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Sometimes it’s just fine to be a little cheesy

[Stock Photo]

When it comes to hearty meals, pasta has to be right up there, though the carb debate is likely to surface at this point early in the year. The fact that winter calls for it, however, means comfort food is likely to win out. A touch of the Med. helps counter the whole winter thing we’ve got going on.

For this one, no one will guess that the secret ingredient in this creamy pasta dish is ricotta – unless you mention that it’s called Mediterranean Tomato and Ricotta Pasta, of course.

Packed with colourful vegetables, this tasty meal will be a hit, whatever you chose to call it. Passata is cooked tomatoes that have been crushed and strained, and it’s usually sold in a tall glass jar.

As for the dieting issues that abound just now, try using less of the ingredients that are high in added sodium, sugars or saturated fat. Adding salt or sugars directly to your recipe? Remember, a little often goes a long way.

Mediterranean Tomato and Ricotta Pasta

  • 1 pkg (375 g) whole grain rotini or fusilli
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini, grated
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • Half a red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 jar (700 ml) tomato passata
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or basil
  • 1 cup light ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a pot of boiling water, cook pasta for about 8 minutes or until tender but firm. Drain well and return pasta to pot; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat and cook zucchini, carrot, pepper, oregano and basil for about 5 minutes or until starting to turn golden. Stir in passata, water and parsley. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour over pasta and stir in the ricotta (and the Parmesan, if you go with that option).

You can transform this pasta dish by baking it. Spread pasta mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle top with 1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded and bake in 200°C (400°F) oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Makes 6 servings.

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