Including plant-based meals into your diet can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. The way I approach it is to learn what foods I enjoy and then adapt recipes to create vegetarian and vegan meals.
Pasta with vegetables is a dish that’s grown on me. I always found standard pasta too heavy, but then alternatives like spelt pasta and brown rice pasta made it to market. Now I have a pasta bowl in my hand on a weekly basis, whether I’m making a healthy lunch or opting for a vegan dinner! It’s a great way to include vegetables in your meal plan.
If you’re stuck on a lunch idea for your kids or you need an easy dinner recipe for your vegan friends, try this vegetarian courgette (zucchini) pasta dish out. It includes a home-made pasta sauce.
Here’s how to make my Courgette (Zucchini) Pasta Bake…
Pasta Bake Ingredients
Penne pasta – 225g (75g per person)
1 Courgette/ Zucchini (sliced)
1 Red Pepper (sliced)
Black Olives (sliced)
Spinach leaves (handful)
Salt & pepper
Optional: Cheese – Mozzarella di Bufala & mature cheddar cheese (grated), or vegan cheese
For the pasta sauce:
Cooking oil (coconut, olive oil)
1 Garlic clove (crushed)
Chili flakes (sprinkle)
Tomato puree – 1 teaspoon
5 Cherry/plum tomatoes (diced)
Tomato sauce/ passata sauce – 400g
3-5 Fresh basil leaves or ½ teaspoon dried basil
Salt & pepper
Pasta Bake Recipe
- Heat oil in saucepan on a low heat
- Add crushed garlic and follow with tomato puree
- Stir and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes
- Add diced tomatoes and allow to cook for another 5 minutes, or until soft
- Pour tomato sauce and stir altogether
- Add basil, chili flakes, salt and pepper and leave to simmer on a low heat
- Pre-heat grill at 180 degrees
- Place sliced courgette (zucchini), red pepper and black olives into baking tray
- Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
- Place baking tray in grill and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, checking every 5 minutes to flip vegetables
- Check pasta cooking time and time cooking to coincide with grilled vegetables
- Boil water in a pan, add half a teaspoon of salt and cook pasta
- Once pasta and vegetables are cooked, mix together in a baking tray with the tomato sauce and add spinach leaves
- Optionally, add cheese (dairy or vegan) on top and place in oven at 180 degrees for an additional 15 minutes
If like me you experience a mild wheat intolerance, fortunately there are plenty of alternative pasta options to choose from. I tend to use spelt which is actually from the wheat family, but is said to have higher nutritious value. I find it lighter in texture and easier to digest. Brown rice pasta is also delicious, as are many other gluten-free pasta products.
Distant cousin to wheat and contains gluten, but richer in nutrients such as protein and minerals (copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorous).
High carb, protein and fibre content; Low in fat.
High in soluble fibre which makes it easier to digest for those with a wheat intolerance; also lowers blood cholesterol regulates blood sugar levels helping you feel fuller for longer.
High water content and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
Good source of protein and dietary fibre.
Soluble fibre in the skin which slows down digestion and stablises blood sugar and insulin levels.
Vitamins: vitamin A, B3 (niacin), B6, K and an excellent source of vitamin C.
Minerals: phosphorous, iron and magnesium.
Significant levels of potassium, which is key to controlling blood pressure.
I try to include as many vegetarian and vegan meals in my diet as possible. That’s why I opt for a grain as a base and team it with a couple or more vegetables to make it more wholesome.
Below are some pasta options I personally use: