Take this meal for a spin(ach)

You might think I’m crazy, but I raided the book aisle at the grocery store. Yes, the grocery store. I found an interesting one on sale called “400 Calorie Fix Cookbook” and figured for just a few bucks I was willing to give it a whirl. It turns out there are a lot of great recipes, and each page has two options for making it into a complete 400 calorie meal. Awesome! The next few posts will be some of the first recipes I wanted to try out after reading through my new 300-something page cookbook.

I’ve been craving pasta lately but didn’t feel like making sauce (and I’ve gotten so spoiled that I really have a hard time eating jarred pasta sauce now). I found a great recipe called “pasta with spinach and parsley-cheese sausage” that seemed filling enough to call a meal but still light enough for our hot summer days. It was absolutely delicious.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see that the recipe called for spinach fusilli until I was actually cooking, and I totally would’ve bought it, but the regular fusilli was still tasty. I will probably use the spinach or a whole grain pasta instead next time, just to up the health quotient. I also did not find a parsley-cheese sausage specifically, so I used Artisan Fresh’s spinach and asiago chicken sausage as it would still complement the flavors in the dish. I followed the recipe fairly spot on, other than the fact that I didn’t understand the point of getting two nonstick pans dirty when I could cook the sausage right in the large one I’d be using later. I also added a healthy amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese and some snipped fresh parsley to make up for my sausage substitution, and then sprinkled more crushed red pepper for extra heat.

Perhaps my stove wasn’t hot enough, but the tomatoes did not start to wilt after even two or three minutes, so I continued on with the recipe and they were just right by the time the dish was done cooking. The side salad options were pretty sad, but since the main dish is already over 300 calories, I guess they wanted to keep it simple. Overall, very tasty and there are so many variation possibilities if you’re not calorie counting that I could eat this meal often. I liked it so much, in fact, that after setting aside a hearty bowlful for Jeremiah’s after work dinner, I somehow ate the other three servings without even batting an eye. Yes, it hurt later, but it was worth it. Try it out for yourself!

Recipe taken directly from 400 Calorie Fix Cookbook by Liz Vaccariello with Mindy Hermann, RD:

Pasta with Spinach and Parsley-Cheese Sausage
Prep time: 10 minutes/ Cook time: 17 minutes/ Makes 4 servings

Greens such as spinach are among the most mutrient-rich of vegetables, as they’re packed with beta-carotene and vitamin C. This dish is equally tasty with garden-fresh zucchini in place of the spinach. Because the main recipe and the variation have the same number of calories per serving, you can mix and match the suggested side salads to Make It a Meal.

6 ounces spinach fusilli pasta
6 ounces Italian-style parsley-cheese sausage or any Italian-flavored pork sausage (the thin, rope style)
1 cup water
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, combine the sausage and water in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the sausage is beginning to brown lightly. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a cutting board and cut crosswise into small pieces.

3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, garlic, basil, and pepper flakes, and cook for 45 seconds, stirring often, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 1/2 minutes, or until they start to wilt. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute, tossing often, until wilted. Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute. Add the pasta and salt and cook for 1 minute to heat through.

Pasta with Zucchini and Parsley-Cheese Sausage (variation)
Substitute 4 cups sliced zucchini for the spinach and cook about 5 minutes longer after the zucchini is added.

Per Serving (1 serving = 2 cups)
Calories: 310, Total Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 510mg/440mg (var), Carbohydrate: 39g/38g, Dietary Fiber: 5g/4g, Protein: 12g/13g, Calcium: 8%/6%

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