Pasta with veggies and no meat – it’s already healthy, right? Well, just cause it’s veggies doesn’t mean it’s healthy. That’s how a lot of people get in trouble. They get a salad but throw fried chicken, cheese and a creamy dressing on it and wonder why they’re still gaining weight. I thought this was a great recipe and wanted something for my vegetarian friends, but I didn’t want to pack on the pounds, so I came up with this healthier alternative.

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RIGATONI WITH VEGETABLE BOLOGNESEAnthony J. Caruso

INGREDIENTS

1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 1/2 cups hot water

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves

Olive oil cooking spray

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces assorted mushrooms (like shiitake, cremini, and brown), stemmed and chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup fat free cream cheese

1 pound 100% whole wheat rigatoni pasta

DIRECTIONS

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups very hot water. Set aside and let the mushrooms soften.

Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse the vegetables until finely chopped but still chunky. Coat a large, heavy skillet with spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the porcini mushroom liquid. Add the porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, and tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the porcini mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir just until the cheese is incorporated.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and add to the vegetable mixture. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid, if necessary, to moisten the sauce. Toss with Parmesan and serve.

Here’s the skinny:

First, I took out 1/4 cup of olive oil and replaced it with cooking spray, cutting out almost 60 grams of fat.

Next, I substituted fat free cream cheese instead of marscapone cheese, saving an additional 50 grams of fat.

Also, I used 100% whole wheat pasta to cut out the simple carbs and put in whole grains instead.