Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Zucchini & Basil

Pasta dishes are an all-time favorite in my family. I created this recipe in the summer when tomatoes and zucchini are in season. I often prepare marinara sauces at home, but in the summertime we tend to opt for pasta with a fresh tomato salad. I added in the roasted zucchini as well for additional flavor and texture. The combination works well together.

Ingredients

1 (16 oz.) package pasta (rotini, fusili,  or any shape you prefer)
You can use regular or gluten free pasta. I have found Tinkyada brand to be one of the best that I have tried.
4 cups zucchini/summer squash—cubed and roasted*
Basil oil**
Tomato salad***

In this recipe, we flavor each layer: the pasta, the zucchini and the tomatoes. This adds extra flavor to the dish.

*To roast the zucchini: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place cubed zucchini on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with 2 Tbs. olive oil, salt & pepper (to taste). Toss, coat and spread evenly onto cookie sheet—single layer. Cook in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

**For Basil Oil:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup fresh chopped basil
½ cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp. fresh chopped garlic
¼ tsp. salt (or to taste)
Black Pepper—to taste
Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside

***In a separate bowl add:
4 cups fresh tomatoes—diced
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red or white onions—chopped
¼ tsp. salt
Stir all ingredients together. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Do not overcook. Drain, cool and set aside. Drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent sticking, if desired. When pasta is cooled or slightly warm, stir in the basil oil. Add tomato salad and stir together. Add roasted zucchini. Toss to combine and serve warm or at room temperature. 

Health Benefits of Zucchini

Zucchini and yellow squash have similar nutritional profiles, with most of the nutrients found in or just below the peel. One medium zucchini contains 25 calories, 2g of fiber and 2g of protein. It also contains 60 percent of the daily value for vitamin D, 30 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, 15 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, 10 percent of the daily value for folate, thiamine, magnesium and vitamin B-6, 6 percent of the daily value for phosphorus and iron and 4 percent of the daily value for calcium, zinc, niacin and riboflavin. Summer squash, such as zucchini and yellow squash, is also a good source of manganese, copper and vitamin K.

Summer squashes contain beta carotene, fiber, folate and vitamin C, which may help to prevent heart disease, cancer, arthritis and asthma, according to the Today’s Women and Health website. They also contain lutein, which may help to prevent eye strain, and vitamin A, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids which may help to promote memory.

Summer squash (like zucchini) can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. They can be grated and added to breads or muffins, or sliced and sautéed with other vegetables. They can be eaten raw in sandwiches or with dip. Even the blossoms can be eaten raw or cooked. Spices such as cumin, dill, marjoram, parsley, rosemary and savory go particularly well with zucchini and yellow squash when used in moderation, according to the University of Illinois. Extra squash can be grated or sliced and frozen for future use.

Zucchini Is Awesome For The Heart: Zucchini contains good amounts of potassium that helps reduce blood pressure. It also contains moderate levels of folate that breaks down amino acids like homocysteine that cause heart attacks and strokes. The considerable amount of magnesium helps in keeping blood pressure at a normal rate and the heart beat at a steady rhythm.

Zucchini Helps In Weight Loss: Zucchini has incredibly low calories that make it a much-preferred part of any weight loss diet. Substituting calorie rich foods with a sizable portion of zucchini helps you in reducing the number of calories that are taken in. This makes it easier to burn off calories, thereby helping you lose weight. The fibre content helps in burning the fat in the body. Zucchini also keeps the body hydrated with its 95 percent water content. This gives you more energy and fewer headaches.

Zucchini Improves Eye Health: The cousin vegetable, cucumber is beneficial for reducing the puffiness in the eyes. Similarly, zucchini when used externally helps to remove the puffy bags that develop around the eyes due to excessive water retention. The swelling around the eyes lessens due to the water-rich content. The carotenoid Beta-carotene can be converted into vitamin A in the body. The presence of Vitamin A in the squash helps in active cell development in the eyes, which enhances vision and helps in preventing age-related medical conditions affecting the eyes such as macular degeneration.

Zucchini Guards Against Asthma and Strengthens Teeth And Bones: Due to Zucchini being a good source of vitamin C, it is considered a good food for fighting asthma. Vitamin C, a powerful anti-oxidant, plays a huge role in keeping the immune systems healthy and fighting respiratory problems. The anti-inflammatory properties help keep the lungs open and clear. Zucchini also contains calcium that helps the nervous system to function properly and gives strength to the bones and teeth.

Zucchini Helps Lower Cholesterol: The high-fiber content in zucchini helps in lowering cholesterol. The high levels of vitamin A and Vitamin C delays the beginning of atherosclerosis by keeping the cholesterol from oxidizing the body’s blood vessels. Zucchini rids the body of excess toxins.

This versatile summer squash is also healthy for the skin giving it a glow and restoring its moisture. The anti-inflammatory properties can play a significant role in the protection against diabetes.

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