Mediterranean Pasta Salad

I spent the middle of my March Madness-on-a-Saturday afternoon online looking for some new healthy recipes for the week that I could give a try. Pinterest never fails, I found this easy (and super delicious) recipe from Gimme Some Oven that I just had to prepare for my lunches. Not only does it include just a few simple ingredients – the dressing is extremely tasty and blends well with the pasta and vegetables.

Meal prep keeps me on my toes. I’ve always believed that if you don’t plan accordingly, you’re setting yourself up to potentially slide off the path. 

Luckily – this pasta salad holds well for several days. Prep away.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Serves 4
Quick take on a Mediterranean style pasta dish that's best served cold.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 12-ounce box of farfalle pasta
  2. 1 English cucumber, diced
  3. 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut into halves
  4. 4-ounces crumbled fat-free feta cheese
  5. half of a medium size red onion, sliced thin
Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette
  1. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best!)
  4. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  5. 1 teaspoon organic honey
  6. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  7. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  9. small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta accordingly. Drain and rinse with cold water until pasta can be handled.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare lemon-herb vinaigrette dressing by whisking all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a large bowl, add your pasta, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion slices. Mix well. Carefully fold feta cheese into mixture, followed by drizzling the lemon-herb vinaigrette dressing overtop. Toss salad well so that dressing is evenly spread.
  4. Divide between 4 bowls and serve with additional feta cheese if desired.
Notes
  1. The original recipe calls for olives. I don't care much for them, but if you do, feel free to add a handful to the ingredients.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

BBQ Honey Ranch Chicken and Vegetable Bowl

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Monday, the first day that I actually am beginning to feel as normal as normal gets for me. After spending the majority of the past week either caring for someone sick or being sick myself, I was able to actually sleep soundly through the night with a cough here and there and wake up feeling refreshed enough. I had my entire weeks menu as well as my workout schedule all ready to go last week and so today I had the motivation to be productive. Happy to say I succeeded!

I started off my morning with a Egg McFitFun, a fun and healthy version of what you can find at most fast-food restaurants and discovered via my FitGirlsGuide 28 Day Jumpstart ebook. After that, I did my BBG 1.0 leg workout (FINALLY!) and proceeded to make this fantastic lunch that I stumbled across on Pinterest that this post is mostly about. Little did I know that this meal itself was big enough and as much work as an entrée is; something it would probably be more perfect for – but what the heck, I made it anyway and stashed the extra portions in the refrigerator for the next few days worth of lunch!

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If you haven’t gone outside the box and made rice with anything but what the directions tell you, let me tell you – you are MISSING OUT! Don’t get me wrong, rice in itself can be delicious, but it’s a whole other world when you’re cooking it with broth and spices. I know you’ve probably already looked at number of instructions in the directions and thought “Whoa! That’s a lot!” and I thought that myself too, but the end result is absolutely worth it.

I think my favorite part about this recipe is the fact that it’s based on the combination of Ranch and BBQ sauce. Anyone else use to order a side of ranch and a side of BBQ sauce to mix together and dip their fries and chicken nuggets in as a kid? I still do it at 34. So this Hidden Valley Ranch dressing is like a dream come true for me.

BBQ Honey Ranch Chicken and Vegetable Bowl
Serves 4
If you haven't tried a ranch and bbq sauce combo, it's about time you did! Why not try it over this salad mix?
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into tender size pieces
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. ½ cup onion, diced
  4. 1 ½ cups long grain white rice
  5. 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  6. I can black beans, washed and drained
  7. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  8. 16-ounce bottle Hidden Valley Ranch Honey BBQ Dressing
  9. 1 medium cucumber, sliced thin
  10. 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced thin
  11. 2 cooked ears of corn, kernels cut off cobb
  12. 1 avocado, sliced
  13. cilantro, optional
Instructions
  1. In a large ziplock bag, add chicken pieces and 1 cup of Hidden Valley Ranch Honey BBQ Dressing. Allow marinating in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium size saucepan over med-high heat, add olive oil and allow to momentarily heat up. Next add onion and rice, stirring often; 3-5 minutes or until rice appears a light shade of brown. Add chicken broth, black beans and cumin. When rapid boiling occurs, lower heat to low setting, cover and allow to cook for 20 minutes. After, remove from heat , sitting for 5 minutes before fluffing rice mixture with a fork. Set aside.
  3. Using a medium size skillet, add pepper and corn with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté vegetables for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Well grease a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, allowing to cook on each side for 5-7 minutes or until chicken has grill marks. Flip and cook other side. When chicken is thoroughly cooked, remove from heat.
  5. In 4 bowls, add rice mixture followed by peppers, corn, cucumber and avocado. Add chicken, cilantro and drizzle additional Hidden Valley Ranch Honey BBQ Dressing on top.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Lentils and Potato Tacos

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What is it with the beginning of the school year and illnesses? Both kids have been sick and now I seem to have caught it, so as I type this up I am “enjoying” a cup of hot alka seltzer and praying that my throat won’t feel as awful as it does now in the morning. Talk about not much of a productive past 7 days.

Anyhow – my husband is out of town, and while I had originally planned on slow-cooking some barbacoa for this Taco Tuesday, I felt it would be a waste if I had a 3lb chuck roast all to myself. Instead of spending more money at the grocery and dragging said sick child #2 out, I worked with what I got and I have to say; I was extremely pleased with the results!

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I was introduced to lentils via FitGirlsGuide a couple years back. I haven’t met a bean I didn’t like and I’ve used potatoes in place of meat before, so paired with pico de gallo, I can totally see why this combination can work great if you’re trying to do without meat or you’re a vegetarian. Just make sure you don’t go light on the lentils! They’re high in lean protein and a great source of potassium.

Lentils and Potato Tacos
Serves 2
Skip the meat! A delicious take on tacos using lentils and potatoes.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 6-inch corn tortillas
  2. 1 cup lentils, boiled
  3. 2 medium potatoes, diced small and cooked
  4. 3-4 tablespoons pico de gallo
  5. ½ cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  6. ¼ teaspoon fresh cilantro, thinly chopped
  7. sour cream, optional
  8. salsa, optional
Instructions
  1. Using a small pot, bring 1 cup of lentils and 4 cups of hot water to a slight boil over medium heat. Allow to cook 25-30 minutes, or until lentils seem tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. At the same time, using a large skillet - add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set heat to medium. Add diced potatoes, making sure to stir with a spatula to prevent burning. Cook until potatoes seem crispy. Set aside.
  3. When both lentils and potatoes are ready, assemble your corn tortilla - beginning with potatoes and followed by lentils, 1 tablespoon of pico de gallo, cheese and cilantro. Top with sour cream or salsa, if desired. Repeat step with each tortilla.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Ranch-Style Cobb Salad

 

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If you’re like me, you’ve gone through your Pinterest feed for what feels like a gazillion times looking for some sort of “different” kind of lunch to prepare for the week. I often like to base my mid-day meals around salads or something close to, as lunch is when I like to get the majority of my greens and vegetables intake. 

With today being Labor Day, the kids being home from school and a local Arts Festival going on; I wanted to get my grocery shopping done early yesterday so that I could successfully complete all my Sunday chores today and not having some spill over into the first of the week and delay any fun or relaxation for today. I started my meal-plan planning extra early because so. (Remember… fail to plan, plan to fail!) – and while things didn’t go as planned (one child is sick), my food was still ready today so I didn’t have to worry about screwing up on my new dietary!

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I don’t feel like I get my share of enough egg-protein, or at least I don’t feel like I have lately. So when I opened my laptop this morning I made sure to search for a recipe that would require at least one egg or more. I can always make the staple recipe for egg salad; I could prepare it blind-folded, but I wanted something that had a little more taste to it. One where by Tuesday afternoon, I’m already sure that come Wednesday’s lunch time I will be wanting anything BUT what I’ve already got prepared. And so I ran across this recipe for a Cobb Egg Salad from Lemon Tree Dwelling that had one key ingredient that won me over – dry ranch dressing mix. I like to use my dry ranch with yogurt for a healthier take on ranch dressing for dipping some veggie sticks in. If you love ranch, you can’t really go wrong with this dressing mix.

Another great thing about egg salad is how quickly you can prep it. Sure, if you’re not much of an hard-boiled egg peeler it can take *some* time, but I promise with practice and correct technique you’ll get the knack of doing it. Afterall, it took me months but I finally got it and I can proudly say that today I peeled 6 eggs in under 10 minutes. That’s an accomplishment! The rest of the ingredients though – super easy to assemble and throw into a bowl. Almost too easy. 

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Ranch-Style Cobb Salad
Serves 3
If egg salad and cobb salad were to meet in an alley, and egg happened to have brought ranch with him and cobb, arugula lettuce - this would be the outcome. Enjoy this recipe with rye crackers, as a salad or on a sandwich. Perfect for both parties and for meal-prepped lunches for the week.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
  2. 4 pieces cooked turkey bacon, crumbled into small pieces
  3. 4 tablespoons lite mayonnaise
  4. ½ dry ranch dressing mix
  5. ¼ cup grape tomatoes, diced
  6. ¼ cup celery, diced small
  7. ¼ teaspoon green onions, sliced thin
  8. ¼ cup chopped arugula lettuce
  9. ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Hard-boil your eggs; bringing your pot of water and eggs to a raging boil over medium-high heat. When this has happened, turn off heat and cover pot with a lid allowing to sit for 12 minutes. Run cold water over eggs before attempting to peel. After eggs have been peeled, chop into small pieces.
  2. Using a large mixing bowl add eggs, bacon, tomatoes, arugula and cheese. Next add mayonnaise and dry ranch dressing mix, stirring gently but combining well. Serve or store in a tight-closed container for later.
Notes
  1. Original recipe can be found at Lemon Tree Dwelling (www.lemontreedwelling.com) - I added a few extra vegetables, etc of my own to their own delicious recipe.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Slow Roasted Seasoned Tomatoes (Sauce)

A gas range is something I am still getting used to. No one quite understands the difference between an electric stove and a gas range until they actually go from having one to the other. I’ve always heard that a lot of food not only tastes different when using a gas stove (or oven), but also cooks much quicker. It’s still too early for me to validate the taste answer, but I can absolutely attest to the cooks quicker one! I learned just how quick after burning french toast.

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Since we are now officially in the new home, I can settle in more comfortably and get back into the swing of things – meaning actually cooking again; something I desperately missed both mentally and physically. I always feel so much better about myself when I know where my meals came from and who prepared them. Don’t get me wrong, eating out every once in awhile is nice but not only does it get expensive but it’s also most likely not healthy.

Tonight’s dinner was a late one due to schedules so it had to be something more on the simple side. It’s been some time since I made a marinara sauce and pasta can be both satisfying to all tastebuds and a quick clean-plater. I had most things already on hand, aside from the tomatoes which I happily walked over to Whole Foods to acquire. It’s awesome just how good even a basic marinara sauce can taste. Those tomatoes really do their job!

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Tomato? Tomahto? Marinara is a personal preference. I happen to like mine sweet so cherry tomatoes that were roasted in an oven were sure to give my marinara a sweet taste. I made sure to marinate them with some olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, italian seasoning, oregano and fresh basil leaves before I cooked them in the oven for a couple hours. And if you don’t want to get out the whisk and crush your tomatoes after they’re done roasting; you can puree them the lazy (and super smart) cook way – in a blender! Just make sure to pulse for less than a minute if you would like to have some “chunk” pieces to your sauce.

What would you add in your marinara sauce?

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

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I understand most would think that with it being still summer, the temperature outside may just be a little on the “too hot” side for a bowl of soup. However, just because summer is still here doesn’t mean that we can’t feel under the weather and crave some chicken noodle soup.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Yields 6
A delicious homemade version of Chicken Noodle Soup cooked over the stovetop in just 30 minutes.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. ½ cup carrots, peeled and sliced
  3. ½ cup celery, sliced thin
  4. ½ cup yellow onion, peeled and diced
  5. 1 garlic clove, minced
  6. 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  7. ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  8. ¼ dried oregano
  9. 1 teaspoon pepper,
  10. 6 ounces wide egg noodles
  11. 1 cup shredded cooked rotisserie chicken
  12. ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  13. salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons olive oil over med-high heat. Add carrots, celery and onion and allow to saute for 8 minutes. Stir continuously. Add garlic and allow to saute an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Next add chicken broth, thyme, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil, about 5 minutes. Check to make sure vegetables are softened, cook additional 2 minutes if not.
  3. Add egg noodles, stirring often for 10 minutes or until noodles appear thoroughly cooked.
  4. Throw in rotisserie chicken, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Cook an additional 2 minutes so that chicken combines with broth. Serve.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Creamy Tuna Noodle

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I always purposely plan meals that I know my husband or children will not eat on days when they aren’t home so that I may enjoy them for myself. It’s totally worth it, even if cooking what could be considered a big meal for just one individual sometimes doesn’t seem like it. 

No one in this house likes tuna fish but me. Actually, I don’t think I’ve met a kid who likes tuna yet. But this is a meal that I can remember my mom making every once in awhile. Definitely not the same recipe, but the same concept is there. 

Aside from waiting for your egg noodles to cook, this entree really doesn’t take long to make. And I love the fact that instead of traditional tuna noodle recipes that use cheddar cheese, you’ll be using parmesan. It gives the meal a lighter taste to it so you aren’t left feeling heavy and full when finished. That’s always a good thing 🙂

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Creamy Tuna Noodle
Serves 4
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 6-ounces wide egg noodles
  2. 1 cup cooked sweet peas
  3. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 1 medium onion, diced
  5. ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  6. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  7. 1¼ cups whole milk
  8. 5-ounce can solid white tuna
  9. ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Bring a large saucepan full of water to a rapid boil and then cook egg noodles accordingly.
  2. In a medium saucepan over med-high heat, add butter and stir until it has melted. Add onion, garlic and black pepper; stirring frequently until combined well. Next add milk. Continue stirring frequently and allow to cook until sauce has thickened and is bubbling. Remove from heat, adding both tuna (drained), cooked peas and parmesan cheese. Stir well.
  3. Add tuna sauce to your large bowl of drained egg noodles. Combine well until all noodles appear to be lightly covered with tuna sauce. Serve warm.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Arugula Power Salad with Blueberries and Honey-Lemon Dressing

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This may be the easiest salad I have ever prepped before! Aside from washing blueberries, the only thing you really have to put together is the dressing and that’s easy when you have a salad mixer. This one from Crate and Barrel is fantastic; I love how well it combines the ingredients together. 

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Arugula Power Salad with Blueberries and Honey-Lemon Dressing
Serves 4
A delicious salad made of power greens, blueberries, sliced almonds, feta cheese and a honey-lemon dressing drizzled overtop.
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 5-ounces arugula, kale, butter and spinach lettuce
  2. 1½ cup fresh blueberries
  3. 2-ounces feta cheese
  4. ½ cup sliced almonds
Dressing
  1. 2 tablespoons pure honey
  2. 1½ tablespoons lemon juice
  3. ¼ cup olive oil
  4. ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  5. ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  6. pinch of black pepper
Instructions
  1. Add all salad ingredients into a large bowl prior to making dressing.
  2. In a smaller bowl, add all dressing ingredients and whisk well. Drizzle over salad. Toss to cover evenly and serve.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Cobb Salad

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A lot of meal plans that I have seen in the past have included a hard boiled egg at some point, be it with an entree or as a mid-day snack. I’ll be the first to admit that while I do tend to eat a lot of eggs for breakfast or as a quick and easy snack, I do not necessarily like them. I never have and I’m way past the “you just may grow to like them” stage. However, there are some circumstances where they taste a little more enjoyable to me, and in a cobb salad is one. I’m not sure if it’s because of the dressing or the ingredients that they’re paired up with; they’re just much more tolerable.

But if you’re an egg lover, then chances are you’ll love this salad as well. It’s simple to make, and really doesn’t take much preparation effort aside from cooking the bacon and hard-boiling the eggs. And the dressing is light and delicious.

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Funny thing about these pictures – if you’ve already scrolled down and looked at the recipe ingredients, you know that it calls for blue cheese. Yes, that’s shredded mozzarella cheese in the picture. I had full intentions of eating this Cobb salad with blue cheese and didn’t pick up any at the grocery this week because I made my list knowing that I had a container in the refrigerator whose expiration date wasn’t even close to today’s date.

Don’t trust those expiration dates. 

After preparing everything and assembling, I got to the part where I add the cheese and went to open the container. The FOULEST smell, hit me so hard it almost knocked me out! Not to mention that the entire amount was covered with more blue than you typically see. Again, expiration date? The end of August. There was no way I was using that, so I tossed it in a plastic grocery bag and walked it to the garage dumpster verses even taking the chance of smelling that in the trash container in the house. So gross. So THAT’S why I used mozzarella cheese. Tastes good with this version, and you know – if you don’t like blue cheese, you can always substitute it with other cheese choices such as goat cheese, mozzarella, or feta. Whatever is on your plate is always your pick of the crop! Enjoy.

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Cobb Salad
Serves 4
Good ol' fashion cobb salad recipe with a homemade red wine vinaigrette dressing.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups romaine lettuce
  2. 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and sliced
  3. 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  4. 6 slices cooked turkey bacon, crumbled
  5. ½ cup blue cheese crumbles
  6. ¼ cup avocado, optional
Red Wine Vinaigrette Dressing
  1. ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  2. ¼ cup olive oil
  3. ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  4. ¼ teaspoon salt
  5. 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  6. 1 teaspoon pure honey
  7. 1 garlic clove, minced
Instructions
  1. Using a small bowl, mix together all ingredients for dressing with a whisk until well combined.
  2. Align a plate with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, turkey bacon, egg slices and blue cheese crumbles. Drizzle dressing overtop.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Meatless Monday: Margarita Pasta

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Holy smokes! I can’t believe it’s already Monday again. I know that the previous week was short because of the holidays but I’m still trying to gather myself together enough to start this week. I intentionally posted this meal today because it is Meatless Monday and my version of this pasta does not have any meat. Who needs it?! There’s enough flavor in the “sauce” as is. If you feel you must have some sort of protein, feel free to add chicken.

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Anytime I know a meal is a skillet-cook, I get excited. My husband bought us this fancy s’mancy gas range for the new place and I am dying to cook on it. I absolutely love the taste of anything gas cooked. Some don’t think there is a difference; oh there is, and I compare it from cooking on an indoor grill to cooking on an outdoor grill. You know the difference once you take that first bite.

I imagine a gas grill also makes a skillet picture just a little more fancy s’mancy looking too.

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My favorite part about this meal is that you’re using all fresh produce. The only thing really considered processed is the noodles and you can make those yourself if you want to be COMPLETELY clean and have a lot of spare time on your hands! I have a pasta maker. I’m not quite a pro at using it yet so I will save myself the embarrassment and just use store bought penne pasta until I have correctly learned how to use it to create presentable noodles.

Enjoy!

Margarita Pasta
Serves 4
A delicious serving of pasta that is sauteed with homemade clean sauce over a hot stove.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 2½ teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
  5. 5 roma or 2 cups of tomatoes, chopped
  6. ¼ cup tomatoes, chopped and slightly pureed (optional)
  7. ¼ cup fresh basil, sliced
  8. ½ cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta accordingly.
  2. In the meantime, using a large skillet combine olive oil and butter over med-high heat. Allow to cook, stirring frequently 1-2 minutes or until it begins to sizzle. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds, followed by tomatoes and basil. Allow to cook for 2 minutes so that juices combine well.
  3. When pasta is finished cooking and has been drained, add to skillet and stir well to mix. Add parmesan cheese and stir again. Serve immediately.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/