italian cooking
Tasty Tuscan cuisine

There’s nothing that hits the spot like good ol’ Italian cuisine, but restaurant meals can set you back thousands of calories and a whole lotta saturated fat, too. By making your meal at home you can enjoy your favorite fare without stressing about the damage they can have on your diet. For a little healthy inspiration, check out a few of the Girls Gone Sporty Ambassadors’ favorite healthy Italian dishes.

Stuffed Eggplant

For a hearty meal filled with veggies and flavorful seasonings, you can’t go wrong with this stuffed eggplant recipe provided by Sam Bangs of Life is Bangin’.

Ingredients:

  • 1pound chicken sausage, uncooked
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup diced zucchini
  • 3 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut in half with the center flesh scooped out (reserve flesh)
  • Handful fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 2-3 tablespoons almond meal flour
  • Fennel seed, salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Remove casing from sausage and combine in a bowl with your egg and diced veggies.
  2. Roughly chop the eggplant innards and add about half to your meat/veggie mixture.
  3. Add in your basil, flour and spices. Use your hands to really incorporate everything.
  4. Generously grease a baking sheet with olive oil. You probably want to use some foil; there is a lot of liquid that runs out of these babies.
  5. Arrange your two halves of eggplant on the sheet. Salt and pepper everything. Make sure to use a good quality sea salt.
  6. Fill each eggplant half with equal parts of your stuffing.
  7. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes, then finish it at 425 F for 20 more minutes, or until sausage appears to be cooked through.

Spinach, Goat Cheese and Tomato Ravioli

Nicole from Foodie Loves Fitness shared this ravioli recipe that was inspired by one of her favorite Italian restaurants in the San Diego area.

Serves 5

Ingredients:

  • 35 won ton wraps
  • 6 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 3 vine ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 ounces creamy goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white cooking wine
  • 3 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Grated lemon peel from 1/2 lemon
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, warm the cooking wine over medium heat. Add garlic cloves and shallots, and cook for about three minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and basil, and cook for a few minutes until softened. Mix spinach in, and heat just until wilted.
  3. Transfer tomato/spinach mix to a large mixing bowl. Add goat cheese in small chunks, as well as the lemon juice and lemon peel.
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, and mix to combine well.
  5. Place a spoonful of mixture onto the middle of each won ton wrap. Fold one half of each wrap over, and seal with moistened fingers. Note: I placed a bowl of water next to me and kept wetting my hands with it. Sealing the wraps is a little tricky, but it’s important to keep squeezing the sides together in order to prevent the tomato/spinach mixture from later spilling out when they’re cooking.
  6. Next, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place 11-12 of the ravioli in the pan, and cook until lightly browned on each side, about 2 minutes each. Pour 2 tablespoons of water into the pan, then cover with a lid and let the ravioli simmer for 2-4 minutes, or until the water is soaked up.
  7. Remove the ravioli from heat and place onto a serving dish. Repeat this process two more times until all ravioli are cooked.

Per serving (7 ravioli): 300 calories, 14 g fat, 10 g protein, 32 g carbs

Spaghetti Squash “Pasta”

Who says you have to stick with traditional Italian pasta when making spaghetti? Switch out your noodles for spaghetti squash like Lisa Luth from Run Fast Mama in order to maximize your veggie intake for the day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 5-6 mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef (Lisa used organic, grass-fed beef)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cut your spaghetti squash in half and microwave on high for six to eight minutes, then let it sit for several minutes to finish cooking through. (There are other methods for cooking spaghetti squash, but this one is the fastest.)
  2. While the spaghetti squash is cooking, sautee the onion and garlic in a large pan with olive oil until onion is soft. Add beef and mushroom, continuing to sautee until beef is cooked through.
  3. Lower heat and add pasta sauce to pan, heating mixture through.
  4. Remove strands of spaghetti squash from the rind by running a fork through it from end to end.
  5. Distribute spaghetti squash between plates and top with the tomato sauce and meat mixture.
  6. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Grandma Colavecchio’s Eggplant Casserole

Shannon Colavecchio from Badass Fitness gave her grandmother’s eggplant casserole a healthy makeover for this recipe. It’s more than just an entree – as Shannon says, “It’s just as good cold on whole grain bread for an amazing sandwich as it is hot and eaten on its own or over pasta or spaghetti squash.” So, enjoy it how you please as a side or entree.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 small eggplants, diced
  • 2 or 3 medium peppers (green, red or yellow)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Romano or parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups diced chicken or ground cooked turkey (optional, to make it an entree)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a large skillet and heat to medium-high. Put all the vegetables into the skillet and sautee, turning often, until it is tender.
  3. Season with salt and pepper as it cooks. It will cook down, and the natural moisture of the vegetables will mix in with the olive oil to keep it plenty moist. Drain the juices from the skillet when vegetables are done.
  4. In a 9-inch casserole dish or square baking pan, sprinkle some of the breadcrumbs along the bottom.
  5. Next put in a layer of the cooked vegetables (and protein if you’re using it), topped with some breadcrumbs, then some of the grated cheese. Repeat the layers, ending with the last of the grated cheese on top. This ends up being three to four layers.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees, covered for about 20 minutes, and then uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes.

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