Dinner Tonight: Easy Spinach and Basil Pasta Salad

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This past weekend, we had an impromptu neighborhood potluck. I had been looking for an opportunity to use some of the basil I had (aside from using it for pesto). I combined folate-rich spinach, extra virgin olive oil and plenty of beta carotene-rich basil for a summer spinach and basil pasta salad that delighted the potluck crowd!

I used pasta, but after making it, I think substituting chick peas or another hearty bean for the pasta would make this dish higher in protein and equally as tasty.

Spinach and Basil Pasta Salad

– 1 box of whole grain pasta (I used bow tie, because I had it on hand)
– 1 package of fresh baby spinach (about a 6 oz bag)
– 2 cups of basil (I tore mine into small pieces)
– 1/2 cup extra virgin olive olive oil
– 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
– 4 ounces of prosciutto
– 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
– pine nuts to sprinkle on top
– salt and pepper

  1. Cook the pasta as indicated on the box. Drain, rinse and let cool. 
  2. In a big bowl, combine the spinach and the basil.
  3. In a frying pan, over heat olive oil over medium heat and add garlic. Do not let the garlic burn. After a minute or so, add the chopped prosciutto and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Take everything off the burner.
  4. Add the olive oil/garlic/prosciutto mixture to the basil and spinach, and toss all together. This wilts the spinach and basil slightly, so they still retain their high nutritional content.
  5. Add the cooked pasta (or beans), and toss. Sprinkle with parmesan and pine nuts.

I found that the pasta tasted better after it sat for a while. Although prosciutto may not be the healthiest of meats, it does add a nice texture and flavor. I also found that I did not have to add extra salt because of the saltiness of the parmesan and the prosciutto.

This pasta is full of nutritional value. Basil is high in vitamin K, essential for blood clotting, and just a couple of tablespoons provides 29% percent of the daily recommended value. Basil also provides vitamin A, which contains beta-carotenes, powerful antioxidants that protect the cells lining a number of body structures (including the blood vessels) from free radical damage. This helps prevent cholesterol in blood from oxidizing, helping to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke. Spinach is high in folate, which is needed for a healthy cardiovascular system. It is also a great source of magnesium, which helps support healthy blood pressure levels. Studies also have shown that spinach helps maintain your vigorous brain function, memory and mental clarity.

For your next potluck, try this easy spinach and basil pasta salad, which will promises to be a tasty and healthy crowd pleaser.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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July 2014
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