This is comfort food at its healthy best. Whole Wheat Linguine with Spinach and Tomato provides the carbs, vitamins, calcium and iron you need to restore yourself after a rough day. Plus, its hot, plentiful, naturally vegan and so easy to make you can practically whip it up in your sleep. And although it’s simple to make, you aren’t sacrificing deliciousness or accepting less-than-excellent nutrition. All this, for 450 calories per two cup serving – that’s right, two whole cups! Few things make me feel better faster than a plate full of pasta.
I didn’t factor topping the pasta with a bit of parmesan cheese, either vegan or regular, into the nutrition roundup. It doesn’t really need it, but it does add a flavor I enjoy and makes everything look and taste extra special for minimal effort. I notice that when I’m freehanding my parmesan, I tend to add more than I need to get that little cheesy kick I’m looking for. My damage control recommendation is to use a tablespoon measure to portion out your cheese, and stick to just one spoon per serving. You’ll add a minimal amount of fat and at most an extra 25 calories to your plate.
Be the Boss of Your Sauce
The problem with commercial tomato sauce is it tends to be very high in sodium. For that reason, I’ve stopped using it, but I’ve found a good substitute: cans of diced salt-free tomatoes, which I run through a mini food processor to blend into sauce. Add a good amount of spices which have been cooked in a bit of olive oil to intensify their flavors, and you have yourself a delicious, sodium free tomato sauce.
Boo, hiss, but it’s reality: not cooking with salt and not using table salt are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cutting down on sodium. If you’re serious about eating less sodium, start reading the nutrition labels on the foods you’re buying and brace yourself for some nasty surprises. Then, start deciding what foods you can skip, what you just can’t live without, and what you can start making yourself. For example, I’ve decided for the most part to skip the Morningstar Veggie Crumbles; they’re good and all, but not something I want to spend 10% of my maximum recommended sodium intake on, at least not on a regular basis. I’d rather have peanut butter all day, every day – and I don’t want the low sodium kind, I want the nasty, unhealthy, delicious kind. And I can make my own salad dressings and tomato sauce.
When I first started cooking low sodium, which is pretty recent, I was startled by the way food tasted. Years and years of eating foods processed with lots of sodium made me think that ultra-salty taste is normal, and I felt like all the low sodium stuff I was making tasted bland. The good news is, my tastebuds adapted, quicker than I expected. It wasn’t long before I was tasting all kinds of flavors in my food, OTHER than salt, and that encouraged me to start experimenting more with herbs and spices. There will definitely be more about all this in another post, but I’ll leave it there for now and get on with the recipe.
Whole Wheat Linguine with Spinach and Tomato
makes 2 large servings
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs Italian seasoning/oregano blend
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Mrs. Dash Tomato and Basil seasoning
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on how hot you like things
1 tsp salt substitute
1 14.5 oz can diced no sodium tomatoes (the label may read “salt-free”)
4-5 big fistfulls bagged fresh spinach OR 1 10 oz bag frozen spinach
6 oz. whole wheat linguine (a little less than half a standard-sized box)
fresh parsley (optional)
2 tablespoons of whatever type of parmesan cheese or cheese substitute you use (optional)
Put a medium or large pot over medium low heat. Add the olive oil and allow it to heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the seasonings and simmer them for a few minutes.
Process the can of tomatoes in a blender or food processor until they’re liquid but not puree, and more or less chunky as you like. Add the tomatoes to the olive oil and spices, and cook everything together for about five minutes. Fold in the spinach (if using frozen, cook according to package directions first) and cook for an additional five-ish minutes.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. When done, drain (don’t rinse) and stir into the sauce and spinach. Turn the heat down to low, put a lid on the pot and let the pasta and sauce cook together for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like, tear up a handful of fresh parsley and toss it together with the pasta before serving and/or top each portion with cheese or substitute.