Monday, May 21, 2007

Hearty Heart-Lovin' Pasta

The Heart of the Matter is a food blog event with a difference- like many other events, you make a dish every month based on a theme, BUT with one important criterion: the food has to be heart-friendly and healthful! It is a wonderful challenge to think of the food we eat and come up with something that is both delicious and good for the body. The round-ups are collected in the HotM blog so that we can all have a handy collection of recipes to try out. The theme this month is something we all crave: Pasta!

The pasta I am making today comes from the lovely PBS food show Everyday Food. I always feel a keen sense of relief when I watch this calm and professional show, with efficient chefs demonstrating eminently do-able recipes for the home cook. It helps me recover from the trauma that I undergo when I come across some of those shows on Food Network that are so out-of-tune with where we should be headed, like Paula Deen's shows, with the sickeningly fatty recipes that are doing nothing to help America's obesity epidemic, or Sandra Lee's shows, with the wasteful shopping and unintelligent "cooking" that are hurting the eco-friendly changes the world needs to make.

What makes this dish heart-friendly...
...the extra-virgin olive oil, which is the sensible choice when one is cooking with fats,
...the lentils, which provide fiber and protein, making this a filling and satisfying meal,
...the vegetables, which provide taste, vitamins, minerals and a ton of other nutrients while adding minimal calories

What is even more special is what this dish does NOT contain...
...animal fats; there are no saturated fats in the form of meat, butter, cream or cheese
...excessive salt; I used the trick of adding some lemon juice, which brings out the flavor and lets you get away with minimal salt.

This pasta could be made even more healthful by using whole-wheat pasta instead of the regular one made with refined flour. I use both kinds of pasta in my kitchen. Regular pasta can be part of a healthy diet if it is served in small quantities, and in combination with protein and healthy fats. The orecchiette ("little ears") pasta is wonderful in this dish because the tiny shells capture the lentil sauce perfectly.

i heart pasta

(Adapted from this recipe from the TV show Everyday Food, makes about 4 servings)
1. Start boiling a large pot of water for pasta.
2. Place 1 cup lentils in a saucepan, rinse them, then cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
3. As lentils are cooking, do the prep. cut up 1 large onion into slices. Mince 2 cloves of garlic. Chop 1 cup canned tomatoes and set side. Chop 1 fresh tomato into slices. Clean 1 bunch arugula and chop roughly. Take a fresh lemon and collect 2 tbsp juice.
4. Heat 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil in a non-stick skillet, then saute onions and garlic until golden brown and aromatic.
5. To the onions, add 1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped, and some salt and pepper.
6. Stir in the lentils.
7. When pasta water comes to a boil, add salt and 2 cups orecchiette and cook until just tender. Save 1 cup pasta water. Drain the pasta and return to pot.
8. To the cooked pasta, add onion-lentil mixture, chopped tomatoes, chopped arugula, lemon juice and pasta water. Toss well and serve!

Verdict: I will surely be making this again and again! It is perfect for summer, light and juicy. It tastes good hot, at room temperature and cold, like a pasta salad. It would be the perfect addition to a lunch box.

Thanks to Joanna and Ilva for hosting this event...I'm going to try and participate every single month! Here is the HotM Pasta Round-up with wonderful recipe ideas for making heart-healthy pasta dishes.


  1. pasta looks yum, adding lentils is such a good idea. i hear ya' about the wasteful stuff, i get the same feeling even when i see the AC's cranked up full blast for no reason, a balance is very necessary me thinks!

  2. Thanks for participating and for this lovely and interesting entry! I especially like the photo!

  3. thank you, nupur, for pointing out what an unmitigated horror sandra lee's show is. food network seems to love her, though. and paula deen with her giggly overdone accent??? well, never mind. that's why i don't have cable.

    your pasta looks fabulous.

  4. Pasta looks yummy Nupur. Viji

  5. Looks good with all the good nutrients.

  6. so true nupur. sometimes i want run miles away from cookery shows where chefs are busy demonstarting very fatty food which although looks delicious but high in cal n fats.

  7. oh! i love sandra lee...escp her cocktail recipes...Nupur you hurt me..:( :( just kidding....i echo ur sentiments (resentment) for Paula Dean though...LOL

  8. looks yummm...going into my lunch box for tomo..will let u know how it turns out..:-)..thanks for the recipe..:-)

  9. Arugula-Masoor: (hitting my forehead) Why didn't I think of that. Great combo.
    I totally agree with you on Sandra Lee's pathetic excuse of a show. The less said the better about Paula (2 sticks of butter and 1 pack cream cheese)Deen.

  10. Nupur,

    That is the most good looking pasta I have ever seen and bonus points for the nutrition too. I have just started catching up with all your posts.I have a question about your Dal Dhokli (spinach one). I think I am definitely going to try it but not sure what is eaten with, rice, pulav ? or is it just a dish by itself. Could pls let me know. Thanks in advance.


  11. Richa, so true, one needs to be reasonable and sensible!

    Ilva, thanks for hosting! I can't wait to see all the heart-healthy ideas in the round-up.

    Bee, "unmitigated horror" is right! Even more horrifying is the large fan clubs that these two enjoy!

    Viji, thanks :)

    Alanna, all types of vinegars would work as well!

    Lata, yeah, when you taste it, you can almost feel the nutrition flowing in :)

    Sia, it is easy to make fatty delicious food, but show me delicious and light food, and there's a genius :)

    Supriya, yeah, that Sandra Lee has a drink glued to her hands at all times of day and night :)

    Santhi, let me know if you like it! :)

    Chinni, thanks!

    TC, the combo is refreshing, hope you get a chance to try it!

    Nav, Dal dhokli is eaten just as it a stew. A big bowlful makes for a satisfying dinner :)

  12. Nupur,

    I totally wish that one of the Indian moms of the older generation would start a show showing how they never waste a single drop of food! And they never use more than the necessary amount of dishes. I hate when they mix in one bowl, only to transfer to another bowl! We were just talking earlier of how India was so eco friendly, and how some cities are banning plastic bags now -- going back to cloth bags, wrapping up items in newspaper, and using banana leaves!!

    A pleasure to read your blog my dear.


  13. Nupur, you watch the PBS food shows too... I usually try to catch a few over the weekend. :) The pasta looks great. This will make a great weeknight dinner... I'm bookmarking it.

  14. Padmaja, thanks!

    Cynthia, glad you like it!

    Kanchana, so true...we need to use more common sense and less disposable goods. Thanks for stopping by!

    Mandira, I *love* all the PBS food shows (and PBS in general, really)!

  15. Also a gorgeous picture! I will have to try this recipe and if my daughter will eat it that will be a huge bonus!

  16. Great recipe and gorgeous picture. It´s a must try to me and I list it in my favourites. :))


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