Mediterranean Pasta Fresca

When Boris was choosing his top residency locations I would nag him to pick places that were warm and sunny. Of course, we got placed in Philadelphia. Contrary to the hit sitcom name, it is not
“Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Now don’t get me wrong, I was born and raised a Colorado girl so I think seasons are great! Just as long as they don’t involve cold weather… or snow. All kidding aside, I have found that the weather influences my cooking style tremendously. In the winter months, I tend to crave hearty comfort foods so I cook a lot of stews and roasts. As summer approaches, I find myself naturally craving light and fresh foods. This next recipe is definitely inspired by the anticipation of summer and warm weather.

This Mediterranean Pasta Fresca is a citrusy play on a classic Pasta Fresca. I’ve incorporated veggies that are in season like broccoli and asparagus. When you get veggies in season they are typically fresher and definitely a bit cheaper. I’ve just barely cooked the broccoli and asparagus so that they maintain their nutritional integrity and add a nice crunch. This also helps preserve a gorgeous, vibrant, green color. I’ve opted for a whole grain pasta instead of white pasta to boost the fiber content. Sometimes all it takes are simple substitutions to make a healthier version of the recipes you love. Instead of using a heavy cream sauce, which I might do in the winter months, I’ve opted for a light tahini-citrus sauce with capers. The capers really enhance the citrus undertones of the pasta with a lively pop of flavor. This dish comes out so beautifully with all of the exciting colors. Grilled chicken or salmon would be a great, lean protein addition to this meal, but it most certainly stands well on its own. It is definitely a perfect party pleaser!  

Ingredients:

Pasta:

  • ½  bunch of asparagus, ~ 20 stalks
  • ¼ head of broccoli
  •  ½ red onion
  • ½ red pepper
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • ¼ cup tap water
  • 1-2 cups of shredded parmesan cheese
  • ~ 3 cups dry whole grain penne pasta or 4 cups cooked whole grain penne

Sauce:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 5 TBS tahini
  • ¼ cup of capers

Directions:

  1.  Prepare the whole grain pasta according to package directions.  
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients (lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, capers) in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Prepare the vegetables. Remove the bottom end of the asparagus and discard. Chop the remaining stalks into 1/2 inch pieces. Separate the broccoli into florets. Slice the onion into thin slices then slice in half. Slice the red pepper into lengthwise slices then slice in half. (See images below.)
  4. In a large skillet heat the 2 TBS of olive oil. Add the onion and red pepper and cook over medium heat until slightly caramelized.
  5. When the onion has started to caramelize, add the asparagus, broccoli and ½ cup of water. Turn on high and cover for ~1 minute. Remove from the heat source when the broccoli and asparagus turn a vibrant green color.
  6. Combine the vegetables, pasta, parmesan cheese and the sauce. Mix until the sauce is well incorporated.
  7. Serve with a lemon wedge. 
 A bite of freshness! 

A bite of freshness! 

Nutrition Content (per 1.5 cup serving):

Servings: 8 – 1.5 cup servings

Total Calories: 301 cal

  • Protein: 14 grams
  • Fat: 17 grams
  • Carbs: 25 grams
    • Fiber: 5 grams