As I have said before, pasta is one of my favourite meals and my go-to meal whenever I am unsure of what to make. Usually, I always have ingredients around if I haven’t had a chance to go to the shops. Pasta, of course can be an unhealthy option depending on the portion size you eat and what you pair it with. But it doesn’t have to be unhealthy. It could be a great option to have loaded with veg that needs using up. This red pepper pesto pasta is one of my favourites, and it’s great to use leftover peppers, tomatoes and spinach. I have even used an orange or yellow pepper add as well, and occasionally a carrot or stick of celery.
I always think it’s important to try to make whatever you can from scratch of course this is not always practical and I too, use a jar of sauce from time to time. But the benefit of making it yourself, if you can choose what goes into it. Making a sauce, such as this red pepper and tomato sauce is simple and easy, and you can choose what to add to it. Be aware of some tomato ready-made products that may contain lots of added sugar and salt such as baked beans, some tomato pasta sauces and ketchup.
I am a huge tomato fan. Whether it’s in a pasta sauce and blended up, roasted and added to a meal or even tomato juice, I often get a craving for it. Tomatoes are loaded with the antioxidant, lycopene, which helps protect your cells from damage such as cancer, as well as sun damage and heart disease. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C, K and B’s, potassium, folate and many other nutrients. They are also very low in calories, offering only 17-18 calories per 100 grams (depending on its type). So these make a great sauce addition to pasta dishes to help keep them on the lighter side.
As for red peppers, these too are low in calories and rich in vitamin A and C. Along with the sundried tomatoes, these give the pesto sauce a more interesting and less acidic taste than the standard jar of ready-made tomato pasta sauce. Adding spinach and/or basil into the sauce provide some extra veg; prawns for some protein, and avocado (optional) for some healthy fats. This dish is versatile, so you can interchange or leave out some ingredients if you dislike them or don’t have them to hand. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂
Recipe for Red Pepper Pesto Pasta with Prawn and Avocado
Serving size: Serves 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 1 red peppers, roughly chopped
- 1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes
- 6-8 sundried tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon olive oil (or oil from sundried tomatoes)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp light cream cheese
- 1 handful spinach or fresh basil (optional)
- Pasta water (100-200ml)
- Pepper to taste
- Pasta – approx. 1 cup dried pasta per person
- 1 pack of prawns
- 1 avocado, diced
- Rocket to serve
Step 1: Heat oven to 200° C (or use an air fryer if you have one to save you some time). Use this time to prep any veg that needs chopping up. Once the oven is at the right temperature, cook the roast peppers and tomatoes on a baking tray for approx. 10 minutes or until the look slightly roasted. This will take 5 minutes in an air fryer and you don’t need to preheat this.
Step 2: While the peppers and tomatoes are roasting, start to cook your pasta until al dente. Using fresh pasta can also save you time.
Step 3: While the pasta is cooking, you can cook your pranws in a small pot or pan. I usually cook these in a small amount of boiling water until they turn orange. This should only take about a minute or two. Alternatively, you can dry fry these with some dried chilli pepper and garlic.
Step 4: Once the red peppers and tomatoes are done, throw these into your blender along with sundried tomatoes, garlic, cream cheese, olive oil, spinach and basil, as well as some pasta water from the pot. Blend up. Add more water if needed to make this the consistency you want.
Step 5: Strain your pasta once cooked and place this back into the pot. Add your sauce and stir on a low heat to warm it up (as the sauce may have cooled after blending) for just a couple of minutes until hot. You don’t want to overcook your pasta.
Step 6: Remove fro the heat and add the prawns and diced avocado. Stir and serve up, topping with rocket if you want some extra leafy greens.
Tip 1: The pesto can be used for other dishes too. It goes well topped on baked salmon.
Tip 2: You can also add nuts to your pesto mix to add in some healthy fats and extra protein – (walnuts, pinenuts or cashews work well), but remember to use only a small portion as nuts are high in fat.
Tip 3: Portion size of your meal, in this case, carbs is key if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. 1 cup dried pasta (or when cooked, two cupped hands together) is a good guide to use to help you control your portion size. Using a small bowl too can help with portion control if you are unsure, and filling up on extra veg if you are hungry is a better option to loading up on extra carbs, protein or fat.