It’s hard to change your eating habits. But every now and then your health (or someone you love’s) reminds you that the foods you eat aren’t always the best for you. Because of that, we’ve been particularly diligent in watching our starch, sugar, and processed food intake. We’re trying to live a more healthy lifestyle and part of that was really examining what we eat.
On the whole, we actually don’t eat that badly. I’ve lost some weight, Steve’s blood pressure and cholesterol is good. And obviously you can’t be good all the time. I think it’s Nigella Lawson who says everything in moderation, including moderation. All that being said, there were some changes we needed to make. We’ve started following the Mediterranean diet, which is big on fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, legumes, olive oil, lean protein, red wine (!!!), yogurt, cheese, and whole grains and short on red meat, sugar, and processed food. Combined with the low salt diet we’ve been working on, I can feel the effects. I also gave up caffeine (and that was freaking painful, let me tell you), but knowing I could still have alcohol has been a comfort. It’s been a good exercise for me – I read labels much more carefully, I plan my meals a lot more precisely, I snack much smarter. I even started making my own salad dressing (which is easy, cheaper, and much healthier for you despite how delicious those creamy dressings can be).
But sometimes you need pasta. Carbs aren’t evil. The right carbs are actually quite healthy for you. Unfortunately, pasta isn’t the best carb in the world. But if you use it sparingly and bulk up your pasta with lots of fresh vegetables, you can still enjoy your pasta cravings with lots of joy.
You could make this dish with jarred sauce, but since I was going to add ground turkey to the dish I decided to make a quick meat sauce. It wasn’t thick, but it didn’t need to be. I’m using the leftover sauce this weekend for homemade pizzas.
Baked Pasta Florentine
- 1 28 oz can ground, peeled tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can tomato puree
- 1/2 cup good red wine
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried basil to taste
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 1/3 lbs ground turkey
- 1 large red pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1 large green pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 bag baby spinach
- 8 oz farfalle (bowtie) pasta, uncooked (or your favorite pasta)
- 2-3 cups shredded mozzarella
Start with your sauce. In a large dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add ground turkey and saute until most of the pink is gone. Add tomatoes, wine, and spices. Let simmer over medium-low heat for about half an hour or more, stirring occasionally.
While sauce simmers, saute onions and peppers in a pan with olive oil until veggies are soft, but not browned or caramelized. Remove onions and peppers from pan, add about a tablespoon of olive oil back to pan, then add spinach. Saute until spinach is completely wilted. If you deglaze the pan with a little white wine so the spinach doesn’t stick, I won’t tell anyone because I did the same thing.
While you’re doing all of that, boil a pot of salted water and cook pasta until al dente. Drain well. Preheat your oven to 400.
In a baking dish, combine your peppers, onions, spinach & pasta. Ladle sauce over the mixture, then cover with mozzarella cheese. Bake until cheese is brown and bubbly.
You may have a lot more extra sauce than I did – I made a smaller batch of this without the veggies for Thomas, which took a couple cups of sauce. The sauce will freeze just fine if you’re not going to use it within a few days.