The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection: 9 Essential Recipes You Need To Create 90 Amazing Complete Meals

Chapter 5: Pasta & Sauce

Classic Italian Marinara

Creamy Pink Sauce

Mixed Mushroom Sauce

Garlic Oil Sauce

Walnut Garlic Sauce

Spinach Garlic Sauce

Baked Ziti

Creamy Pasta Bake

Master Pasta Salad

The Principles of Pasta & Sauce Making

Ahhh… pasta! The very word conjures up good times and sweet memories. And yes, people with diabetes can eat pasta! Only you know what works best for you to manage your blood sugar, but with these intensely flavored dishes, you can get your fill without filling out.

Let’s begin with some principles of cooking pasta. Seems easy enough, right? Add pasta to water, let it cook, drain, and you have pasta, right? Well... no. There are some guiding principles that will spell the difference between bland, limp pasta and fantastic, perfectly cooked strands.

1. You’ll need to bring a 3–5-quart pot filled with water to a rapid boil. Why so much water and this large pot? The rapidly boiling water will come back to a second rapid boil that much faster after you’ve added the pasta, and it helps to reduce the pasta sticking to itself as it washes away the starch from the pasta surface.

2. Salt should be added. Even a lightly salted pasta pot will give the pasta the absolute necessary flavor it needs. Otherwise, no matter how much you try to get all the flavor from the sauce, the pasta will taste lifeless and dull. Some of the sodium will go down the sink when the pasta is drained, but enough of it will adhere to make a difference in flavor, so add a few teaspoons. You might even find you’ll need to add less sodium overall to the finished dish.

3. Make sure the water is rapidly boiling. There shouldn’t just be some surface bubbles. Add the pasta at that point and stir for the first 1–2 minutes. This helps keep the pasta from sticking together.

4. Don’t add any oil to the pot. Pasta that’s cooked in oily water will become oily itself and the sauce will slide right off, resulting in flavorless pasta.

5. Every shape and strand of pasta will have a different cooking time. Lift a piece of pasta from the pot about 6 minutes into the cooking time and take a taste. You can always cook it longer, but if it’s already overlooked there’s no going backward. The pasta should always be a bit chewy. I recommend actually undercooking the pasta by about a minute or two, adding it to the sauce, then letting the pasta finish cooking in the sauce for about 1 minute.

6. Once the pasta is cooked, instead of draining it through a conventional strainer, I recommend you use a big Chinese ladle type strainer or spider (you can get these at any cookware shop). By scooping the pasta out, rather than draining it, you’ll retain the shape of the pasta perfectly. Add the scooped and drained pasta immediately to the prepared sauce. Never rinse or allow the pasta to cool (except when we get to the pasta salad recipes; last one in this chapter). Rinsed and cooled pasta prevents the absorption of the sauce because pasta needs a little surface starch for the sauce to adhere to.

7. Save a bit of the hot cooking water and add it to a serving bowl. Let the water sit in the bowl a few minutes and pour the water out. Now you have a nice warm bowl to add your pasta into, which makes everything taste better!

8. As you may notice, the serving size of most of these recipes turns out to be about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of cooked pasta. The standard serving size is usually 2 ounces dry, which translates into about 1 cup cooked. For people with diabetes, this amount may prove challenging for managing blood glucose levels, so I’ve cut the portion of pasta almost in half. With the sauces so nicely flavored and with the recommended side serving suggestions, this should make a satisfying meal. If there is more sauce to pasta, I’d just recommend sopping up the sauce with the side vegetable suggestions!

9. We tested the pasta shapes with everything from penne to fusilli to shells. All worked but we noticed the smaller the shape, the more we enjoyed the dish. For the strand pastas, choose any of your favorites from linguine to fettuccine to spaghetti and more.

Principles of Tomato-Based Sauces

1. Plum tomatoes are the very best kind of tomato to use. They have a higher proportion of meat to liquid than round tomatoes. In the first three sauce recipes, I use canned tomatoes. In some parts of the country, canned tomatoes may always be superior to fresh, as getting really good fresh tomatoes, even in tomato season, can be a challenge.

2. Always buy whole, canned tomatoes and crush them yourself. Just add them to a deep bowl and use your hands to gently crush them coarsely. This is actually fun; my cooking class students get a real kick out of this step! Or, if you don’t wish to get in there with your hands, try using a pastry blender to coarsely chop them, it works really well. Already crushed tomatoes or tomato purée often masks inferior canned tomatoes.

3. Seek out tomatoes in their own liquid, not with added tomato sauce. You probably won’t need the liquid anyway, as the tomatoes will provide enough liquid for the sauce, but hold back a little of it to add just in case.

4. There is no need for thickeners like tomato paste, which give sauces a too sweet flavor and a thickness that’s really not necessary. Instead, use the technique of reduction; simmering the sauce for 20–25 minutes until thick. If you are in a rush for sauce, adjust the heat to high and cook until the sauce is thick, about 10 minutes. I usually cook mine in the 20–25-minute range as I’m doing other things to get a meal ready, but both methods will work. As I note in the recipe, always use a skillet rather than a deep pot to prepare the tomato sauces. You want the reduction to be effective and water will evaporate much better by using a skillet rather then a deep pot.

5. Adding fresh herbs is best. I have no objection to dried oregano, thyme, or bay leaves, but don’t ever use dried basil! I find that 5 (and definitely no more than 10) basil leaves are plenty. Too many herbs can overwhelm the sauce and perhaps make it taste a little medicinal as well. Feel free to slice them up or use the leaves whole.

6. For the ricotta cheese called for in these recipes, please try to purchase the best you can find. Give it a little stir first in a bowl to increase its creaminess. You can also add it first to a blender or food processor to make it silky smooth.

The tomato sauce recipes are written in a progressive order. Start by mastering marinara, then progress to making a pink sauce, and then finally a vegetable-filled tomato sauce. With these three variations, plus changing up your pasta shapes, and serving different side dishes, you’ll have so many dinner options!

Principles of oil-Based Sauces

When growing up, all I knew was a tomato sauce and pasta pairing. Then, I went to Italy. In restaurant after restaurant, I was served simply prepared pasta that was so utterly delicious. It didn’t look like there were many ingredients used, but perhaps my eyes deceived me? The secret to minimal ingredients but maximum flavor was the use of a fabulous olive oil-based sauce. Olive oil is the primary flavor. Plus, the addition of herbs and garlic is all that’s needed for spectacular flavor. Here are a few guidelines:

1. Use the very best olive oil you can. The oil is not heated on a high flame, so the flavor of the oil will remain.

2. We don’t want to overload the dish with too much fat, so the pasta cooking water is added to not only help coat the pasta evenly but to give the final dish a little thickness.

3. Think of an oil-based sauce as a blank canvas. You can go from just oil, garlic, salt, and pepper to adding healthy nuts, vegetables, and a handful of fresh herbs. But try to keep the essence of oil-based sauces intact and simple.

Principles of Baked Pastas

My mom lived with diabetes for 49 years. While she gave up a few foods that wreaked havoc with her blood glucose levels, every week she still prepared a baked pasta. She grew up in an Italian neighborhood in New Jersey and was taught at a young age how to prepare baked ziti, stuffed shells, manicotti, and more. The best part of enjoying her baked pasta dishes was that the pasta was never waterlogged or mushy. Here are her pasta rules to live by:

1. Use a wide shallow baking dish (an oval au gratin dish is perfect). Choose one about 13 inches long and 2 inches deep. This allows the pasta filling to heat quicker, keeping the pasta nice and firm, yet moist.

2. Undercook the pasta slightly. It should be very al dente. And never rinse the pasta; it will only make the casserole mushy.

3. Add cheese, but do so sparingly.

4. Make your own breadcrumbs. This takes no more than a minute or two and the result is infinitely better. Commercial breadcrumbs can taste like chemicals and are often too finely ground, making for a mushy topping.

5. Bake uncovered. Covering the pasta steams it and makes it soggy. Not covering also helps to create an appealing crispy crust everyone loves.

6. No need to let the pasta rest once it’s removed from the oven, like you do with lasagna. You want the sauce to be a bit loose.

7. To save time, make up all the components of the recipe ahead of time and store. Then, combine everything just before baking.

Principles of Pasta Salads

What a really ingenious idea it is to enjoy cool pastas on a hot day. Like a lot of the recipes in this chapter, you’ll need a blueprint to follow to ensure you don’t end up with heavy, sticky, flavorless pasta salads. Through lots of trial and error, here are the steps to take for the very best results.

1. Make sure to choose the very best pasta, preferably made from 100% semolina or durum wheat. Once pasta cools, you need the sturdiness of a good pasta to help maintain its chewy texture.

2. Choose a pasta shape according to what additional ingredients you’ll use. If your dressing is on the chunkier side, choose a heavy pasta like rigatoni. If the dressing is thinner, a smaller shaped pasta such as fusilli will work. If you wish to add some seafood, use shells, as they catch shellfish well.

3. Never overcook the pasta. As a matter of fact, undercook it by a minute.

4. Dressings should be bold tasting. Once a dressing is added to pasta the starch in the pasta actually neutralizes flavors, so start out with a dressing that actually tastes a bit stronger on its own.

5. If adding large leafy fresh herbs, such as basil or mint, just tear them. They won’t wilt or bruise this way.

6. After you drain the pasta, toss it with a little olive oil to prevent sticking while it cools. If the pasta is not cooled properly, it will absorb the dressing too fast, resulting in a dull-flavored, dry and sticky pasta salad.

7. After all the ingredients are tossed together, let everything sit for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Pasta salads aren’t exactly appealing past 24 hours, so prepare them and plan on serving them soon.

8. Serve pasta salads cool or at room temperature but never cold. The flavors are not as pronounced in a chilled pasta salad.

9. To finish any pasta dish, a spritz of fresh lemon juice picks up the flavor very nicely!

Classic Italian Marinara

Classic Italian Marinara

Serves: 10 | Serving size: 1/2 cup | Prep time: 7 minutes | Cook time: 33 minutes

You can make your own marinara sauce at a fraction of the price of commercially bottled sauces. This sauce relies heavily on garlic, but feel free to temper this assertive flavor if you wish. Either cut back on the amount of garlic or slice the garlic instead of mincing it. The more you chop or mince garlic, the more pungent your final dish will be. Larger pieces of garlic, while still flavorful, will release a more subtle taste. This sauce freezes great. Pour into a heavy zip-locked freezer bag and store for up to 6 months.

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can good-quality canned tomatoes, preferably packed in its own juice, drained, reserve liquid

5 fresh basil leaves with stems, sliced, or you may leave whole

10 ounces whole-wheat shaped pasta (penne, shells, fusilli)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes (optional)

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Heat the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet with a lid over low heat (do not use a deep pot, you want the water to quickly evaporate and the sauce to become thick). Cook the garlic for about 6–7 minutes, but do not brown, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, add the drained tomatoes to a deep bowl. Crush the tomatoes with your hands until coarse. Add the tomatoes and basil to the skillet and simmer for 20–25 minutes until thick. Add some of the reserved liquid from the can of tomatoes, if necessary, if the sauce is too thick.

3. Meanwhile bring a 3–5-quart pot of lightly salted water (fill the pot 2/3 full) to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and stir for the first minute. Continue to cook the pasta approximately 7–8 minutes until al dente. Drain, do not rinse.

4. Add in the salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, if using, to the tomato sauce. Add the pasta to the sauce, cover, and let the pasta sit in the sauce for 1–2 minutes. Add the pasta to a warmed bowl and sprinkle with cheese. (The sauce can also be frozen. Freeze in a quart container and store for 3–4 months.)

Exchanges / Choices: 1 1/2 Starch; 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 150; Calories from Fat 30; Total Fat 3.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.6 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 250 mg; Potassium 130 mg; Total Carbohydrate 25 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Sugars 2 g; Protein 4 g; Phosphorus 70 mg

Sides

Seared Chicken Breast

Serves: 4 | Serving size: 3 ounces

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (remove any tenderloins so chicken lays flat)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1. Pound the chicken breasts so they are even in thickness. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and sear on both sides for about 5 minutes per side. Be sure to let one side of the chicken thoroughly sear before turning over to the other side. This will ensure even cooking and will prevent sticking.

3. Cover the skillet, lower the heat to low, and cook for about 5–6 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Exchanges / Choices: 3 Protein, lean; 1/2 Fat

Calories 170; Calories from Fat 70; Total Fat 8.0 g; Saturated Fat 1.5 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 65 mg; Sodium 290 mg; Potassium 200 mg; Total Carbohydrate 0 g; Dietary Fiber 0 g; Sugars 0 g; Protein 24 g; Phosphorus 175 mg

Green Beans

Serves: 1 | Serving size: 1/2 cup

1/2 cup green beans

1. Steam green beans for 5–7 minutes until tender and crisp and serve alongside pasta and chicken.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 20; Calories from Fat 0; Total Fat 0.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.0 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 0 mg; Potassium 90 mg; Total Carbohydrate 5 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 1 g; Phosphorus 20 mg

Creamy Pink Sauce

Serves: 10 | Serving size: 1/2 | Prep time: 11 minutes | Cook time: 32 minutes

For a twist on Classic Italian Marinara, add smooth ricotta cheese, and you’ll have a creamy delicious sauce. This sauce is not quite as bold as the marinara, as the garlic is crushed, not minced, and the amount of fresh basil is reduced. A great sauce to serve over pasta for children—and anyone else, for that matter!

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 garlic cloves, crushed 

1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, drained (reserve a little juice) 

3 whole fresh basil leaves, cleaned of any grit 

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese, stirred 

10 ounces whole-wheat shaped pasta

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with lid over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5–6 minutes until lightly browned. Add the crushed garlic and sauté for 1 minute.

2. Add the tomatoes to a deep bowl and crush them with your hands until coarse. Add the tomatoes and basil to the skillet and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer 20–25 minutes. Add any reserved juice as necessary to make sure the sauce doesn’t get too thick.

3. Meanwhile bring a 3–5-quart pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil (fill the pot 2/3 full). Add the pasta and stir for the first minute. Continue to cook the pasta for 7–8 minutes until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water. Do not rinse the pasta.

4. Add the salt and pepper to the tomato sauce. Mix the ricotta cheese with the reserved pasta water until the ricotta cheese is smooth, then add to the sauce. Add the pasta to the sauce, cover, and let the pasta sit in the sauce for 1 minute. Add the pasta to a warmed bowl and serve.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 1/2 Starch; 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 150; Calories from Fat 20; Total Fat 2.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.3 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 10 mg; Sodium 250 mg; Potassium 180 mg; Total Carbohydrate 26 g; Dietary Fiber 4 g; Sugars 3 g; Protein 8 g; Phosphorus 120 mg

Sides

Pan-Grilled Pork Chops

Serves: 4 | Serving size: 3 ounces

Cooking spray 

1 pound boneless pork loin chops, trimmed of fat, brought to room temperature

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Coat a nonstick ridged grill pan with cooking spray. Set the pan on high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper. Add the chops and cook on each side for about 2 minutes per side.

2. Lower the temperature to medium and cook for an additional 3–4 minutes per side or until an internal temperature of 135°F is reached. Remove from the pan and set aside. The internal temperature will reach 145°F as the pork rests.

Exchanges / Choices: 3 Protein, lean

Calories 140; Calories from Fat 30; Total Fat 3.5 g; Saturated Fat 1.4 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 55 mg; Sodium 300 mg; Potassium 310 mg; Total Carbohydrate 0 g; Dietary Fiber 0 g; Sugars 0 g; Protein 24 g; Phosphorus 235 mg

Steamed Spinach

Serves: 1 | Serving size: 1/2 cup

1/2 cup spinach

1. Serve spinach with pork chop and pink sauce.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 20; Calories from Fat 0; Total Fat 0.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.0 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 65 mg; Potassium 420 mg; Total Carbohydrate 3 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g; Sugars 0 g; Protein 3 g; Phosphorus 50 mg

Mixed Mushroom Sauce

Serves: 12 | Serving size: 1/2 cup | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 36 minutes

This mushroom sauce is my husband’s favorite sauce, and it doesn’t even include any meat. The addition of a carrot adds a delightful little sweetness that balances out the gamey flavor of the mixed mushrooms.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced 

2 garlic cloves, minced 

10 ounces mixed mushrooms, stemmed and coarsely chopped (use a combination of white button, cremini, Portobello, trumpet, or just use one variety) 

1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained, reserve some juice 

2 sprigs fresh thyme 

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces whole-wheat shaped pasta

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet with lid over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for 5–6 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes until mushrooms brown.

2. Add the tomatoes to a deep bowl. Crush the tomatoes with your hands until coarse. Add the tomatoes to the skillet with the thyme. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes. Add some of the reserved liquid from the tomatoes if necessary, if the sauce is too thick.

3. Meanwhile, bring a 3–5-quart pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil (fill the pot 2/3 full). Add the pasta and stir for the first minute. Cook the pasta for about 7–8 minutes until al dente. Drain, do not rinse.

4. Add the salt and pepper to the sauce. Remove and discard the thyme leaves. Add the pasta, stir, cover, and let the pasta sit in the sauce for 1 minute. Add the pasta to a warmed bowl and serve.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 1/2 Starch; 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 130; Calories from Fat 15; Total Fat 1.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.2 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 200 mg; Potassium 250 mg; Total Carbohydrate 25 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Sugars 3 g; Protein 5 g; Phosphorus 110 mg

Sides

Master Chicken Sear

Serves: 4 | Serving size: 1/2 breast or thigh

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1. Season chicken breasts or chicken thighs with salt and black pepper.

2. In a 12–14-inch heavy skillet, preferably cast iron or stainless (NOT nonstick), heat oil over medium-high heat.

3. Add the chicken and sear until well browned on both sides, about 3–4 minutes per side for the breasts, or 2–3 minutes for the thighs.

4. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil.

5. Return the chicken and accumulated juices to the skillet and simmer gently until cooked through, about 4–5 minutes.

TO TEST: Chicken should feel firm to the touch. Using closed tongs, press on the center of the chicken. It should feel firm. Alternatively, you may make a very small incision in the center of the meat and check to be sure the meat is cooked through with no traces of pink.

Exchanges / Choices: 3 Protein, lean; 1 Fat

Calories 180; Calories from Fat 90; Total Fat 10.0 g; Saturated Fat 2.0 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 85 mg; Sodium 120 mg; Potassium 200 mg; Total Carbohydrate 0 g; Dietary Fiber 0 g; Sugars 0 g; Protein 21 g; Phosphorus 170 mg

Green Beans

Serves: 1 | Serving size: 1/2 cup

1/2 cup green beans

1. Steam green beans for 5–7 minutes until tender and crisp and serve alongside pasta and chicken.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 20; Calories from Fat 0; Total Fat 0.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.0 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 0 mg; Potassium 90 mg; Total Carbohydrate 5 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 1 g; Phosphorus 20 mg

Garlic Oil Sauce

Serves: 10 | Serving size: 1 tablespoon sauce + 1 ounce of cooked pasta | Prep time: 8 minutes | Cook time: 12 minutes

How can three basic ingredients impart so much flavor? That’s what I thought the day I was given a lesson on oil-based sauces in a small town in Italy. When only garlic, olive oil, and parsley were sitting on the large wooden table, I thought surely my instructor was going to fetch more ingredients as we began cooking. I was proven completely wrong and with just these few ingredients, I had one of most memorable meals on vacation.

1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup fresh minced parsley

10 ounces whole-wheat strand pasta (linguine, spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccine, and more)

1. Bring a 3-quart pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil.

2. Meanwhile, add the garlic, oil, and salt to a large skillet and sauté over low heat for 3–4 minutes shaking the pan until the garlic just turns golden. Do not overcook. Turn off the heat while the pasta cooks.

3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 6–7 minutes. Drain, reserving a little more than 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

4. Add the pasta, reserved pasta water, and parsley to the garlic oil sauce. Mix well, cover, and let the pasta sit in the sauce for 1 minute. Add the pasta to a warmed bowl.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 1/2 Starch; 1 Fat

Calories 150; Calories from Fat 50; Total Fat 6.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.8 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 90 mg; Potassium 45 mg; Total Carbohydrate 22 g; Dietary Fiber 4 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 4 g; Phosphorus 75 mg

Sides

Seasoned Sautéed Shrimp

Serves: 4 | Serving size: 4 ounces

2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil

1. In a large bowl, combine the chili powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, black pepper, and salt. Add in the shrimp and toss well.

2. Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shrimp and sauté for 5–7 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through.

Exchanges / Choices: 3 Protein, lean

Calories 130; Calories from Fat 35; Total Fat 4.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.6 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 190 mg; Sodium 270 mg; Potassium 300 mg; Total Carbohydrate 1 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Sugars 0 g; Protein 24 g; Phosphorus 245 mg

Steamed Broccoli

Serves: 1 | Serving size: 1/2 cup

1/2 cup broccoli

1. Steam broccoli for 2–3 minutes until tender and crisp and serve alongside shrimp and pasta.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 25; Calories from Fat 5; Total Fat 0.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.1 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 30 mg; Potassium 230 mg; Total Carbohydrate 6 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 2 g; Phosphorus 50 mg

Walnut Garlic Sauce

Serves: 12 | Serving size: 2 tablespoons sauce + 1 ounce of cooked pasta | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

After being taught the basic garlic oil sauce, my teacher suggested that we could build on the sauce, without overdoing it. She had some walnuts on hand and lovingly tossed them into the sauce. Now we had yet another delicious sauce with a bit more heft.

1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 

1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic 

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 ounces whole-wheat pasta strands (linguine, spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccine, and more)

1/4 cup sliced fresh basil

1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Add the walnuts to a small skillet and toast over medium heat until aromatic and lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Set aside. Bring a 3-quart pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil.

2. Meanwhile, add the garlic, oil, and salt to a large skillet and sauté over low heat for about 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan until the garlic just turns golden. Do not overcook. Turn off the heat while the pasta cooks.

3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 6–7 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

4. Add the drained pasta, reserved pasta water, basil, toasted walnuts, and cheese to the garlic oil sauce. Mix well, cover, and let the pasta sit in the sauce for 1 minute. Add the pasta to a warmed bowl.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 1/2 Starch; 1 1/2 Fat

Calories 170; Calories from Fat 70; Total Fat 8.0 g; Saturated Fat 1.1 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 85 mg; Potassium 55 mg; Total Carbohydrate 22 g; Dietary Fiber 4 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 5 g; Phosphorus 85 mg

Sides

Seasoned Broiled Fish

Serves: 4 | Serving size: 4 ounces

2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound fish filets, about 1 inch thick 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to broil. Line a broiler pan with nonstick foil. In a small ramekin, combine the chili powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, pepper, and salt.

2. Coat both sides of the fish lightly with the seasoning. Drizzle the fish with the olive oil.

3. Broil the fish about 5 minutes per side or until cooked through.

Exchanges / Choices: 3 Protein, lean

Calories 130; Calories from Fat 40; Total Fat 4.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.7 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 50 mg; Sodium 230 mg; Potassium 250 mg; Total Carbohydrate 1 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Sugars 0 g; Protein 20 g; Phosphorus 130 mg

Asparagus Spears

Serves: 1 | Serving size: 6 spears

6 asparagus spears

1. Steam asparagus and serve alongside pasta and fish.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 20; Calories from Fat 0; Total Fat 0.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.0 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 15 mg; Potassium 200 mg; Total Carbohydrate 4 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 2 g; Phosphorus 50 mg

Spinach Garlic Sauce

Serves: 10 | Serving size: 2 tablespoons sauce + 1 ounce of cooked pasta | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

Tinged with hot pepper flakes, this zesty sauce elevates spinach to new heights. You can also treat this sauce as a side vegetable without tossing it in pasta. Be sure to use baby spinach leaves, as they are much more tender.

4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounces fresh baby spinach, stems removed if thick and woody

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8–1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

12 ounces whole-wheat pasta strands (linguine, spaghetti, angel hair, or fettuccine)

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a 3-quart pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, heat the garlic and oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté the garlic for 3–4 minutes just until it starts to brown a little. Add in the spinach, salt, and pepper and sauté until the spinach just wilts. Turn off the heat as you prepare the pasta.

2. Add the pasta to the pot and cook for 7–8 minutes until al dente. Drain and reserve 3/4 cup of pasta cooking water. Do not rinse the pasta. Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the garlic sauce and mix well but gently. Add more cooking water, if necessary, so the pasta doesn’t appear to be dry.

3. Turn into a warmed serving bowl and top with cheese.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 1/2 Starch; 1 Fat

Calories 160; Calories from Fat 50; Total Fat 6.0 g; Saturated Fat 1.0 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 100 mg; Potassium 120 mg; Total Carbohydrate 22 g; Dietary Fiber 4 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 5 g; Phosphorus 85 mg

Sides

Seasoned Sautéed Shrimp

Serves: 4 | Serving size: 4 ounces

2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil

1. In a large bowl, combine the chili powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, black pepper, and salt. Add in the shrimp and toss well.

2. Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shrimp and sauté for 5–7 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through.

Exchanges / Choices: 3 Protein, lean

Calories 130; Calories from Fat 35; Total Fat 4.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.6 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 190 mg; Sodium 270 mg; Potassium 300 mg; Total Carbohydrate 1 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Sugars 0 g; Protein 24 g; Phosphorus 245 mg

Steamed Broccoli

Serves: 1 | Serving size: 1/2 cup

1/2 cup broccoli

1. Steam broccoli for 2–3 minutes until tender and crisp and serve alongside shrimp and pasta.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 25; Calories from Fat 5; Total Fat 0.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.1 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 30 mg; Potassium 230 mg; Total Carbohydrate 6 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 2 g; Phosphorus 50 mg

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

Serves: 12 | Serving size: 3/4 cup | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 50 minutes

Every Sunday we gathered for dinner around this bubbling casserole. Mom would often invite our next door neighbors over, as Baked Ziti should be shared with others.

Cooking spray

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning 

5 ounces spicy turkey sausage, diced

1/4 cup dry red wine

1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes with juices

2 tablespoons fresh minced oregano

8 ounces whole-wheat ziti

1/2 cup nonfat ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, divided use

Pinch grated fresh nutmeg

3 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, cubed

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a shallow baking dish, preferably a long oval dish that is no more than 2 inches deep, with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, and sausage and sauté for 3–4 minutes until sausage is browned. Bring a 3-quart pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

3. Add the red wine to the skillet and continue to cook until the wine evaporates. Add the tomatoes to a deep bowl. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add them to the pan with all their juices. Cook uncovered on medium-low heat for 20 minutes until thickened. Add in the oregano.

4. Meanwhile, add the ziti to the boiling pot of water and cook for about 8–10 minutes or until just al dente. Mix together the ricotta cheese, half the Romano cheese and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the cooked ziti and mix well. Add the sausage tomato sauce and the mozzarella. Mix gently. Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining Romano cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Starch; 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable; 1 Protein, lean

Calories 140; Calories from Fat 35; Total Fat 4.0 g; Saturated Fat 1.5 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 15 mg; Sodium 370 mg; Potassium 230 mg; Total Carbohydrate 20 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g; Sugars 3 g; Protein 9 g; Phosphorus 150 mg

Sides

Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

Serves: 11 | Serving size: 1 1/2 cups | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 6 minutes

7 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

1 small head romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and broken into bite-sized pieces

10 large white mushrooms, cleaned, peeled, if necessary, stemmed, and sliced

Dressing

4 slices lean bacon (40% or more less fat), chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1. Toss together the spinach, lettuce, and mushrooms.

2. Cook the bacon in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, vinegar, sugar, and tomato paste. Stir to blend. Toss salad with dressing and serve.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 40; Calories from Fat 10; Total Fat 1.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.3 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 80 mg; Potassium 300 mg; Total Carbohydrate 5 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Sugars 3 g; Protein 3 g; Phosphorus 50 mg

Pear

Serves: 1 | Serving size: 1/2 pear

1 small pear

1. Serve pear alongside ziti and salad.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Fruit

Calories 40; Calories from Fat 0; Total Fat 0.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.0 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 0 mg; Potassium 85 mg; Total Carbohydrate 11 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g; Sugars 7 g; Protein 0 g; Phosphorus 10 mg

Creamy Pasta Bake

Serves: 12 | Serving size: 3/4 cup | Prep time: 12 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes

Sometimes, I tire of tomato-based pasta dishes. While this one has tomatoes, they are less of a major player. Thick, evaporated milk stands in for traditional cream, but still produces a robust sauce that seeps into every groove of the pasta. The crunchy topping makes this dish just perfect!

Nonstick cooking spray

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 large red pepper, cored, seeded, and diced

3 garlic cloves, minced 

2 tablespoons fresh minced oregano

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

8 ounces whole-wheat shaped pasta (shells, cavatappi, fusilli, penne, ziti, and more)

3/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese, stirred 

2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese

Topping

2 slices whole-wheat bread

2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese

1 teaspoon olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a large shallow baking dish with cooking spray, preferably an oval dish that is no deeper than 2 inches. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the red peppers and sauté for 3 minutes. Add in the garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and fresh thyme and cook for 4 minutes. Set aside.

2. Bring a 3-quart pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 7–8 minutes or until just al dente. Drain, do not rinse.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the milk and flour until smooth. Add in the ricotta cheese and Pecorino Romano cheese and mix well. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture and mix well. Add in the tomato sauce and mix well. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

4. Add the bread slices to a food processor or blender and process to make coarse crumbs. Mix the crumbs with the Pecorino Romano cheese and olive oil. Top the pasta with the crumbs and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes until the topping is brown.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Starch; 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable; 1 Protein, lean

Calories 150; Calories from Fat 20; Total Fat 2.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.7 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 10 mg; Sodium 200 mg; Potassium 230 mg; Total Carbohydrate 25 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Sugars 5 g; Protein 8 g; Phosphorus 140 mg

Sides

Broccoli or Broccolini

Serves: 1 | Serving size: 1/2 cup

1/2 cup broccoli or broccolini

1. Steam broccoli or broccolini and serve alongside pasta and blueberries.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable

Calories 25; Calories from Fat 5; Total Fat 0.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.1 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 30 mg; Potassium 230 mg; Total Carbohydrate 6 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 2 g; Phosphorus 50 mg

Blueberries

Serves: 1 | Serving size: 1/3 cup

1/3 cup blueberries

1. Serve blueberries alongside pasta and broccoli.

Exchanges / Choices: 1/2 Fruit

Calories 25; Calories from Fat 0; Total Fat 0.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.0 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 0 mg; Potassium 35 mg; Total Carbohydrate 7 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Sugars 5 g; Protein 0 g; Phosphorus 5 mg

Master Pasta Salad

Serves: 12 | Serving size: 1 cup | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 8 minutes

Here’s your blueprint for a pasta salad, but feel free to experiment with the ingredients and see what you like. Choose an herb or champagne vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. Use orange juice instead of lemon juice. Add small blanched broccoli or cauliflower florets. Pack this salad into a container and tote along for a picnic. Since there is no mayonnaise used in the recipe, the salad stands up well in transport.

8 ounces dry whole-wheat shaped pasta 

2 teaspoons olive oil

Dressing

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetables and Herbs

1 small yellow or orange pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup torn basil leaves

1 small shallot, minced 

2 tablespoons torn mint leaves 

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook for 7–8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and add to a bowl. Immediately mix with olive oil, cover, and set in the refrigerator until cooled down (it may still be a bit warm, but that is OK).

2. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl. Add the vegetables and herbs to the bowl and gently mix. Add in the pasta and mix. Let the pasta stand for 30 minutes prior to serving.

Exchanges / Choices: 1 Starch; 1 Fat

Calories 130; Calories from Fat 60; Total Fat 7.0 g; Saturated Fat 0.9 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 75 mg; Potassium 95 mg; Total Carbohydrate 16 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g; Sugars 1 g; Protein 3 g; Phosphorus 50 mg