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creamy tomato & avocado squash casarecce

by Jackie Newgent  |  August 4, 2012  |  1 Comment

Makes 4 servings: 1 1/2 rounded cups each

Comfort food isn’t just for wintertime. So here’s some summer comfort for you. Your family and friends will feel they’re getting treated like royalty when served this pasta recipe. That’s because this isn’t just any pasta dish. It’s decadent from a just-right amount of cream. And casarecce along with stewed heirloom tomatoes and avocado squash truly make it extra special.

Avocado squash is lime-green-colored summer squash that’s named after its shape … an avocado, of course. Casarecce is a slightly twisted noodle that holds superbly onto sauces. But go ahead and try this sumptuous seasonal recipe with any other favorite pasta shape, like farfalle, gemelli, or rotini. It’ll be your crowning—and comforting—achievement on the dining table.

Calories Saved: 140

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
1 pound (2 large) fully-ripened heirloom or vine-ripened tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
1 pound (2 medium) avocado squash or zucchini, halved lengthwise, and cut crosswise into (1/3-inch-thick) slices
3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
8 ounces dry whole grain casarecce or other medium-shaped pasta
1/2 cup organic heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh small basil leaves

  1. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the vinegar, tomatoes, avocado squash, broth, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Uncover and cook while stirring occasionally until thickened yet still saucy, about 8 minutes more.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Set aside.
  3. Stir the cream into the tomato-squash mixture and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the pasta and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and simmer for 1 minute more. Adjust seasoning.
  4. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl, sprinkle with the basil, and serve.

Per serving: 380 calories, 16g total fat, 8g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 40mg cholesterol, 640mg sodium, 53g total carbohydrate, 7g dietary fiber, 8g sugars, 11g protein


The “Before” Recipe

creamy tomato penne
Makes 4 servings: 1 rounded cup each

Adapted from

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped white onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 chicken bouillon cube

1 cup all purpose heavy cream
1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese
7 ounces dry penne pasta

  1. Cook penne pasta al dente or as directed in package. Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil so it will not stick together. Set aside.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a large pan and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add in the crushed tomatoes, including all liquid in can. Season with sugar, salt, pepper and chicken cube. Add 1/2 cup water and simmer for 20 minutes or until thick.
  3. Add the cream and simmer for another minute. Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan and stir to combine. Add the cheese and mix for another 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat. By this time the mozzarella cheese should be melted and stringy when pulled.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Per serving: 520 calories, 33g total fat, 17g saturated fat, 0.5g trans fat, 90mg cholesterol, 660mg sodium, 49g total carbohydrate, 6g dietary fiber, 8g sugars, 14g protein


Tasteover Tips

  • Instead of using a regular onion and adding processed white sugar, choose a naturally sweet onion
  • Balance flavors and bring out the full-bodied flavor of the tomato with a “matching” acid, like aged balsamic vinegar
  • Consider using fresh fully-ripened heirloom tomatoes when they’re in season for a fresher, more interesting flavor
  • Create a more satisfying portion size with the addition of a calorie-friendly fresh veggie that you love, like avocado squash or zucchini
  • Keep an otherwise vegetarian dish vegetarian by skipping the preservative-laden chicken bouillon cube and selecting sea salt and an organic or all-natural, no-salt-added vegetable broth (or stock) instead
  • There’s no need to douse a pasta dish with heavy cream; use just enough of the real thing to give a recipe creaminess and decadence without artery-clogging overindulgence
  • Finish a pasta dish with a fragrant, flavorful, and, when possible, eye-appealing ingredient, like fresh basil leaves


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