Minestrone reinvented as a warm pasta salad is perfect is for my friends at lunch; with the addition of a little sautéed ham, it’s a tailgater’s delight. Disclosure: I was asked to participate in the Pasta Fits campaign as a member of the Healthy Aperture Blogger Network. I was compensated for my time.
Here’s a pic of what life’s like at my house, organized chaos. If you look really closely in the left window, you will see who I’m trying not to trip over while carrying a plateful of food (the reflection of one of my four legged friends). Life is good! I rely on simple meals and fashion staples to get through most days. In addition to sharing this crowd pleasing recipe, here are 5 reasons why I believe pasta is the culinary equivalent to your little black dress (LBD):
1.Pasta fits any meal and every occassion, just like that little black dress you pay homage to. Whatever ‘s necessary at the moment, think pasta. Over the years, I have made pasta to feed a myriad of individuals and groups including: toddlers, college co-eds, men, women, vegans, carnivores, Democrats, Republicans, high school and college wrestlers, women golfers, and professional soccer players. Most of my meals are super casual, but just like that LDB, you can go as elaborate as your heart desires.
2. Pasta fits a busy lifestyle because it’s practical. Simple is good, right? That’s why you’re mad for your LBD, and why you’ll be smitten with using pasta to partner with other nutritious foods to make satisfying meals meals in minutes. No complicated instructions, or hard to find ingredients, ever. Heck, you can keep pasta in the pantry and fix it whenever you like. It doesn’t matter what you have on hand, it’s versatile and will pair with almost anything! Tip: Always check your refrigerator first for any leftovers.
3. Pasta fits into your budget. You were smart when you picked up that LBD off the clearance rack, so why would you fork over cash for overpriced staples? Pasta is inexpensive and using it as a base for vegetables and protein makes an easy weeknight meal so you can avoid pricey ( and yes, often high calorie) take out.
4. Pasta fits your healthy diet and keeps you feeling good. Confidence not only comes from putting your best foot forward in your LBD, but feeling energetic and able to concentrate. Pasta is a complex carbohydrate, important for fueling your muscles and brain. It keeps you feeling full and provides steady energy. Inadequate consumption of carbohydrates makes you sluggish, not confident. More bad news if your energy levels crash, you won’t feel like exercising. Now are you starting to see how restricting carbs can backfire?
5. Pasta fits your desire to remain hip and stylish. Pasta, just like that LBD, is classic and will n-e-v-e-r go out of style. Pasta meals have stood the test of time. Nowadays there are even more versions of our favorite classic pasta dishes. In celebration of National Pasta Month, I’m putting my own twist on a popular pasta recipe. For more pasta love, you’ll want to visit the the sites of these bloggers who are also participating in the #pastafits campaign :
Now, let me share my recipe for a warm pasta salad, with seasonal ingredients.
My inspiration comes from a food that’s already light and fit: minestrone. This traditional Italian soup made with pasta, tomatoes and beans gets an autumal tweak with butternut squash and is served up on a bed of spinach and leafy greens with a warm balsamic vinaigrette. The salad pictured is vegetarian and about 340 calories per serving and a whopping 7 grams of dietary fiber! Feel free to try a variation depending on your occasion. I think football fans would go hard for the version with sauteed ham, or pepperoni. Bring on the tailgating crowd!
Warm Minestrone Pasta Salad (serves 6)
- 1/2 butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 5 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 pound uncooked ditalini
- 1 can cannelloni beans, drained
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1/2 cup diced carrot
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 2.5 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves or other greens
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tomatoes cut into wedges
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread squash onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for about 30 minutes until vegetable is tender and begins to brown.
2. Meanwhile, cook ditalini according to package instructions until al dente. Drain. Refresh under cold running water, drain again. Place pasta in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add beans, onion, carrot, celery and roasted squash.
3. In a small skillet over med -low heat add remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and garlic. Heat until garlic begins to tenderize. Whisk together sugar red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and slowly add to hot oil. Simmer 2-3 minutes.
4. Pour contents of skillet over pasta mixture. Toss well. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garnish with tomato wedges. Serve warm.
VARIATION: Make this salad heartier with the addition of 1 cup of diced and sauteed ham, pepperoni or salami.