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It goes without saying that our days become engulfed with a conundrum of tasks and responsibilities but I’d like to take a moment to showcase one of the most exciting moments of my day. I’ve always been a food-lover. There’s nothing quite like the intoxicating smell of spices married to perfection to create the most delectable dish. As my love affair progressed, I found myself intertwined in the never-ending battle of indulgence versus restraint.

Without a doubt, we know which player won. I’ve got the oversized t-shirts to prove it.

There’s something rather mesmerizing in the psychology behind what choices we let our minds make; and what it is that actually brings us satisfaction. Whether we’re trying to fill a void or get-by, we tend to overlook the fact that we have this one body to live in. And, only one chance to get it right. Forget the “Size  0” label – I wanted to be healthy. So, I decided to make a change – for the better. My body is my temple and I intend to worship it in a way that mirrors my soul.

In addition to my enjoyment of consuming – my love for cooking had always been greater. I had the tools right in the palm of my hand to take a step in the right direction without sacrificing the things I loved the most.  And, all it took was tweaking a few simple elements to create my favorite dishes that were absolutely guilt-free and mouth-watering good.  Major bonus, right?

I always believed that there’s more than one way to win. So, here’s my way how.

For starters, I don’t think I’ve met someone who isn’t a carb-o-holic. But, if you’re reading this and you exist… please contact me. This dish will change your mind – for sure.

Here’s my version of a Garlic – Infused Tomato Basil Pasta this is healthy and oh-so delicious! Hope you enjoy this first recipe of many!

Spicy Garlic & Tomato Basil Penne

This Spicy Garlic & Tomato Basil Penne recipe is easy to make, full of rich flavors, and absolutely delicious. Feel free to add some more chilly flakes into the dish for an extra kick!

PREP TIME: 10 MINS

COOK TIME: 45 MINS

TOTAL TIME: 55 MINS

Serves 4 people

 

pasta1

 

 INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 ounces dried veggie or whole-wheat penne pasta (I used tomato penne)
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or olive oil spray (I used the spray and just enough to lightly coat bottom of pan which amounted to about 1/2 tablespoon)
  • 1 large glass of water – to avoid sticking
  • 1/2 a medium red or white onion, peeled and finely diced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1- 4 oz. box of sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 3 boneless chicken thighs cut into small thin cubes
  • 5 (28-ounce) can Italian- Stewed crushed tomatoes (or 2 8 –Ounce bottles of Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce – if used, omit tomato paste)
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons each of garlic powder, onion powder, oregano & Italian seasoning (divide seasonings in half – one set for seasoning chicken and remainder for the sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed black pepper
  • 1 dried bay leaf, crushed
  • 2 Chicken – Bullion Cubes
  • 1/2 cup torn or julienned fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
  • Crumbled feta cheese – for topping
  • Salt to taste

 

pasta2

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat olive oil or evenly spray bottom of a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken and sauté until fully cooked and lightly browned. Add red onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Add frozen peas and mushrooms and cook thoroughly for 2-3 minutes. Once all items are lightly browned, add cherry tomatoes and the second chicken-bullion cube. Cook until cherry tomatoes are tender.

2. Season and evenly coat chicken-thigh pieces with 1/2 of garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, oregano, Italian seasoning, and 1 chicken – bullion cube and red chili flakes. Add the full amount of fresh garlic and basil to the chicken in this step. Then, set aside.

3. Heat a large stockpot of lightly salted water. Once it comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta to the salted water and cook al dente according to package instructions. Approximately 8 minutes. Remove from heat and keep aside in water.

Due to the lack of oil / fattening element, you may notice the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. Feel free to add 2-3 tablespoons of water as you go along to keep its liquid properties and avoid burning. This helps in infusing the flavors twofold in the cooking process!

4. Now, for the Sauce:

A) Should you decide to make the sauce: Add tomato paste and continue sautéing for 1-2 more minutes Add cans of crushed tomatoes and remaining chili flakes and seasonings and mix well. Turn the stove to medium – low heat, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes so all ingredients are well mixed. Continue to Step 5.

 B) Should you decide to use pre-made sauce:  Add both bottles of pasta sauce, 1/4 cup of water, remaining seasoning and reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Skip to Step 6.

5. Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Taste for salt and seasonings. Add to taste, if needed.

A) If you notice the sauce thickening too much, feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of water. Should you add            water at this point, add 2 minutes to the cooking time. Then taste again for seasonings. Do not add salt unless necessary. If you do, do so in moderation.

6. Stir in the Greek Yogurt and keep simmering on low – heat covered for 3-5 minutes.

7. Turn off stove and add the pasta to the sauce mix and toss gently until it is evenly coated with sauce. Add fresh spinach and toss again lightly for the last time.

8. Serve immediately, garnished with some basil and feta cheese.

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