When spring produce starts cropping up at the market, it seems to come all at once – giant loads of greens, bunches of fresh mint, endless rows of asparagus and boxes full of fresh green peas. One of the best ways to make use of this bountiful spring produce is through a simple pasta.
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With your pasta, make sure to showcase the beautiful colors and bright taste of fresh vegetables by doing as little to them as possible (which also helps retain more nutrients). Here, asparagus, kale and peas (fresh or frozen will work fine), are simply blanched so they become tender, but do not overcook, which will cause them to lose their flavor.
As we know, an array of green veggies and herbs brings not just a heap of flavor to a dish, but nutrients as well. Between asparagus and kale, this dish is loaded with Vitamin K, Vitamin A, folate, iron, fiber and antioxidants.
By mixing your nutrient-dense greens with a whole wheat pasta, which incorporates the bran, germ and endosperm of the wheat grain and thus packs in more fiber and health benefits, this recipe is much better for you than your average pasta dish.
Try these chocolatey brownies for dessert (vegan and gluten free)
Some people aren’t crazy about the taste or texture of whole grain pasta, but these days there are many different kinds readily available in grocery stores, so play around with various brands until you find one you like. You can even try a whole grain pasta other than wheat, such as spelt, quinoa, kamut or amaranth.
It’s well worth opting for a whole grain pasta since increasing research shows how whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. Plus, this is another way to get in your recommended daily whole grain intake (USDA recommends 3 servings per day) beyond the usual cereals and breads. Over time, many people end up preferring whole grain pasta, since it brings a more complex flavor and a slight nuttiness to the table. Also, since whole grain pasta has a low GI, it is suitable for diabetics.
For an added savory kick, the pasta is finished with some quality Parmesan. You don’t need a lot of this – just a sprinkling over the top. Of course, if you want to make it dairy free, you can skip the cheese. Bare in mind, however, if you are on a lactose-free diet, true Parmigiano Reggiano is lactose free (thanks to the aging process) - just be sure to check the packaging, which will say “lactose-free” if it is the real stuff.
Serve this pasta warm, cold or at room temperature. Leftovers will keep well for the next day’s lunch or dinner, just be sure to seal it in an airtight container in the fridge. Give the pasta a squeeze of lemon juice or drizzle of oil before serving if it’s been chilled and seems a bit dry.
1 package whole wheat spaghetti
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
6 kale leaves, ribbed and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated Parmesan, for serving
Fresh mint leaves, to garnish
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Fill a large stockpot with water; bring to a boil. Drop in spaghetti and cook 5 minutes. Add asparagus, kale and peas and continue to cook another 5 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and set aside.
In a colander in the sink, strain spaghetti and vegetables.
Return pot to stove over medium heat. Add oil and garlic; sauté until golden, about 2 minutes.
Return strained spaghetti, vegetables and reserved pasta water to pot and reduce heat to low. Using tongs, toss everything together until spaghetti and vegetables are lightly coated and shimmery. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan and mint leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or allow to cool, store in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.