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Photo by Chris Casella
Photo by Chris Casella

Tasting is Believing

When I think of my all-time favorite unhealthy foods, I think of only one category… Italian. The sauce, the cheese, the pasta and the meat all come together in such a magical way that it makes my heart flutter from the glorious taste and the calorie and fat content. Even now, writing this article in the early hours of morning, just thinking about Italian food is making my mouth water.

What if I told you that you could have your cake (or in this case, Italian food) AND eat it too, without feeling guilty? I’ve been experimenting with my three favorite dishes from Italy to try and make them healthier since I started cooking many years ago, and now I’m ready to show the world that you don’t have to skimp on taste to eat deliciously healthy (and still cheesy) fare with an Italian twist.


Stuffed Shells

Photo by Chris Casella

Serves 12

Ingredients

24 whole grain jumbo pasta shells

1 lb. organic, lean ground turkey

1 container reduced-fat ricotta cheese

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 jar of chunky, red pasta sauce

1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese

Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook the pasta shells according to package directions. Leave them in the strainer in the sink to dry.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown the turkey. Drain any remaining fat.

4. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, browned turkey and Italian seasoning.

5. Spray a 9-by-13 glass-baking dish with cooking spray. Add a half-cup of the sauce to the bottom and spread evenly to create a thin layer.

6. Fill each shell with about 1 tablespoon of the cheese and meat mixture. Place in the baking dish.

7. Cover the stuffed shells with the rest of the pasta sauce. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.

8. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes more, or until the top is melted to your desire.

9. Remove from oven and let sit for five to 10 minutes before serving.


Chicken and Veggie Alfredo

IMG_3740

Serves four to six

Ingredients

1 package whole grain fettuccine

Nonstick cooking spray

1 lb. organic, boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into half-inch-thick strips

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1 package frozen broccoli, thawed

1 jar light Alfredo sauce

Directions:

1. Prepare fettuccine to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add the chicken strips and mushrooms. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the chicken is no longer pink and the mushrooms are golden brown.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the broccoli. Stir well. Add the Alfredo sauce and cook and stir until everything is heated through and combined.

4. Serve your chicken mixture on top of your fettuccine and enjoy!


Healthier Lasagna

IMG_3752

Serves 12

Ingredients

9 whole grain lasagna noodles

1 container reduced-fat ricotta cheese

1 egg

2 cups part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese

1 box frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1 jar of your favorite red pasta sauce

Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Leave them in the strainer in the sink to dry.

3. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, the egg, and one cup of the mozzarella cheese. Fold in the spinach, and mix well.

4. Spray a 9-by-13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Add a half cup of the sauce to the bottom and spread evenly to create a thin layer.

5. Place three of your cooked and dried lasagna noodles on top of the sauce layer. Spread half of the cheese and spinach mixture on top. Spread one-third of your remaining sauce on top of the cheese mixture.

6. Repeat the layers once more.

7. To finish preparing your lasagna, place your last three noodles on top of your second cheese and sauce layer. Spread your remaining sauce over the whole thing. Sprinkle with the remaining one cup of mozzarella cheese.

8. To bake, cover with foil and place in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes more, or until the top is melted to your preference.

9. Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes before cutting. Enjoy!

NOTE: You can prepare the lasagna ahead of time and store it covered in the refrigerator for three to four days. When ready to bake, just pull it out and start at direction number eight.

Food by Courtney Nielsen, Fit Food Meals. Photo by Chris Casella

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