I love pasta! It’s inexpensive, delicious, easy to prepare, a cinch to cook ahead of time, and it goes well with a variety of other foods. Let’s face it, though, a small-to-moderate serving of pasta (let’s say somewhere between 30 and 56 grams dry weight, for example) just isn’t very satisfying. On the other hand, a large bowl of pasta is usually a calorie bomb.
As a compromise, one strategy that I love for satisfying a pasta craving is to mix a large serving of vegetables with that small-to-moderate serving of pasta. That way, I get to satisfy my love for pasta, I get to feel full, and I also get a lot more fiber, vitamins and minerals than I would have had I just eaten the pasta by itself. Not to mention that it doesn’t break the calorie bank.
My favorite vegetables to mix with pasta are zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach and mushrooms. But you could use any vegetable that you like. Below is a meal idea for a protein-packed creamy, cheesy chicken pasta that you can make for around 400 calories, give or take. If you end up making this, I’d love to hear what you think!
Creamy Chicken Pasta
Number of servings varies
- Boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked (serving size up to you)
- Pasta of choice, cooked (serving size up to you)
- 1 to 3 large zucchini
- 1 large red bell pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil (serving size up to you)
- Laughing cow light cheese (1 wedge per serving)
- Non-fat, plain Greek yogurt (1 tablespoon per serving)
- Chicken broth (1 tablespoon per serving)
- Garlic powder, salt and pepper
OPTIONAL FOR GARNISH
- Parmesan cheese (serving size up to you)
- Fresh parsley, finely chopped
STEP 1: COOK THE CHICKEN
Cook the chicken any way you like. I like to cook it in a non-stick skillet. I heat the skillet on medium-high then, when it’s hot, I add the chicken breasts and cook until brown on one side.
After that, I flip them over, turn the heat down to medium-low and cover until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F. While it’s cooking, I like to add salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme and basil.
When the chicken has finished cooking, I remove it from the hot pan to cool enough to handle, then I cut it into small pieces.
STEP 2: COOK THE PASTA
While the chicken is cooking, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Cook as little or as much as you like, depending on how many servings you want to make.
STEP 3: COOK THE VEGETABLES
While all that’s going on, or even before if that works better for you, prep and cook the vegetables.
For the zucchini, I like to cut the ends off then slice them first lengthwise, then into half-moon shaped coins. For the red bell pepper, I like to cut it into strips, then cut the strips into small squares.
You can easily cook the veggies in a non-stick skillet, but since I already had two stove burners in use, I chose to put them on a baking sheet and bake them for about 15 minutes at 350 F. They come out great with nothing more added than some salt and pepper.
STEP 4: ASSEMBLE EACH SERVING
When the chicken, pasta and vegetables are done cooking, you’re ready to assemble each serving. I like to use the warm pot that I cooked the pasta in prepare each plate. I put the pot over low heat, then I fill it with one serving of chicken, one serving each of veggies and cooked pasta.
Next, I add a wedge of Laughing cow, about a tablespoon of plain yogurt, a splash of chicken broth, a sprinkling of garlic powder, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Then I stir the ingredients continuously until the cheese melts.
After the cheese has melted and combined with the yogurt and broth to create a sauce, I transfer that serving to a plate and garnish with parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Then I repeat the process for any remaining servings.