Pizza, pasta, cheese….oh, I love Italian food. I grew up with it and have been eating it my whole life. In fact, my grandparents have owned an Italian restaurant since way before I was born. Our family ate pasta at least 3 days a week and we always had pizza in the house along with meatball and hot sausage sandwiches and paninis. Breakfast was often homemade Italian bread toasted with fresh jelly. Ok, anyone hungry? I’ll stop now.
Over the last 10 years I have tried more and more to eat healthy. I slowly have cut out pasta, pizza and bread but constantly felt like something was missing. One day amidst a severe bread craving, I decided to get creative and see what I could do to be able to eat Italian but do it healthier.
Healthy Italian Recipe Tips
Here are a few healthy eating ideas for Italian foods:
Vegetable Tomato Sauce – You can hide a ton of vegetables in tomato sauce. This makes it more healthy and gives great flavor. Here are instructions for a delicious, fast and easy veggie tomato sauce.
1. Start by sautéing olive oil with some fresh garlic. If desired, add onion and chopped green pepper.
2. Add tomato paste and 3 jars of organic tomato sauce. (Newman’s Own and Muir Glen both make great tomato sauce bases.)
3. Add 1-2 tomatoes, diced. Add also the juice 5 carrots, 5-6 pieces of celery and about a cup of spinach.
4. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!
Vegetable Noodles – This is an old trick, but a great one. Instead of using heavy pasta, try using zucchini, squash eggplant or carrots to make your “noodles.” Using slicer or julienning tool, you can make ribbons or noodles that can be used for many different Italian dishes. Check out the great selection of julienners and spiralizers on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dgarden&field-keywords=vegetable+julienne
Lasagna Done Right – My daughter LOVES lasagna. It’s literally her favorite food, and she asks for it once week. The problem ingredients: white glutinous pasta, tons of cheese and ground beef, which I really try to stay away from. But there are ways to make amazing, delicious lasagna that is that is healthier for you.
I initially tried using a whole wheat pasta, and this went over well with my 6-year-old. I used the ‘hidden veggie’ tomato sauce and I put layers of spinach in the lasagna too and went light on the cheese.
I then experimented with eggplant lasagna which cuts out the pasta completely. Cut long slices of eggplant, squash and zucchini and use in place of the pasta. Layer your spinach/sliced vegetables/tomato sauce, sprinkle a little cheese and you have a healthy lasagna with tons of veggies baked right in. (Not only does this taste amazing, but it’s soooo good for you!)
I am going to do a whole separate blog on pizza but here are some healthy tips for pizza lovers (like me):
• Whole Wheat Crust – Roll it very thin or it is too heavy.
• Almond Flour Crust – For those Paleo-friendly people.
• Flat Bread or Ezekiel Pita Pizzas – You can make any pizza on these and have very little bread or dough. Throw them in the oven and you have a fast, crunchy little mini pizza.
• Veggie Pizza – I use the ‘hidden veggie’ sauce and load up my pizza with things like eggplant, mushrooms, green peppers and fresh pineapple.
Veggie Tomatoe Sauce
Cook Time: 30 Min
1 can organic tomato paste
2 cans organic tomato sauce
1 tsp fresh olive oil
2 tsp cut up green peppers
5-6 pieces of celery
A dash of sea salt
A dash of pepper