Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Three Cheese Penne the Healthier Way



Now that school has started back and the summer days are fading away, I am beginning to have less time to daydream about my next culinary concoctions. At the same time, I can still find the time to whip up a quick one-dish-meal. I love the preparation involved in selecting a main food to cook, and then finding the perfect sides to complement the flavor and visual appeal- Sunday night did not happen to be a night for this sort of thing. As I was anticipating a busy upcoming week, I scanned my macbook for the perfect recipe. I think it was the title that caught my eye, but I finally decided upon "Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine". This is a Kraft original recipe, made lighter by yours truly. I like to make pasta dishes such as this one, because I know there will be leftovers for later in the week, when my nutrition book steals the spotlight from my recipe book. Also, these "casseroles" reheat perfectly, and sometimes taste even better after the flavors have melded for a couple of days. I think cooking large meals ahead of time is an essential key to healthy eating on a busy schedule. If you can a find about an hour on Sunday afternoon to cook, you can pre-portion serving sizes in storage containers. Then you can take them to work, have dinner ready when you get home, or freeze some for weeks to come. It's even faster than fast food- not to mention cheaper and much healthier.

This pasta has a sort of lasagna flavor, which I think appeals to the majority of people. And who doesn't love a dish that includes three types of cheese? The spinach in this recipe is fairly mild, and great for sneaking in those veggies. I used Fiber Gourmet pasta, but whole wheat noodles are great as well. A simple green salad completes the meal.

Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine
serves 6

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups whole wheat penne noodles, dry
9 oz. fresh spinach leaves
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
14.5 oz. jar spaghetti sauce (I used Light Ragu Tomato & Basil)
2 garlic cloves, minced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2 oz. fat-free cream cheese, cubed
1 cup fat-free shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta as directed on package, adding spinach to the boiling water for the last minute.
  3. Cook and stir chicken and basil in large nonstick skillet, spray with cooking spray, on medium-high heat for 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in spaghetti sauce, garlic, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. 
  5. Simmer on low heat for 3 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in cream cheese.
  6. Drain pasta mixture; return to pot. Stir in chicken mixture and 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese.
  7. Spoon into a 2-qt. casserole or 8-inch square baking dish. 
  8. Bake 20 minutes. Top with remaining Mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for an additional 3 minutes    or until the cheese is melted.
Nutrition: (with wheat noodles) 270 calories, 31g carbohydrate, 32g protein, 3g fat, 6g fiber
(with Fiber Gourmet noodles) 245 calories, 53g carbohydrate, 32g protein, 2g fat, 12g fiber

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Nutrition student with a passion for giving yummy recipes a healthy make-over. Future RD on a constant search for the best food finds. And new blogger trying to relay my tasty ideas to everyone else.

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Please feel free to email me with any questions, suggestions, or comments at lamandle88@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

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