The new year has arrived, and with that, I find I am making an even more significant effort to eat healthily. Eating healthy does not mean that you have to give up pasta though many folks believe this fallacy. Instead of giving up on pasta, choose a variety of pasta that is whole grain, keep the pasta portion small, and fill up the pasta bowl with extra vegetables.
Almost every grocery store now sells some whole wheat pasta, but if you check out your local health food store or Italian specialty shop, you can find a large number of “healthier” options made with a variety of whole grains. Since we live in Umbria six months a year, I have grown to love farro pasta which has a nutty flavor and pairs well with most sauces.
If you can find it, do try it, because I believe you will love it as much as I do.
I also always weigh my uncooked pasta before cooking it to ensure I am serving the correct amount and not over eating. I calculate about three and a half ounces or a hundred grams of dried pasta per person which is plenty when you add vegetables and sauce.
The benefits of choosing a whole grain pasta over a regular white flour one is that whole grain pasta varieties are nutrient rich; high in B vitamins and minerals, such as copper, selenium, magnesium and manganese. Refined or white flour pasta, while enriched with B vitamins, is not a good food source of minerals.
The B vitamins are important for a healthy nervous system and energy metabolism. Whole grain pasta does cost more than regular pasta, but if you are choosing a vegetable pasta meal in place of a meat entree, it will be much less expensive. Whole grain pasta also has much more nutritional value than plain pasta, making it worth the added expense in my mind.
Broccoli is one vegetable that I strive to add more of into our diet on a regular basis for its important nutritional value. Broccoli is a very good source of dietary fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B1, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), potassium and copper. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin B1, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin and selenium. Wow, all that goodness in just one vegetable! Luckily broccoli is readily available year round, and relatively inexpensive.
This recipe is yet another easy pasta dish that can be thrown together in about thirty minutes, making it an excellent option for busy mid-week family meals. I like to chop the sun-dried tomatoes reasonably fine, but you could also puree them into a pesto if you prefer. I also use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil because I feel that they have more flavor.
I chose to include broccoli in my dish because I had it on hand, but you could also use broccoli rabe if you prefer. I served my pasta with a sprinkling of grated Pecorino Romano cheese because it is a full flavored cheese, but grated Parmesan or even goat cheese crumbles could be delicious as well. If you would like a little extra texture, sprinkle the pasta with some chopped walnuts when serving. I chose farro fusilli as my pasta type, but any short whole grain pasta would work instead.
- 1 Head Broccoli, Cut Into Bite Sized Pieces
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 4 Garlic Cloves, Thinly Sliced
- 1/2 Cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Coarsely Chopped
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 3/4 Pound Whole Grain Pasta
- Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil.
- Drop in the broccoli, and cook until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Use the strainer insert or a slotted spoon to remove the broccoli to a bowl.
- Add the pasta to the pot, and cook as directed until "al dente".
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
- Add the garlic and cook a minute or two until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and broccoli.
- Toss to mix and keep warm.
- Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water.
- Return the pasta to the pot, then add the broccoli mixture, scraping the pan clean.
- Toss the pasta and broccoli mixture over high heat, adding a little of the pasta water to help the sauce coat the pasta.
- Serve in individual bowls, sprinkling the top with some grated Pecorino Romano cheese.