheese and spinach to form a smooth, creamy filling that goes nicely with layers of pasta and melted cheese. When you make the sauce there will be some leftover. There are a lot of ways to use it but here is one idea to get you started: Quick Low Calorie Flatbread. In the meantime…

Green Lasagna w/ Spinach & Mushrooms
Serves 3
A yummy and slightly healthier deviation from traditional lasagna.
Print
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 1/2 onion, diced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 8oz package of mushrooms, chopped
  5. 1 tablespoon minced sun dried tomatoes
  6. 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  9. 1/2 package firm tofu
  10. 3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
  11. 5 ounces light cream cheese (I used 5 wedges of flavored laughing cow because I had some around)
  12. 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
  13. 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  14. 1 small clove garlic
  15. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  16. 10 lasagna noodles (or whatever quantity is enough to make five layers in the baking dish of your choice)
  17. 4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  18. 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Follow package instructions for parboiling your lasagna noodles prior to baking. In my case I boiled 10 noodles for 4 minutes. Cut the noodles to fit your baking dish and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook onions and garlic until slightly translucent. Add chopped mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and cover for 5-7 minutes.
  4. When mushrooms have released their juices and are soft, stir in the sundried tomatoes and 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan. Remove from heat.
  5. In a food processor pulse the tofu, mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, drained spinach, fresh basil, garlic, and half a teaspoon of salt until well combined but not so much as to make it too smooth. A little bit of texture is nice here.
  6. Fold the cooked mushrooms into tofu mixture. Add a little more salt and pepper here if you like. Some dried oregano would be nice here as well but I was out.
  7. In a greased baking dish spread a layer of the filling along the bottom then top with one layer of noodles. Repeat another layer in the same way. For the third layer use half of your mozzarella cheese as the filling. Do the last two layers as normal with the filling, ending with a layer of the filling on top. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese and parmesan over the top.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 20. If needed broil the cheese a little at the end.
Calories
  1. 527
Notes
  1. Caloric information will vary depending on the size of your dish and the amount of sauce that you use. I cut down my noodles a fair amount to fit into my dish and had about 1/4-1/3 of the filling leftover that I used in a low calorie lunch pizza a couple of days later. The recipe can be found here.
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Truffled Macaroni w/ Roasted Cauliflower & Mushrooms

   

Sometimes I get a hardcore craving for macaroni and cheese that just won’t quit. The problem is that I’m still in the process of my weight loss and I have a calorie budget to consider. Fortunately I love the challenge of taking a delightfully fatty and indulgent meal then converting it to something a little more figure friendly… without sacrificing flavor of course. I used a 2 quart baking dish and calculated the calories based on it being enough to feed 4 people – so we’re not skimping on the portion size with this one either. You could probably serve this as a side and spread it between 5-6 people (344 & 287 calories per serving in those cases), but like I said… my craving for macaroni that just won’t quit? I’m so eating 1/4 of what’s in that pan.

 

 

I knew that I wanted to deviate from my traditional macaroni recipe which calls for enough butter to give a stegosaurus a heart attack and enough cheese to set Wisconsin back 15 years. My first decision was to replace some of that carby pasta with nutty, roasted cauliflower and my second decision was to use truffle oil in it. I love mushrooms with truffle oil so opting to toss those in was a no brainer. In the end I feel like I made a macaroni and cheese recipe that stands well enough on it’s own to grace any Thanksgiving table. It’s not something that you eat and say, “Oh yeah this is good… for having reduced calories…” Instead you say, “More macaroni please!”

 

 

Truffled Macaroni w/ Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 4
Lighter version of macaroni and cheese that will fool you into thinking you’re cheating on your diet.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
55 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Head of Cauliflower, cut into small florets
  2. 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  3. 1 8oz Package of Mushrooms, chopped
  4. 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  5. 2 Cups Fusilli Pasta, dry
  6. 2 Tablespoons Flour
  7. 2 Cups Skim Milk
  8. 2oz Neufchatel (1/3 reduced fat)
  9. 2oz Fontina, grated
  10. 2oz Havarti, grated
  11. 1/2 Teaspoon Truffle Oil
  12. 1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme
  13. 1/4 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  14. Salt & Pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Spray or butter a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
  2. Toss cauliflower florets with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and distribute evenly on a cookie sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  3. While the cauliflower is in the oven, heat 1/2 of the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the butter is warm add in your chopped mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper to season, and cover. Let cook for 5-6 minutes until the juices are released and mushrooms are soft. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Cook your pasta for 1-2 minutes less than the suggested package time. When done, drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. The cauliflower should also be finishing around this time. Remove it from the oven and set aside with the pasta and mushrooms. Reduce oven temperature to 400F.
  5. In a high sided skillet, heat the other half of your butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add flour and whisk, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in your skim milk and whisk well. Continue to stir occasionally while the sauce thickens slightly over the next 8-10 minutes.
  6. Remove the sauce from heat and stir in the neufchatel until melted. Add 3/4 of the grated cheeses and stir until melted. Season with a bit of salt and pepper (I used about half a teaspoon of each), then add your truffle oil and fresh thyme.
  7. Gently fold your mushrooms, cauliflower, and pasta into the cheese sauce and transfer to your greased baking dish. Top with the remaining grated cheese and panko bread crumbs. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Calories
  1. 431
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