I know, I know...pasta is well-loved by many and usually a staple to easy, quick meals for a family household. Maybe it's because I was born with relatively no Italian blood in my body? Although I must confess that I enjoyed every single season of Jersey Shore.
Now how to make a pasta dish a bit healthier and more nutritious?....Add more veggies of course! Hence, the addition of the peas. Peas not only are one of my personal favorite vegetables, but they also started with the letter "P" so I thought it would be clever to have a "P"umpkin and "P"eas "P"asta Bake.
Shout out to all of my high school English teachers for the lessons on alliteration.
I used penne pasta noodles, but you could certainly substitute them for other noodles you have on hand. Shells and bow ties would probably be great options. If you don't have nutritional yeast, feel free to replace it with cheese of your choice. The nutritional yeast is a vegan option for cheese.
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. olive or coconut oil
13.25 oz. whole wheat penne pasta noodles
12 oz. frozen peas
1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/3 cup unsweetened almondmilk
dash of nutmeg
2 tsp. marjoram
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/3 cup italian bread crumbs (I used Panko)
Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and adding good pinch of salt to the water. Add the penne pasta noodles and cook according to package directions. Cook the noodles until just underdone (al dente) because you will continue their cooking process in the oven when baking the dish at the end.
In a large saute pan, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and clove of minced garlic. Cook until onions start to turn translucent and are tender. While onions and garlic are cooking, whisk together the almondmilk and flour. Add almondmilk mixture to saute pan with onions. Whisk all ingredients in saute pan until well combined.
Heat peas in microwave according to package directions. Remove from microwave and add peas to saute pan. Add nutmeg, marjoram, salt, pepper, canned pumpkin, and nutritional yeast to pan as well. Mix all ingredients until well combined, then fold in the peas.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once pasta noodles are done cooking, drain them and add the saute pan with pumpkin and all other ingredients except bread crumbs to the noodles and mix to combine. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish prepped with coconut oil or coconut spray to prevent sticking. Top with toasted breadcrumbs. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes. Serve fresh.
This dish can also be made ahead, as it does travel well to a potluck. Just save the baking process until just before serving.
Healthy Recipe Tidbits
- I used whole wheat pasta and whole wheat flour. Both of which will make this dish a more nutrient-dense rather than just calorie-dense food. The difference between nutrient-dense vs. calorie-dense is how many nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc) you're getting per calorie in a food or dish vs. the amount of calories in the dish. As an example, a small candy bar and a small apple may both have 60 calories, but which one will be filled with more good-for-you nutrients for your body?....The apple.
- Did you know peas are being used in many plant-based protein powders and foods? This is because peas are actually are very good vegetable source of protein as they contain 8g of protein per cup.
- Peas are also low in calories (a cup of peas contains about 118 calories) and low in fat but high in various antioxidants such as flavinoids, carotenoids, phenolic acids, and polyphenols.
What's your favorite pasta dish?