Monday, September 12, 2011

Pasta Shells with Mixed Greens and Italian Cheese

After eating hotdogs and french fries at the PennState game on Saturday, and spending Sunday evening lounging at a restaurant in the mountains, eating lightly fried goat cheese, filet migon with tomato beurre blanc, and decadent triple chocolate mousse, I wanted a light meal for dinner tonight. Now, while some might not consider any pasta dish a light meal, I think a pasta dish with little or no sauce, lots of veggies, and just a sprinkling of cheese is filling, without making you feel heavy and lethargic later. This is a variation on a Giada De Laurentiis recipe, and it's quite possibly the quickest, easiest meal you'll ever make—it's so light and delicious too!

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 11-14 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

  • 1/2 lb. (8 oz.) medium pasta shells
  • Approx. 4 oz. mixed baby greens, washed and left whole (I used 2-3 big handfuls)
  • 8-10 basil leaves, washed and left whole
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil), chopped
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese (I used a mix of Pecorino-Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Approx. 1/4 cup olive oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes (it's infused with the flavor of the tomatoes and it adds a delicious flavor to the dish)

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions (approx. 13 minutes). Drain the pasta, but reserve about 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Place the salad greens on the bottom of the pot that you used to cook the pasta in, then put the drained pasta back on top. Toss to combine, pour the reserved cooking liquid over the mixture, then place the lid on the pot and let the heat from the pasta help wilt the greens. After a minute or two, toss in the sun-dried tomatoes and cheese, and add some salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Drizzle the sun-dried tomato olive oil over the mixture and toss to completely combine. Serve topped with more cheese if desired.

This dish is so simple and light, but the sweet, tangy sun-dried tomatoes and nutty, salty Italian cheeses add a ton of flavor to the dish without adding a ton of calories. The wilted greens add color and a fresh taste, while the sun-dried tomato oil lightly coats all of the tender pasta shells and creates a delicate sauce. We ate dinner out on the back porch, enjoying the cool evening air and some white wine from a favorite vineyard in North Carolina and it was perfect.

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