There is a time to indulge in fine chocolates, and then there is a time to enjoy flavorful vegetables. I believe in balance and subscribe to the notion of all things in moderation. I like to cook, I love to eat, and I desire to be as healthy as possible. As part of this quest for good health, I recently read You: On a Diet by Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz. Although I usually shy away from anything that contains the dreaded d-word, Dr. Oz did introduce me to the neti pot and steel cut oats and I was curious about his ideas on weight loss. In addition to tons of good information about our bodies and how they interact with food, this book contains a two week eating plan to jump start healthy living and weight loss. The book also includes some of my favorites things. . . recipes!
The recipe for Royal Pasta Primavera Provencale is one that I would have totally glossed over if I had come across it in another book or magazine. I realize now that I often dismiss recipes based on certain ingredients or techniques that are out of my comfort zone. For example, this recipe contains eggplant. I love eggplant and will gladly order it from a restaurant or eat it when my husband prepares it, but for some reason I never cook with it at home. Also, this recipe calls for tossing a cup of mesclun or mixed spring salad greens into the sauce before serving. Again, this sounds weird to me, so in the past I would have moved onto something more familiar. Not anymore, however, because in addition to recipes for family comfort foods, I also want to leave my children with recipes for healthy dishes that are as delicious as they are nutritious.
Royal Pasta Primavera Provencale meets both of these criteria. It is delicious and nutritious! The whole wheat pasta provides a nutty background for the hearty and flavorful sauce. Although I had never used a dried ancho chili pepper before and it did take two very nice workers to help me find it in the produce department of my HEB, I was so grateful that I had put forth the effort to find this key ingredient. The dried ancho chili proved to me that peppers are about flavor and not just heat. This main course was full of taste but was not overly spicy. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to find that adding a handful of fresh greens to the pot right before serving added yet another dimension of texture.
This recipe for Royal Pasta Primavera Provencale has motivated me to look more closely at recipes that I would have dismissed in the past. Just like most Americans today, I desire to incorporate more whole grains and vegetables into my family's diet, but I refuse to sacrifice taste in order to do that. I love that while making this dish, my kids drifted into the kitchen and inquired, "What's that great smell? What's for dinner? When are we eating?" and I love that indulging on vegetables can be nearly as satisfying as indulging on chocolates.
Royal Pasta Primavera Provencale Recipe
2 servings, 451 calories per serving
6 ounces whole wheat rigatoni or linguine pasta
1 small dried ancho or pasilla chilli pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) diced (1/2-inch cubes) unpeeled eggplant
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 cup packed mesclun or mixed spring salad greens
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or lemon thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat if desired.
- Heat a large, deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add the whole chili pepper; cook, turning occasionally until fragrant and toasted, about 2 minutes. Remove the chili from the skillet. When it is cool enough to handle, discard its stem and remove its seeds. Set the seeds aside for garnish and roughly chop the chili.
- Add the oil to the skillet. Add the diced eggplant and cook until browned, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Add another teaspoon of olive oil if the pot seems dry or the veggies start to stick.)
- Add tomatoes with juice and chopped chili.
- Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and sauce thickens.
- Remove sauce from heat; stir in salad greens and thyme.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve sauce over hot pasta.