I grew up with my mom’s delicious homemade, melt-in-your-mouth meatballs and Italian style gravy, along with other mouth-watering dishes, such as eggplant parmesan, chicken cutlet, ravioli, and lasagna.
In my adult years, I have opted out of eating that way once I discovered my food sensitivities, which includes dairy and gluten, not to mention the weight I would gain when eating those foods on a regular basis.
If you love Italian food, as I do, you would rather undergo a root canal than to give it up. Fortunately, in my healthy cooking journey I have found a way to cook healthy Italian, and not give up on taste. When I played around with my ingredients, I learned that I didn’t have to give up Italian food or the delicious taste. I began to approach Italian cooking with a renewed love to create healthy and delicious dishes.
My true love of Italian food stems from my childhood. It was a tradition in my house, and we had many gatherings with our family and extended family. On Christmas Eve, we left Santa a bowl of mom’s delicious meatballs and pasta, instead of the cookies and milk.
With our busy schedules, we can’t spend hours cooking as our parents did, and we don’t have to. The following recipe is one that I often use when I’m in a pinch, and I haven’t made my sauce (or gravy) in a while. When my mom made her sauce, she would make it a sacral part of her Sunday and would spend the entire day creating and cultivating her masterpiece. Today, when I’m in the mood for an Italian dish, I know I can create one in just 30 minutes. And if I plan ahead, I chop my vegetables ahead of time, so when I come home from a busy day, it’s that much easier to throw this dish together.
The beauty of this sauce is that it also has fresh ingredients such as chopped tomato, zucchini, green pepper, onion, garlic, and fresh parsley and basil. There is no cheese in this sauce, making it dairy free.
When it comes to your pasta, some of us, not all, are gluten-free. Because I am sensitive to gluten, I use brown rice pasta or spiralized zucchini or another vegetable. I have also put my sauce over sauteed green beans, and that comes out great! The best brown rice pasta I have found is Tinkyada. This pasta comes out al dente, not too mushy, just the right texture, and is wheat and gluten free. And if you’re not sensitive to gluten, use your favorite brand. And if you make your own, better still!
When I serve myself, I am mindful of the number of carbs I have on my plate. My first layer is usually one-cup of sautéed spinach. I add about a ½-1 cup of pasta on top of the spinach, then with the meat sauce. Portion control is key. My meal is both satisfying, and delicious.
If you want a carbohydrate-free option, you can make zucchini pasta or spaghetti squash; it‘s your choice. When your sauce is delicious, it will compliment anything you pair with it.
Here’s my simple, yet delicious make-in-30-minutes pasta sauce:
Chunky Tomato and Ground Turkey Pasta Sauce
1 zucchini chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1 onion chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup fresh chopped basil
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
1 lb. organic ground turkey (or grass-fed beef)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil or Avocado Oil
1 cup spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Jar Michaels of Brooklyn Homestyle Gravy (or make your own, my recipe is below)
Sauté onion in oil for three minutes.
Add garlic, sauté for two minutes
Add ground turkey, sauté until cooked through (about 5 minutes)
Add chopped zucchini, pepper, and tomato, sauté for 5 minutes.
Add your own sauc (my recipe is below) or Michaels of Brooklyn suggested above.
Sauté for 10 minutes, mixing every few minutes
Leave on simmer for 20 minutes, mix every 5 minutes.
In a separate pan, sauté spinach in 1 tbsp oil for five minutes.
Serve spinach as your base, with your favorite pasta or vegetable pasta, topped with sauce
Gravy or Pasta Sauce
2 cans of Cento San Marzarno Tomatoes* – crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
¼ cup chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
Salt and Pepper
Saute onion for three minutes
Add garlic, saute for two more minutes
Add tomatoes, basil, parsley and seasonings
Simmer for 20-30 minutes
*These tomatoes come from Italy and are very flavorful.