Healthy Dining #4 – Zesty Three-Cheese Ravioli

I realize it has been quite a while since I’ve put any new recipes on the blog – sorry about that. Sam and I have been dieting – he more seriously than I have, as evidenced by the scales; so our eating regime has been really boring lately. We eat mostly Boca products, and while they’re tasty, they’re not very inspiring.

Speaking of dieting – I discovered the other day just why I hate it so very much – the first three letters are D -I – E, die; which is what I feel like when I’m trying to do it.

Anyway, back to the real subject of this post……………..

In a burst of creative energy, cabin fever, and starvation, I put my thinking cap on and came up with a delightfully tasty and healthy new pasta dish. Pasta is one of my favorite carbs, and next to Mexican food I truly believe it’s one of the foods that I could eat every day of my life. It has such diversity in both flavor and texture, and it is chock full of natural carby goodness. I usually feel completely satisfied after eating a bowl full of pasta.

I have a theory – wanna hear it? I’m gonna tell ya anyway, ha-ha! While there is currently no known physical evidence to prove this, I believe the mana that is described in the Old Testament was actually the first fresh form of pasta. Call me crazy, but it makes perfect sense to me. Here’s why: 1. it was easily gathered by the people (pasta shapes), 2. it could be prepared in a number of ways (there are hundreds of thousands of pasta recipes), and 3. it didn’t have much taste on it’s own (is that not the most accurate description of pasta you’ve ever heard?).

I mean think about it – of all the beautiful places in the world, why does the Pope still live in Italy? Because we all know that God is Italian – or at least he fancies Italian food. So I could in all seriousness say that pasta is “ordained by God”. Remember, it’s just a theory………okay, okay, I feel the rope tightening around my neck as once again I’m being reeled back in by some unknown cosmic force of collective consciousness.

Again, back to subject of this blog post………………….

As much as I love pasta, unfortunately, one of the ways a person loses weight is by cutting back on carbs, so we haven’t been eating as much of it lately as we normally do. In a moment of malnourished insanity and loud tummy rumblings, I suddenly realized I was seriously jonesin’ for a steaming bowl of cheesy, tomato-y, delightfully homey, carb-packed pasta.

So I went to my pantry, fervently prayin’ it wasn’t gonna let me down, and I pulled out two pint sized jars of home-canned tomatoes, some Italian seasonings, some crushed chili flakes, a tube of tomato paste, an onion, 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, a red bell pepper, a bag of frozen three-cheese ravioli, and lastly a 10 oz. box of frozen chopped spinach. I chopped, I diced, I sauteed, I stirred, I defrosted, I boiled, I squeezed, I tasted, I tweaked, and then…………I loved it!

It was perfect; it was simple; it tasted fresh; and best of all it was HEALTHY! By the time I served us both a steaming plate of zesty ravioli the house smelled like an Italian restaurant and our stomachs were on fire with hunger. We quickly gobbled up what was on our plates and looked longingly at the two remaining lunch sized portions still on the stove; wishing we could lick our plates and the pan clean too, but what would the neighbors think if they ever heard about such nonsense?

Seriously, this pasta dish is just that good. And the beauty of the recipe is that there isn’t really a recipe. I just took some basic ingredients that are almost always in my pantry and my freezer and threw them in the pan. If I’d had some fresh basil, brined capers and white wine I would have used those too. Also, fresh spinach leaves would have worked in this as well, if frozen hadn’t been available.

This recipe is very organic and really is more about what you fancy and not about what someone else tells you is going to be tasty. So give it a whirl – feel free to take some liberties with the ingredients and get to creatin’ your own signature pasta dish. Jesus would want ya to!

Zesty Three-Cheese Ravioli

1 pound frozen or fresh three cheese ravioli, cooked according to package directions
1 (10 ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry of any excess water
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (I used red since that’s what I had on hand, but any color will work just fine)
5 or 6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans of diced tomatoes (or 2 pint sized jars of home canned diced tomatoes)
1/2 to 1 can of water
1 tablespoon tomato paste (or one healthy squeeze from the tube)
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning blend (I just dumped what was left in my jar into the pan, so feel free to adjust this up or down, depending on your taste preferences)
2 tablespoons crushed chili flakes (again, I just dumped in what I thought looked right, but you can adjust this to your taste preference – obviously, we like things zesty around here!)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Cooking spray

1. Cook and drain ravioli according to package directions, cover with a lid and set to the side.

2. Spray a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Saute onion and bell pepper until the onion is translucent and the bell pepper is soft. Add in the garlic and saute for about 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic won’t burn and become bitter.

3. Add both cans of tomatoes, Italian spices, crushed chili flakes, tomato paste, spinach, and 1/2 can of water. Stir well to combine and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow the sauce to bubble away for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding up to another 1/2 can of water, if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Gently drop ravioli into the pan, spooning some of the sauce over the top to coat the ravioli, and continue simmering for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until ravioli have come back up to temperature.

5. Serve immediately with a grating of fresh Parmesan cheese, crusty bread, and a side salad.

Deeee-lish!

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