Here is an easy ‘pantry’ pasta loaded with vegetables and protein. I love adding in a lot of vegetables and using whole wheat pasta to bump up the nutrition of the dish. Additional protein in this pasta comes from low fat cottage cheese, which is full of protein and calcium. Also, making a batch of pasta early in the week means you will have leftovers for quick lunches throughout the week. You could easily double this recipe if you have a large family or wish to freeze some for another week (just make sure you have a large enough pot in which to cook the pasta).
Prep Time: 20 minutes
1 lb. dried fusilli, penne, or other short pasta with ridges (I’ve used whole wheat pasta for more fiber and protein and it works great!)
16oz. low fat cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese)
2 14.5oz. can diced (or whole) tomatoes, or fresh when in season
1 6oz. can tomato paste
1 lb. frozen spinach, thawed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried marjoram
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped (optional)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, for the pasta water and a bit for the sauce, to taste (the cottage cheese will have some salt already in it)
Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, freshly grated
Put 6 quarts of water on to boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt to the water once it reaches a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the packaged directions.
While the water boils and the pasta cooks prep the sauce:
Heat your largest skillet over medium heat. I use a 6qt sauté pan. You could also use a Dutch oven if you do not have a large enough sauté pan. Add the 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is heated, add the finely chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent.
While the onion is sautéing, puree the diced tomatoes in a food processor or blender.
Add the minced garlic to the sautéed onion, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add in the pureed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, and a sprinkling of salt. Cook until heated through, about 3-5 minutes.
While the tomatoes heat up, defrost the 1 lb. of frozen spinach in the microwave. Sprinkle the spinach with salt and the ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper.
Add the defrosted spinach, the tomato paste, and the ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (if using) to the sauté pan and heat through. Turn the heat to low.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauté pan. Add the 16oz. of cottage cheese to the sauté pan. Stir it everything together until well combined and the cottage cheese begins to melt. Turn off the heat.
Spoon into dishes and grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top.
Tip: Try adding in some grated mozzarella for extra cheesy goodness.