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Fresh Tomato, Basil, & Mozzarella Pasta

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Last week I was preachin’ to the choir about making healthy food at home more often- so I wanted to follow-up this week with some healthy habits you can follow in the kitchen.

My top ten super easy tips to make your everyday meals healthier and tastier. 
  1. Keep an eye on sodium. Whether you have high blood pressure or not, it’s wise to watch your sodium intake. The USDA’s dietary guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 2,300 mg (about 1 teaspoon salt) daily.
  2. Go for the flavor. Enhance food with bold flavors from healthy ingredients like fresh herbs, bold spices, vinegars, and citrus. When your food has great flavor, there’s no reason to feel deprived.
  3. Be mindful and enjoy.  Make conscious food decisions rather than grabbing for what is most convenient. Make sure it is something delicious and savor it. When you enjoy what you eat, you feel satisfied.
  4. Use smart fats. Not all fat is bad. Opt for unsaturated (e.g., olive oil) over saturated fats such as butter. But still use them in moderation because all fats are loaded with calories (9 calories per gram).
  5. Go unrefined.  Pick whole grains over refined grains. Whole grains like brown rice and wheat pasta have their bran intact and thus have more fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and other nutrients.
  6. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Most people don’t get enough! Aim to eat at least one fruit and/or vegetable at each meal and snack. Pick produce in a variety of colors to get a range of antioxidants and vitamins. Serve up a dish that can be easy to alter with different veggie.  A typical  serving size is 1/2 to 1 cup depending on the fruit or vegetable.
  7. It’s not all about the meat. Meat is a great source of protein and zinc, but it’s also a big source of saturated fat in many people’s diets. So eat small amounts of lean meat, fish and poultry- or replace it with a plant protein like quinoa or black beans. Fill up the rest of your plate with healthy vegetables and whole grains.
  8. Choose low-fat dairy. Dairy products like milk, sour cream and yogurt are a good source of calcium. Replacing whole-milk dairy products with low-fat or nonfat is an easy way to cut saturated fat in your diet.  If the low fat cheese doesn’t suit your liking, use a full-flavor cheese- easy to use less of it with all the flavor to boot!
  9. Keep portions reasonable. Even though we would all like a magic bullet for weight control, it really boils down to calories in vesus calories out. Forget the endless calorie counting- A simple way to manage calorie intake is by eating healthy portions. 
  10. Use sweeteners judiciously. Sugars of any kind, whether corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, honey or maple syrup, add significant calories without any nutritive value
The simplest advice I can give is to
eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains and less of just about everything else. 
I’ve taken (most of) these ten tips and put them to use in my kitchen for this next recipe.  This vegetarian (#7) pasta meal is full of fresh veggies (#6) and with the help of a jarred pasta sauce, it comes together for a hearty portion (#9) sized dinner meal- that even the die-hard-meat-lovers at your table wont feel deprived!
Fresh Tomato, Basil, & Mozzarella Pasta


1 pound uncooked whole wheat penne pasta  (#5)
1 cup jarred tomato pasta sauce (#6)
1/3 (1 1/2-ounces) cup grated parmesan cheese, divided (#8)
1/3 cup {fat free} half and half (#8)
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (#2)
2 garlic cloves, minced (#2)
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved (#6)
1 1/4 cups (5-ounces) diced fresh mozzarella cheese (#6)
1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil leaves (#2)
1/4 teaspoon salt  (#1)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (#2)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain and set aside.
While pasta cooks, heat tomato sauce over low heat in a large sauce pan.  Stir in salt, red pepper, half and half and 1/4 cup of the grated parmesan.  Bring to a low simmer, and once bubbly, stir in balsamic vinegar.  Remove from heat.  Add cooked pasta, stirring to coat.  Fold in garlic, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. 
Coat a large 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Pour pasta mixture into the prepared dish.  Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and bake for 25 minutes until cheese is golden and bubbly.  Top with additional basil as desired. 
Nutrition Information
Serves 6 (2 cups each)
Calories: 408
Fat: 8 g
Carbohydrate: 67 g
Fiber: 8 g
Protein: 16 g


  1. Yummy.. im always looking for some delicious pasta recipes will be making this Saturday when my husband’s grandparents come over..

    Thank you for this!

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