As part of meatless Mondays, I've gotten used to trying alternative sources of protein. Plant-based proteins are a great way to cut animal products from at least one dinner a week, and this is one of my favorites. This recipe is written for people who are vegetarian and/or on the 21 day fix, and it's kosher. At the bottom of the page, you can find minor changes to make to ensure that this fits gluten free, dairy free, vegan, low carb, and non-meat-free dietary needs or preferences.
I grew up in a kosher household. We have separate dishes for meat and dairy, and don't mix the two in our house. However, being kosher in America (most parts at least) makes it very difficult to eat at a restaurant. There aren’t any kosher Italian restaurants where I am. I didn't grow up completely insulated from Italian food, though. There are a lot of Italian people where I live, and I've been exposed to some real, genuine Italian cooking. That's how I know how delicious an Italian dish that pairs mozzarella cheese with chicken or beef can be. I just can't cook it in my own home, which makes me incredibly sad.
Italian food has an intoxicating combination of bold, zesty flavor and creamy, smooth cheese. But if I want to have a protein packed meal, it's difficult to incorporate cheese and keep it kosher. I use Gardein products in my cooking when I want to have this kind of pairing. It provides protein and a flavor that is as close to beef as I can get without using actual beef. Many of the products are vegan and gluten-free, and the best part is that they are kosher!
This recipe can be quickly modified to save time. In our world, most people work and have other responsibilities, or just don't enjoy cooking. I personally enjoy cooking, but I don't want to do it daily. I always try to make enough so that there will be leftovers for either lunch or dinner the next day. If you're looking to save time, here are some ideas:
Cook extra pasta. I came up with this recipe because I had cooked way too much pasta the week before. I threw the pasta into a big Ziplock bag and put it in the freezer. I didn't have to microwave it - I just put two servings of pasta into a colander and ran some hot water over it. It takes less than a minute to have pasta that tastes fresh.
The leftover veggies and Gardein also freeze well. I put the other servings into another Ziplock bag and tossed it right into the freezer. This way, I have pasta AND the toppings ready to go in minutes the next time I don't feel like cooking.
Prepping the veggies beforehand. I often buy fruits and vegetables, wash them, and cut them up right away so I can just grab them and start cooking. If you have sliced zucchini and mushrooms, you're ready to start cooking right away.
Crushed garlic can be found in a jar in the produce section of your local supermarket. This makes it much quicker to prepare this meal, rather than having to crush the garlic myself.
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 15 min
Ready in: 20 min
Yields: 4 servings
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, for the skillet
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 box whole wheat rotini
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 package (13.7 oz) Gardein beefless ground
1 can (14 oz) or 1 package sliced mushrooms, optional
1 cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon basil
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box.
Put the olive oil in a large skillet, and sauté the zucchini over medium heat until it begins to soften.
If you're using fresh mushrooms, add them about 2 minutes after the zucchini.
Add the Gardein beefless ground to the skillet, stirring frequently until it is heated through (about 5 minutes).
Add the mushrooms (if you're using fresh), diced tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Mix well and continue to cook over medium to medium-low heat until everything is hot.
Top the pasta with the veggies, and then add 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese to each serving.
Add some crushed red pepper flakes (if you'd like), serve, and enjoy!
This delicious, healthy recipe can be easily tweaked to accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions and preferences.
Gluten free - just make this with gluten-free pasta. There's a lot of different kinds out there, and some of them are REALLY GOOD! It can also be served over rice.
Low carb - swap the pasta for cauliflower rice. This sneaks an extra servings of vegetables into the meal as well.
Meat eaters - if you aren't kosher, you can make this with ground turkey, beef, pork, or veal. If you are kosher and prefer the real deal, just leave off the mozzarella.
Vegan or Dairy-free - skip the cheese, or use your favorite dairy-free substitute.
Swapping out whatever vegetables you have on hand. I don't eat onions, but those could be a great addition to the meal (if you like that sort of thing). If you don't have zucchini, try spinach, broccoli, green beans, or asparagus. Most veggies would work for this.
21 Day Fix Container Counts
If you're following 21 Day Fix, the container counts for this recipe are:
1 yellow container
2 green containers
1 red container
1 blue container