Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Green Pasta (Rotini with Spicy Spinach Pesto)

Not only is it National Nutrition Month, but St. Patty's Day is fast approaching too. And here in St. Louis, it's a big deal! I don't know if I'll be heading down to the Dogtown Parade this year, but I'll still be trying to rub off a little of that "Irish luck" by going green on the 17th.

This "green" meal is also a great way to create a MyPlate meal in honor of National Nutrition Month--that's a meal that's based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A MyPlate meal incorporates healthy choices from a variety of food groups. This meal fits the bill by supplying whole grains (pasta), vegetables (zucchini), protein (beans) and healthy fats (olive oil and nuts in the pesto). Add a fruit and dairy, either for dessert or at a snack, to complete your healthy meal.

My "Green Pasta" is a quick and easy to prepare meal. It's also a meatless option that would suit a vegetarian or vegan diet (are you doing Meatless Mondays?). It's an excellent source of non-meat protein and filling fiber too. If you're normally not a big fan of pesto, I encourage you to give my Spicy Spinach Pesto a whirl. It's not as potent as traditional basil pesto and is lower in fat. All you need is 5 minutes and a food processor or blender. For added convenience, make a large batch and freeze it in smaller portions for future meals. It's easy to freeze in an ice cube tray or between two small pieces of wax paper.

If you're preparing a dinner for just two, this recipe is great for lunch (or leftover dinner) the next day too.

Green Pasta (Rotini with Spicy Spinach Pesto)
Serves 4.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 2 2/3 cups whole wheat rotini, dry
  • 1 cups peas, frozen
  • 16 ounces garbanzo beans, canned, low-sodium, drained and rinsed
  • 6 tablespoons Spicy Spinach Pesto (recipe here)
  • 1 dash kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 dash fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
  • 8 leaves basil, fresh, chiffonade (sliced)

  1. Boil water in a medium pot. When water begins to boil, add pasta and cook until al dente (just beginning to soften). Add frozen peas and continue to heat until water returns to a boil. Drain in colander and return to pot. Cover with lid to keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet.
  3. Sauté zucchini until it begins to soften, seasoning with garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Add garbanzo beans. Stir and turn heat to low.
  4. Add Spicy Spinach Pesto to pasta and peas. Gently fold to coat pasta with pesto.
  5. Serve pasta with zucchini mixture on top. Sprinkle with parmesan and ribbons of fresh basil.

Nutrition Facts (per serving, including Pesto)
Calories 426 | Total Fat 13g | Saturated Fat 2g | Cholesterol 4mg | Sodium 528mg | Total Carb 62g | Dietary Fiber 8g | Sugars 4g | Protein 17g.

Download the recipe here (includes Spicy Spinach Pesto).
Recipe pictured includes chicken breast, which adds about 145 calories per 3 ounces.