I’m at the stage in my life where I just want to enjoy classic foods like pasta without feeling guilty afterwards for having indulged. There’s a solution — check out this pasta salad recipe from Food Network star Rachael Ray. It’s loaded with thinly sliced spinach and juicy grape tomatoes. Lemon zest and feta cheese make it sing. Pasta, virtuous veggies and cheese. I’m on board, 100%.
Rachael, self-proclaimed specialist of 30-minute meals, has never been the go-to gal for healthy fare. However, even she has to watch what she eats; this salad was featured in a show called “Clock and Waistband Friendly.” Catchy title. (Not.)
I made the salad as written, took one bite and thought to myself — Rachael must have really packed on the pounds when she devised this recipe because it tasted like something you’d get at a fat farm. Virtuous but as bland as milk toast. Her basic idea had definite possibilities. I added 1/2 cup of low-fat feta cheese (not in Rachael’s recipe) and sprinkled on fresh lemon juice (ditto), and POW. I hit pay-dirt. Refreshing, delicious and brimming with powerhouse veggies.
1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
1 (5-oz.) package of fresh baby spinach
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 lemons, zested
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes
Salt and pepper
Cook orzo in a large pan of boiling salted water just until al dente. Don’t overcook. While orzo is cooking, stack spinach leaves on top of each other and thinly slice to make julienne strips. Pile shredded spinach into a large serving bowl.
Halve grape or cherry tomatoes — I used both yellow and red — and add to bowl with spinach. Add lemon zest.
When orzo is cooked, drain and add to bowl. Allow everything to sit for a minute or two — the heat of the pasta will wilt the spinach, warm the tomatoes and release the flavor of the lemon zest.
Drizzle 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over the pasta and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Sprinkle with the fresh basil and feta cheese and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serves 4 to 6
WW SmartPoints per 6 servings: 6