Are ya’ll ready for me to tell you that a rich, creamy pasta dish is healthy? Because I’m about to. I’ve been looking forward to a post like this for a while, for two reasons. Goat Cheese, and pasta. But this is no ordinary pasta. This is pasta made without the inflammatory ingredients you normally find in nutritionally poor noodles. This is Red lentil penne. Noodles are about to make a comeback.
Pasta, traditionally, is one of the biggest wastes of calories. High in sugars, fast carbs, and over-processed, inflammatory ingredients, I had cut it out as an extremely inefficient food source that was counter-productive to my goals. I’m not a marathon runner; my body welcomes pasta to stay in the form of bulky fat deposits, shortness of breath and uncomfortable quickness of pulse.
But damnit I love pasta.
It’s super simple, super versatile, and super tasty. A classic comfort food, pasta has been dearly missed, but like all wheat products, I simply can’t justify its consumption in my life anymore. Not when there are nutrient dense carbohydrate alternatives out there like sweet potatoes, quinoa, and beans and pulses.
You can imagine my (extreme) excitement when I found out that pastas made of these healthy ingredients exist. You may even be able to picture the twist and dance I did when I received a box of such products from the lovely folks over at Explore Cuisine to test and develop some recipes around. I’m very excited to have the chance to share these recipes with you as I develop them. I’m also very excited to have my favorite vehicle for cheese back in my life. I’m just excited. Pasta!
I cracked that box open and took a good look at the four different pastas inside (get ready for more recipes!), wheels turning as a multitude of flavor options shot through my mind. The Red Lentil Penne grabbed my attention and suddenly the thought of creamy goat cheese, savory herbs, and fresh marinated tomatoes had me just about drooling.
I tested this one out twice to be sure that such a limited ingredient recipe was actually as delicious and satisfying as I experienced it the first time, and it definitely is. This meal comes together with four main ingredients – Red Lentil Penne, Marinated tomatoes, Goat Cheese, and herbs and spices. The whole herbs and spices category is where a lengthier list comes in to play, but in the long run this recipe is incredibly simple – big payoff for very little work.
This meal feels super indulgent, but packs some really great nutrition. High in vitamin A, C, Calcium, iron, and other important nutrients, it also has a good carb to protein ratio. Though this recipe is meatless (would probably go great with steak…) it packs approximately 23g protein (11g from the penne, 12g from goat cheese) next to 37 or so grams of carbs from high quality sources, all for under 500 calories – feel free to increase your serving size to match your activity level and goals!
So, without further ado, let’s run over these easy ingredients before getting to the recipe!
Red Lentil Penne
I’ve always been skeptical of penne pasta. It has historically been one of my least favorite pasta’s for its inferior ability to hold sauce in comparison to rotelle or fussili types. This penne has changed my bias – though perhaps because it cooks in a thicker sauce in this recipe. Either way, I’m sold – I love the texture and flavor. It even feels and tastes nutritious.
Explore Cuisine’s Red Lentil Penne boasts 1g fat, 35g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, and 11g of protein for 190 calories in a standard 2oz dry measurement. This pasta has two ingredients – yes really only two; it is composed of 73 percent Organic red lentil flour, and in turn 27 percent organic brown rice flour. While I would prefer it be only red lentil flour, I understand that a formula must be just so to adhere to a standard of functionality.
For those who must eat a gluten free diet, this is for you. This pasta is gluten free, as well as organic, non-GMO certified, and vegan. You really can’t go wrong here.
This recipe can be made with any pasta of your choosing, but I really do recommend a product like this for a more efficient way to fuel your body than traditional pasta.
2oz dry is the serving size, that is going to be right around 3/4 cup
Marinated tomatoes are magical – they are just as good here as they are in this Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl. This is not the first recipe I’ve written for ya’ll with them; it surely won’t be the last. Their bright, fresh, savory and sweet flavor adds a lovely complexity.
Fresh, ripe tomatoes are so good for you! Tomatoes contain plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; they are an incredible source of lycopene, and a good source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, beta carotene, vitamin K, chlorogenic acid, and more. Eating tomatoes is known to reduce the risk of certain cancers, like prostate, lung and stomach. Tomatoes are particularly heart healthy, and may also improve skin health!
What does marinated mean in this case?
After dicing my tomatoes, I fresh cracked black pepper (to taste), added a sprinkle of salt, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled fresh ground herbs and crushed garlic (from the herbs and spices list below) over the top. Mix and set aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe, as adding these is the final step.
As this is a per-serving recipe, please feel free to use as many tomatoes as you like. I used three Campari tomatoes, these little cuties ended up measuring to about ¾ cup once diced.
I’ve said before that I can’t give up cheese. You can eat cheese and still hit weight and fitness goals, so come at me with this whole “cheese is bad for you” nonsense. High calorie doesn’t mean bad, it just means caution, k? Besides, chevre (goat cheese) is widely considered to be one of the healthiest cheeses out there. Which is great, because I love it. A lot. . . so much. . .maybe too much.
According to this handy-dandy and very informative ranking of the healthiest cheeses by Organic Authority, a one ounce serving of Chevre contains 102 calories, 6 grams saturated fat, 6 grams protein, 8% DV vitamin A, 11% DV vitamin B2, 83 mg calcium and is a good source of iron, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B12 and D.
Goat’s milk products are easier for humans to digest than traditional cow’s milk dairy. The fermentation of cheese also makes nutrients more bioavailable than some other forms of dairy. Don’t feel bad about eating this creamy, decadent, delicious, simultaneously sharp and smooth, amazing….ahem…sorry – Don’t feel bad about eating goat cheese. Don’t even feel bad that this recipe calls for twice a regular serving size…
I use 2oz Chevre here. That adds up to about 12 grams of protein within about 204 calories.
Herbs and Spices
Here we go with another schpiel about using more herbs and spices – Do it! Herbs and spices add incredible hidden nutrition, flavor, and depth. Explore with your nose and play around, I guarantee when you do this frequently you will become a better cook!
For this recipe I used fresh garlic and a myriad of dried herbs. Using fresh garlic is part of a heart -healthy diet. Eating is everyday can help improve your cholesterol levels, and helps to regulate blood sugar and pressure.
Crushing fresh garlic and letting it sit for about twenty minutes previous to cooking allows the allicin to reach more optimum levels.
Herbs I used included a pretty hefty amount of basil, followed by rosemary, tarragon, thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, and a touch of dill and lavender.
I really recommend this mix; don’t forego the basil and rosemary, but if you have an Italian herb mix or something that you would like to use, go for it!
I personally used five cloves of garlic. That very well may be too strong, adjust this to your taste. I wrote in three cloves for the recipe. I used about two teaspoon’s worth of my dry herbs, and crushed them in my mortar and pestle prior to use to better release their flavors.
About half of the garlic and crushed herbs should be mixed in with your tomatoes while they marinate. The other half will be re-hydrated in your hot pasta water before mixing your goat cheese in.
Delicious and nutritious Red Lentil Penne with herbed chevre and marinated tomatoes
10 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
25 minTotal Time
Yields 1 serving
- 2 oz. dry Red Lentil Penne
- 2 oz. Chevre
- ¾ cups diced fresh tomatoes
- ½ tsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp. crushed Italian herb mix
- Crush your garlic and set it aside. Set water to boil (approx. three cups depending on the dimension of your pot). Dice your tomatoes; add balsamic vinegar, half of your garlic, and half of your freshly crushed herbs. Mix and set aside.
- Add dry red lentil penne to boiling water, cook to ‘al dente’ texture (approx. 8 min)
- Save 1/2 cup ‘pasta water’ before straining your noodles. Add ¼ cup pasta water and remaining herbs and garlic to pot and let simmer before mixing in your Chevre. Strain any excess liquid from the marinated tomatoes into your sauce mixture. Once your Chevre has incorporated without lumps, add your noodles and cook to desired sauce consistency (add remaining pasta water if necessary).
- Pull your pot from the heat and stir in the marinated tomatoes
- Serve it up and enjoy!!!
Serve alone or with grilled steak or chicken.
Now, for the disclaimer – I am not a vet, adventure guide, personal trainer, doctor, nutritionist, or medical authority, this is meant to be only a source of information and inspiration, implementing these techniques into your daily life is something you do of your own free will and at your own risk.
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