I discovered pesto a few years ago (I know, I lived under a rock before) and it is one of my favorite things. Garlic + Basil is always a winning combination in my book…I guess I have a soft spot for Italian food. It’s actually more like a gigantic soft spot. Give me a plate of pasta, some garlic cheesy bread and I am a happy camper.
I’ve found that I can still enjoy pasta while focusing on healthy eating by keeping two things in mind:
- Portion size – I like to use a measuring cup and forgo estimating when it comes to pasta. I always am more generous!
- Whole wheat pasta – This is readily available at most stores. Whole wheat pasta is more nutrient dense than regular white pasta and I personally enjoy the flavor more!
- Light on the cheese, heavy on the vegetables – Whether I puree some fresh spinach to throw into a marinara sauce or add in chunks of onions and bell peppers, I always try to add some extra vegetables to my pasta dishes! In most traditional recipes I go light on the cheese as well. I can normally halve the amount and still get the same flavor and satisfaction.
Pasta salad is a staple at summer gatherings and this Pesto Pasta Salad is a delicious Italian twist on classic pasta salad. Using pre-made pesto sauce makes this recipe easy-peasy, although if you are feeling very Martha Stewart it is really simple to whip up some pesto! (Here is a great pesto recipe!) I love using turkey pepperoni to lighten up my Italian recipes, homemade pizza, and deli style sandwiches–it’s such a great alternate to normal greasy pepperoni. Adding in fresh bell pepper makes this salad pop and provides a healthy dose of veggies and color to this simple pasta salad!
- 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta (about half of a box for me)
- 4 ounces prepared pesto
- 4 ounces turkey pepperoni sliced
- 1½ cups chopped bell pepper (I used green and yellow bell peppers)
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese, cut in small cubes
- Sprinkle of parmesan
- Prepare pasta according to the box directions. Drain and rinse in cool water. Return to pan and add pepperoni, pesto, and bell pepper. Stir in mozzarella cheese. Refrigerate 2-3 hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve cold with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
I hope you will love this pesto pasta salad as much as I do! I kind of had to take it away, lest I consume the whole thing in one ginormous sitting. That’s definitely NOT on the 21 Day Fix approved eating plan! If you are doing the 21 Day Fix (Week 3–here we come!) a 1 cup serving would count towards 1 yellow, 1/2 green, 1/2 red, 1/2 blue and 2 teaspoons. One thing I appreciate about the 21 Day Fix is that you can create delicious recipes like this using whole ingredients and still be “on plan” just keep your portion sizes in mind.
Have a terrific Tuesday! I’m off this morning to hunt a some kind of dresser, buffet, etc. to be our new T.V. stand–wish me the luck of Jojo Gaines. 😉 Family camp also started this week and so we are enjoying all the camp amenities like a toddler class in the morning and kid-free dinners twice a week. It’s always hectic work-wise for Nate the first week, but we like to take little snatches and get away when we can, so this morning it’s a thrifty date! Hope your week is going well too!
What is your go-to dish at a picnic or barbecue?