Think Weeknight Dinners and Packable Lunches with Pasta Fits
With back-to-school right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about those creative weeknight dinners and packable lunches. Pasta is the perfect family favorite and time saving meal to serve your family for both lunch and dinner. Best of all, it’s easy to pair with other healthy ingredients.
Pasta Fits, the consumer platform for the National Pasta Association, has several unique pasta recipes that are perfect for the back-to-school season and sure to please both parents and kids. Please see recipe ideas below.
Elbow Macaroni and Vegetable Toss
This recipe is chock full of healthy veggies and is easy to customize based on your family’s favorites.
8 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup prepared basil pesto
3 cups chopped zucchini
3 cups small broccoli florets
1 cup chopped onion
1 red pepper chopped
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In large pot of boiling water, cook macaroni according to package directions, adding peas in the last minute of cooking. Drain, reserving 2/3 cup cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, in large skillet set over medium heat, heat pesto and 1/3 cup cooking liquid; cook zucchini, broccoli, onion and red pepper, covered, for about 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp.
Add macaroni and remaining cooking liquid to skillet; toss until macaroni is coated and vegetables are tender. Stir in Parmesan cheese.
Substitute sun-dried tomato pesto or olive tapenade for basil pesto if desired. For added protein, add cooked chickpeas, lentils or white beans.
A Pasta Fits original recipe.
Chicken, Broccoli, & Cheddar Mac and Cheese Squares
Give kids an easy, packable meal they’ll love and one you feel good about making!
4 oz. elbow macaroni
2 cups/8 oz. small broccoli florets
2 Tbsp./1 oz. butter
6 Tbsp. flour
2 cups/16 oz. skim milk
4 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz. cooked chicken leftover, small dice
½ cup breadcrumbs
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and reserve.
Heat a small pan of salted water. Cook the broccoli until crisp tender (about 2 minutes). Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Chop into ½” pieces. Reserve.
Heat a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add butter and, whisking constantly, stir in the flour taking care the flour doesn’t brown. Continue to cook for 2 minutes.
Whisk in the milk. It will thicken as it gets hot. Whisk constantly; any lumps will smooth out. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes. Mixture will bubble and thicken. When it no longer changes in consistency, it’s done.
Stir in cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in pasta, broccoli and chicken. Spread into a 9” x 9” pan. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and press them into the surface. Cool completely (at least 2 hours). Cut into 6 squares.
An exclusive PastaFits.org recipe.
One-Pot Chicken Chili Pasta
This make ahead recipe is perfect for any night of the week and the leftovers work great for lunch the next day.
1 tbsp. olive oil
12 oz. lean ground chicken
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup frozen corn kernels thawed
1 poblano pepper chopped
1 jalapeño pepper seeded and diced
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 can 28 oz. no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 can 14 oz. no-salt-added pinto beans
1/4 cup brewed coffee
4 oz. small shell pasta
1/4 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/2 avocado peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Heat oil in large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot set over medium heat; cook chicken for 5 to 7 minutes or until browned. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, corn, poblano, jalapeño, chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables have softened and spices are fragrant. Add tomato paste; cook for 1 minute.
Stir in tomatoes, beans, coffee and 1 cup water; simmer for 15 minutes. Add pasta; cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until pasta and vegetables are tender.
Garnish chili with radishes, avocado and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
Tip: Mix and match toppings: Try crushed tortilla chips, grated Monterey Jack cheese, sliced green onions or sour cream.
A Pasta Fits original recipe.