A Happy New Year to all.
As with every year, I have resolved to live healthy, live happy, be grateful for the nice things in life,spend more time with my kids. I am also pushing myself to find healthier food, better recipes, to share with all and do my bit for a better world. Pasta and Italian food are quite a favourite among people all over the world. We love Italian food at our home too. Based on frequent demands from my kids, I try to recreate popular dishes like pasta in bechamel (white) sauce at home. However, the amount of cheese that is required each time sends alarm bells to my nutritionist mind. While some cheese is good for children, as part of milk intake, too much of it is unhealthy.
While watching an episode of Junior Masterchef, I saw one participant using an ingredient which could substitute for part of the cheese in white sauce. I was quite excited by the idea, and tried it out soon. The first attempt was just about edible – I think I scrimped too much on the cheese. The second time, I did not get the proportions right. So this time, I thought through the proportions carefully and tried – this version was by far the best.
I am sure several of us would have started off with New Year Resolutions to reduce weight, eat healthy and so on.. Most resolutions fizzle out because we lack the will power to stick with them. Low fat food, salad – only meals, tasteless food in the name of diets – these are sure fire methods to lose our goals instead of excess weight!
I named my blog ‘Healthy Slurps’ as I firmly believe that healthy food has to be tasty too. I believe in modifying or inventing recipes which optimise the nutrients in ingredients used and are filling and healthy at the same time. This recipe is a great example. So here is my recipe for creamy, oozy, tasty pasta in white sauce minus sin.
I have given measures for 500 gm. uncooked pasta. If you plan to make a smaller batch, reduce proportions accordingly, but you could also make a big batch and freeze the rest for later.
- Pasta shells – any shape you have in stock, I used small shell – 500 gm., uncooked.
- Skim milk – 800 ml to 1000 ml.
- Whole wheat flour (atta) – 1 heaped tbsp.
- Butter – 2 tbsp., to be used in parts through the recipe.
- Processed cheese – 50 gm
- Carrot – wash peel cut into thin disks – 1 level cup
- Green or any colour capsicum – cut into thin slices – 1 level cup
- Cauliflower – 12-15 medium sized florets.
- Seasonings –1. Dry Oregano and 2. dry basil – 1 tsp each (or to taste) 3. White pepper /black pepper crushed – 1 heaped tbsp, 4. Salt – 2 tbsp.
- Fresh drinking water – 3 litre or slightly more, if needed.
- Boil water in a large pot, add a dab of butter, 1 tbsp salt to the boiling water and boil the pasta in it for 7-8 minutes or as per instructions. Drain, rinse and set aside in a colander.
- Blanch the cauliflower florets, drain. Heat 1/2 tsp butter in a large pan, fry the cauliflower in it for a good 3 minutes, cool and puree to smooth paste in a blender. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp butter in the same large pan used for cauliflower, stir fry the capsicum first, add carrots next, add a pinch of salt, toss well.
- In a corner of the pan, add the rest of the butter, place the whole wheat flour over the sizzling butter and fry to remove the raw smell. (takes about a minute or less). Now pour the skim milk in a thin stream over the flour, stir briskly to avoid lumps. You could use a whisk too. Mix in the vegetables and the white sauce, let simmer together until the sauce thickens and bubbles evenly. Control the flame as needed throughout.
- When the sauce thickens and bubbles, add the cauliflower puree, the cheese, and mix all well.
- After the whole mixture is homogenous, add in the seasonings, taste and adjust as per your taste.
- Now the sauce is ready to coat the pasta. Pour in the boiled pasta, toss well to coat. cover, take off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes or so for the flavours to settle.
- Tasty creamy pasta is ready to be served. I served this with warm garlic bread and a lettuce - cherry tomato salad in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
The amount of cauliflower used for the puree is important – too much and it tastes like cauliflower soup, too little and it does not thicken well enough. Sautéing the cauliflower in butter makes sure that the taste does not overpower the other flavours in the sauce.
You can use the same sauce for lasagne or for a macaroni hot pot – spread some more grated cheese as top layer and bake as you normally would.
You can use more vegetables like broccoli, sweet corn kernels, baby corn, zucchini, even black olives if you like. ( I like black olives with a tangy tomato sauce )
You can sprinkle a tsp. or more of grated cheese on top while serving kids. Grated Parmesan tastes great. While Parmesan is not strictly ‘vegetarian’, use it if you feel comfortable.
What’s good about this pasta dish?