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We have been getting ourselves re-familiarized with pasta lately. Due to rising food costs, I have been trying my best to stretch things, like our veggies and meat and following in the footsteps of my Grandparents, pasta often comes to mind. There are a lot of great pasta types out there now that are more healthy than your garden variety enriched “white” pastas. Roberto, like a good Italian, has always been big on pasta meals. Before he met me, he used to eat pasta every single day of his life.
For myself, I have always joked that I am not a good Italian, because I have never really been a big pasta eater, even less so as I got older, because it really likes to stick to certain parts of my body that I really wish it would not. But now, with all these varieties to choose from, I have found healthier versions.

Not all pasta is created equal…

One of my favorites is De Boles. Not only is De Boles organic and all natural, but it offers gluten free and whole grain varieties as well as my favorite, the ones made with half Jerusalem artichoke flour and half semolina flour. This means it has a lower glycemic index. Jerusalem artichokes also contain inulin which is a pre-biotic (not pro-biotic – although those are good too) that stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract that in turn aids digestion and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. Texture wise, it is just like regular pasta. You are unable to tell the difference. Take it from the Italian and the Italian American.

When using regular pasta, my favorite brand was always Barilla. It always cooks perfectly and is the preferred brand of most Italian households. The company was founded in Parma, Italy and has for 130 years been family owned and operated. Also in 2007 they were one of the six out of 5,000 globally recognized companies evaluated as “most ethical”. So you can also feel good about eating this pasta. Another reason to feel good about eating Barilla is that they too have some out with new healthier varieties with their Barilla Plus – multigrain line of products. Barilla is also way cheaper than De Boles, so it is often what we have in our pantry.

I wanted to try some different pastas that are not traditionally Italian in taste, to spice things up a bit. So recently I made a curried penne. I had finally found an Indian market near where my mom lives and I picked up some great spice mixtures and had a hankering to try them out. I am a huge yogurt lover, and yogurt (which contains PRO-biotics) is found prominently in Indian cuisine, so an idea for this spicy pasta started coming together. However, I doubt you would ever find this on a menu in any Indian restaurant! It is a Leftover Queen classic ;)

Curried Penne Pasta

INGREDIENTS:

1 box of penne pasta (of your choice)
3 TBS pine nuts
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 /2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup thinly julienned carrot
2 Roma tomatoes
1 tsp cumin
2 TBS curry powder
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp Garam Masala
pinch of cayenne pepper
handful of baby spinach
1 cup Greek style yogurt

METHOD:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and toast about 2-3 minutes or until browned. Remove immediately and transfer to a small bowl. Add oil to skillet and ad onions, garlic, peas, corn, and carrots. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and all the spices and the spinach. Cook all together for about 10 minutes for all the flavors to marry.
Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the yogurt. Toss together and top with the toasted pine nuts.
Makes a real lot.