I am reading a book in which the author moved to Rome to live (and eat) after an agonizing divorce. As she strolls the winding streets of this magnificent city, dining in one tucked away restaurant after another, I am reminded of my two visits to Italy and all the wonderful food. The saying is, "You can't get a bad meal in Rome," and it's true! My husband, daughter and I found a wonderful little place not far from the Pantheon where my daughter ordered the most delicious Lemon Spaghetti. After one taste, I couldn't stop my fork from wandering over into her plate for more and more, until I had eaten at least half of her dinner. (Don't worry, I shared my Carbonara with her, so she didn't starve.) On a return trip to Rome a few years later, we found that restaurant again and I ordered my own plate of this never-to-be-forgotten pasta and savored every tangy mouthful.
Reading this book had me dreaming of that unique pasta dish again, so I had to think of a way to fit it into my food plan. Considering I rarely eat pasta anymore and will never sit down to a heaping plate of it again (until I return to Rome), I decided that a variety of fresh sauted vegetables and only a little pasta might just satisfy my craving. It worked! This makeover recipe has the exact, same tangy flavor that so captivated my senses in Rome and I feel good knowing it is made with healthier ingredients. You might also enjoy adding shrimp along with the vegetables to boost the protein. (Sadly, my husband is allergic to shellfish, so I had to leave it out.) The small amount of pasta interspersed among the beautiful plate of spring vegetables is just enough to make me think I'm eating the real deal! All I have to do is close my eyes and I'm back in Italy again.
Just an aside: If you're looking for a meatless meal this Lenten season, give this one a try. But I must warn you, if suffering and sacrifice is your main objective, then maybe save this recipe for another day because you will not feel deprived in any way while eating this!
Lemon Pasta Primavera
(Makes 4 servings)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
3½ tablespoons + ½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2½ ounces dry linguini or spaghetti noodles (I suggest Dreamfield's or Carba-Nada)
4 ounces sliced white mushrooms
½ small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 small to medium yellow summer squash, cut into half-moons
1 small to medium zucchini, cut into half-moons
½ pound asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces (about 1½ cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. In a small bowl, mix together 3½ tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice; set aside. Prepare pasta according to package directions until just al dente.
2. Meanwhile, saute mushrooms in a large, dry, non-stick skillet until moisture has been released and evaporated. Add sliced onion, ½ teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt to pan. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until onion is soft. Add broccoli, squashes, asparagus and garlic to pan and saute until vegetables are tender crisp. Add basil, olive oil & lemon mixture to pan and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Drain pasta and stir into vegetable mixture. Add parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Nutritional Information per serving (made with Dreamfield's pasta): 287.7 calories, 24.7 g carbohydrate, 18.7 g total fat, 3.7 g saturated fat, 5.7 g fiber, 12.7 g protein.
Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010
How does this compare with traditional Lemon Spaghetti made from an authentic Italian recipe? The traditional recipe is loaded with saturated fat and carbs, without the benefit of vitamins and minerals from vegetables because a traditional recipe doesn't include any vegetables. Although its tart, lemony flavor may taste "light," do not be deceived. The nutritional information per serving of a traditionally prepared Lemon Spaghetti is an alarming 670 calories, 86 g carbohydrate, 27.2 g total fat, 13.5 g saturated fat, 4.6 g fiber, 25.5 g protein.