Monday, February 21, 2011

Spinach-Pasta Salad with Cannellini Beans

"I like to cook but just don't have the time" [sigh]. "I don't know enough about cooking to do this without totally stressing out" [groan].  "I always end up with too many leftover ingredients since I'm only cooking for myself" [grumble] . If you fall into any of these categories, I have the PERFECT recipe for you: Spinach-Pasta Salad with Cannellini Beans.  In the time it will take you to boil pasta (please tell me you can boil pasta!), you can complete all  prep work for this dish.  No baking, searing, or sauteing action here: a chopping board, knife, and mixing bowl is all you'll need.  The result: a healthy, delicious light pasta salad packed with nutrients that took exactly the same time as the delivery guy. 

One of my favorite things about this dish is the ratio of healthful ingredients to pasta.  Often, a main course of pasta is about 3-4 servings of grains, and not enough veggies and protein.  Did you know that 1 serving of pasta is only 1/2 cup dried? This dish invites you to step away from your traditional pasta & tomato sauce and gain the health benefits of leafy greens, veggies and beans.

Spinach-Pasta Salad with Cannellini Beans (adopted from  Better Homes and Gardens February 2011 Magazine)
I skewed the original recipe's proportions to make 2 servings, but kept the original amount of veggies. I also added roasted red peppers and hot red pepper flakes for an extra burst of flavor.  Only cooking for one? No worries, you'll make two meals out of it!

 1 5- to 6-oz. pckg. fresh baby spinach (look for triple washed organic)
1 10.5 oz. can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup cumbled reduced-fat or fat-free feta cheese
1/4 cup dried tomatoes (not oil packed), snipped
1 7 oz. canned roasted red peppers
2 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, or 1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. whole wheat pasta
shaved Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

But I don't like...
Spinach: use arugula or broccoli florets
Feta Cheese: asiago and extra shaved Parmesan
Beans: vegetarian sausage (you can always use turkey sausage, chicken or shrimp, but this adds time to cook! If you go for pre-cooked chicken or turkey sausage, check the sodium content first.)

1. Cook pasta according to packaged directions.
2. While water is boiling, combine spinach, beans, cheese, dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, onions, garlic, lemon peel and juice, oil, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. (Add a few flakes of hot red pepper if you like spice.) Mix thoroughly.
3. Drain pasta, and add it into the large mixing bowl. Toss well with other ingredients. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Avoid the "Dirty Dozen"
Certain foods are conventionally produced with harmful pesticides that leave residue, hence the top 12 being dubbed the "dirty dozen". Spinach is one of them!  Click here for a full breakdown of its suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, and developmental or reproductive toxicants (yuck!). Buying organic is a must for this leafy green. Other vegetables in the dirty dozen include peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, lettuce, and potatoes. OK to buy conventional: onions, avocado, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mango, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya. Pesticide Action Network's "What's in my Food?" website not only allows you to search by product for a complete breakdown of  its pesticide residue, but even has an iphone app to check on-the-go!


"The Dirty Dozen." Web. 18 Feb. 2011. <>.
"Spinach." What's on My Food? Pestiside Action Network. Web. 18 Feb. 2011. <>.


  1. What a lovely recipe. Easy and healthy! Thanks for sharing.

  2. such a simple and great salad ..


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