I don’t think I’ve ever posted a recipe here – I don’t love to cook that much, it’s kind of just not my thing. But since we started this no-sugar, no-white-flour diet, I’ve been looking around for creative meal ideas. I dug out my old South Beach Diet cookbook, and found something that we’ve never tried before. I modified it a bit (added chicken, since the original version was vegetarian), and the end result was awesome. Seriously, Dave and I both couldn’t stop talking about it, and we loved it just as much when we had the leftovers tonight. It was fantastic. So, just in case any of y’all are also trying to eat healthy, here you go:
Whole Wheat Pasta with Eggplant and Ricotta
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes [note: this is where I messed up; I sliced the eggplant way too thin and it basically shriveled up to nothing. So make sure you cut them into nice big chunks.]
* 8 ounces whole-wheat penne pasta – you can use regular if you want, whole-wheat is just how we roll at our house
* 1 small onion, thinly sliced
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 (14.5 ounce) can of chopped tomatoes
* 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
* 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
* salt & pepper
* fresh basil (optional)
* My addition: 1 pound of chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-size pieces. I think pork would also work (maybe pork tenderloin?), but probably not beef or fish.
1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Lightly coat a baking pan with oil (or spray with Pam). Place eggplant in the pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt & pepper, toss to coat, and spread in an even layer. Bake, stirring once, until eggplant is lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
3. While eggplant is roasting, cook pasta according to the package directions.
4. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In my version: add the chicken (or your meat of choice) and brown it. Of course, it’s not mandatory, this was just something I added, since for Dave and me, it doesn’t really feel like dinner if there isn’t meat involved.
5. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened – about 5 minutes.
6. Add garlic, cook one minute more.
7. Add tomatoes (with juice) and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes.
8. Stir in vinegar and season to taste with salt & pepper. You can also add basil if you like. I tore up a few fresh basil leaves and added them, and I think it really improved the flavor. (Plus the touch of green made the dish a little prettier.)
9. Drain pasta and place in large bowl. Add tomato mixture, eggplant, and ricotta cheese. Toss to combine, season with salt & pepper (maybe – I thought it seemed unnecessary after salting both the tomato mixture and the eggplant), and serve.
It really was fantastic. My only gripe is that it isn’t exactly a toddler-friendly meal. Catie didn’t like the whole-wheat pasta, and the sauce was a little too “herb-y” for her (the combination of onion, basil, and balsamic vinegar – it’s a very strong taste for a little one). She ate a little bit of the chicken, and then I had to find something else for her to eat for dinner. But if you aren’t cooking for a two year-old, go forth and godspeed. Let me know if you try it, and what you think of it!