written, photographed, & created by Allison Rasche
contribution from Paula Sturm, RDN, FMN, CFSP
‘Taste the rainbow’ may be the slogan of Skittles, but apart from Skittles, it is actually pretty good nutritional advice. Packing in fruits and vegetables of many different and fun colors is a simple and easy way to make sure that your food is plentiful and various in its nutrition. So for the next five blog posts, I am going to be providing a recipe for each color of the food rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, and purple). There is no blue in the food rainbow because no naturally occurring food is actually blue (yes, even blueberries).
So, today we are starting with the first color, red, and I am going to share one of my favorite recipes for creamy tomato pasta. This is a recipe I have made for so many friends and family, and everyone who has tried it loves and enjoys it so much (especially my sister and one of my best friends). So let’s go!!
Before, diving fully into the recipe lets cover some nutritional ground about the benefits of this creamy delicious pasta dish!
Let’s start with our very important and red ingredient, tomatoes!! Tomatoes are packed with antioxidant and anti inflammatory phytonutrients that could help lessen the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. They are also loaded with vitamin C, biotin (helps with blood sugar balance and skin health), and molybdenum (helps with sulfur balance and serves as an antioxidant). They also provide vitamin E, vitamin A, manganese, zinc, and chromium, which all assist in the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect of tomatoes. In addition, consumption of tomatoes has also been correlated with a decreased risk for cancer, such as prostate, breast, and skin cancers due to their lycopene content. Cooked tomatoes vs. raw tomatoes actually have an increased bioavailability (easily absorbed by the body) of lycopene. Lycopene also happens to be an incredible anti-inflammatory agent. If you have any interest in keeping your body in tip-top shape…make sure you keep inflammation in check, all diseases have an inflammatory component linked to them! All fruits and veggies, like tomatoes, will give you anti-inflammatory protection.
Next, mushrooms are delicious and come in so many varieties that their potential, in terms of cooking, is near limitless. Mushrooms, nutritionally, are packed with copper, magnesium, selenium, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, vitamin B3, and phosphorous. Their many phytonutrients have been correlated with reduced risk of chronic disease and inflammation. Studies also correlate a high consumption of mushrooms with a decreased risk of developing breast cancer and dementia. Mushrooms also add the rich umami flavor to this dish which will help any meat eater find equal satisfaction with this dish.
The cashews that add the amazing creamy texture to this sauce are also packed with nutritional value. Cashews are packed with copper, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, and zinc, as well as monounsaturated fats that are protective against the development of cardiovascular disease. The copper found in cashews also plays a role in iron utilization, elimination of free radicals, healthy development of bone and connective tissues, and the production of the pigment melanin found in the hair and skin. The magnesium found in cashews also helps in regard to bone health, and may be protective against the development of osteoporosis. Given that magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in our body, it is a critical nutrient and most people are deficient in this amazing mineral.
Don’t discount the nutritional impact the herbs and spices used in this recipe have on your health as well. Spices and herbs don’t just provide flavor…they contain a power-house of nutrition in just a small quantity. I encourage all of my clients to incorporate herbs and spices in any way they can to their meals for the added punch of nutrition they provide.
Now that we know all that nutritional information, lets move on to the recipe!!
1 160z bag of brown rice pasta (I prefer the trader joe’s brand, but any will do)
8oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 cans of diced tomatoes
½ cup raw cashews
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
¾ cup unsweetened plant milk (or less depending on how much water is in the diced tomatoes of your choice)
First, place a large pot of water up to boil while preparing other ingredients.
Add your sliced baby bella mushrooms to a pan with a bit of water and allow to saute till soft and reduced in size
Combine canned tomatoes, raw cashews, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika into a high speed blender and blend till completely smooth.
Once water is boiling, cook pasta according to package instructions.
Once pasta is cooked and drained, add pasta, mushrooms, and sauce back into the large pot and stir to combine.
At this stage, you may need to add some plant milk to achieve your desired consistency, but this completely depends on how much tomato liquid is in your canned tomato brand of choice.
Serve and enjoy!