3 Simple healthy, Italian-style dinners

Pasta fagioli, with beans, broth and vegetables make Pasta fagioli, with beans, broth and vegetables make a hearty, satisfying and healthy soup. (January 2013) Photo Credit: Marge Perry

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Marge Perry Newsday columnist Marge Perry

Marge Perry, Newsday's weekly 3 Simple columnist, also writes, broadcasts, teaches and speaks about cooking, food and nutrition. ...

To start the year off right, cook healthy -- or healthier versions of -- Italian-American favorites.

TIP Make any of these recipes even healthier by adding more vegetables: Spinach and broccoli work well in all of them.

 

1. PASTA FAGIOLI

The soup thickens as it stands: add water or broth as needed.

1 tablespoon olive oil

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1 cup chopped red onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

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4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomato with basil, garlic and oregano

1 cup (about 5 1/2 ounces) orzo pasta

2 (15-ounce) cans lower sodium cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper to taste

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1/4 cup grated or shaved Parmesan

1. Heat the oil in a soup pot set over medium high. Add the onion, garlic and rosemary, and cook, stirring often, 1 minute until garlic is slightly softened. Add the carrots and celery and cook until somewhat softened, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 to 9 minutes. Stir in the beans, cook 1 minute to heat through, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top each bowl with grated or shaved Parmesan. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving 279 calories, 12 g protein, 49 g carbohydrates, 10 g fiber, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 398 mg sodium

 

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2. BAKED PENNE WITH TURKEY SAUSAGE

8 ounce penne pasta

1 pound Italian turkey sausage (uncooked)

1 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomato

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomato

1 1/2 cups shredded light mozzarella

1 cup grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.

3. Cook pasta according to package directions in plenty of lightly salted boiling water.

4. Meanwhile, squeeze the sausage out of its casings and into a large nonstick skillet. Toss in the skillet with the onion and garlic and turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is no longer pink. Stir in the crushed and diced tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Toss the pasta and sausage together. Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella and all the Parmesan cheese and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the top.

6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the top golden. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving 448 calories, 36 g protein, 43 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 14 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 76 mg cholesterol, 1186 mg sodium

 

3. SPAGHETTI WITH MEAT SAUCE

8 ounces mixed grain spaghetti

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 pound lean ground sirloin

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

8 ounce zucchini, cut in 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, according to package directions, until the pasta is al dente. Drain.

2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high. Add onion, garlic, basil, salt and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until somewhat translucent. Add meat and cook, stirring to break into crumbles, until no longer pink. Add tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken. Add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 4 more minutes.

3. Toss the pasta and sauce together, spoon onto plates, and top each serving with the cheese. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving 460 calories, 34 g protein, 58 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 11 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 757 mg sodium

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