“What’s for dinner?”
If you find yourself drawing a blank at this question, you’re probably not alone. Finding healthy, balanced, and tasty options is sometimes a challenge for even the most creative home cook. During summer, grilling is one of my favourite cooking methods to add taste and variety to a meal. This grilled veggie pasta salad is perfect for a picnic, family get together, or a weekday supper. Consider serving it with grilled fish or tofu, hard cooked eggs, chickpeas, or kidney beans for a complete meal.
Looking for organic produce delivered to your door? Check out Krave Organic, who provided the fresh mixed greens and cherry tomatoes used here!
For this dish, I used cooked and chilled whole grain pasta. Cooking and chilling pasta converts some of its carbohydrates into a form that is not absorbed in the small intestine, known as resistant starch. What’s so special about resistant starch? Unlike most carbs, resistant starch is not converted into glucose (sugar) molecules by enzymes in our small intestines. Instead, it moves into the large intestine and is fermented by our gut bacteria, much like fibre (1).
Early research conducted with cell cultures, rodents, and humans indicates that resistant starch contributes to healthy colon cells, results in a smaller blood glucose increase compared with easily digested starch, and helps lowers blood cholesterol levels (1)(2).
This suggests that foods containing resistant starch may play a role in preventing colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol (1)(2). While the research results look promising so far, keep in mind that resistant starch is not a magic bullet. It’s still important to match your portion sizes with your energy needs, while getting a variety of nutrients from all food groups.
If you’re looking to reap the health benefits of resistant starch, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that they are found in many common foods, including cooked and cooled potatoes and rice, previously frozen and defrosted bread, parboiled rice, whole or partially milled grains and seeds, legumes, and canned beans (1) (2).
Although there are still many unknowns about the properties and benefits of resistant starch, one thing is certain: this grilled veggie pasta salad fits within the tried and true dietary pattern described by Michael Pollan “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants”.
So if following the latest dietary trends aren’t your thing, know that common sense nutrition endorses this dish too. Plus, it’s delicious! Personally, I love the tangy olive oil pesto, the chewiness of the whole grain pasta, and the smokiness of the grilled vegetables. Try it for lunch or dinner, and let me know what you think!
Eat this Mindfully
Prepare: Take a few deep breaths and assess your hunger and fullness levels before eating. Notice any thoughts, feelings, or emotions you have around eating this particular food.
Look: What shapes, colours, and textures do you see? How much food is on your plate?
Smell: Can you smell the oregano in the dressing? The grilled veggies?
Taste: What stands out to you? Did you notice the bitterness of the leafy greens? The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes? The tender texture of the grilled eggplant and peppers?
Check in: What changes do you notice in your hunger and fullness? How do you know when you’re ready to stop eating?
(1) Sajilata, M. G., Singhai, R. S., & Kulkarni, P. R. (2006). Resistant Starch- A Review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 5.
(2) Carbs and cooking. (n.d.). Retrieved July 07, 2016, from https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Enjoy-food/Carbohydrates-and-diabetes/carbs-and-cooking/
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes
- ½ small eggplant, 1 cm thick slices
- ½ red bell pepper
- ½ yellow bell pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- 1.5 cups whole grain pasta (penne, rotini, bow-tie, or similar shapes work well)
- Salted water for boiling pasta
- 2 cups green leafy vegetables
- 2 tbsp slivered almonds
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (1 lemon, juiced)
- 2 tsps fresh oregano, roughly chopped
- 2 -3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- In a large bowl, toss together cherry tomatoes, eggplant, and bell pepper with 1 tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp salt.
- On a griddle or grill, cook vegetables over medium-low heat. Remove and discard any charred bits of skin.
- Boil pasta in salted water for 10-13 minutes, until cooked but not mushy. Drain, toss with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking, then cool.
- In a food processor, combine almonds, lemon juice, and fresh oregano. Pulse to ground the almonds. Add in extra virgin olive oil until a salad dressing consistency is reached.
- Toss everything together with leafy green vegetables just before serving.
- Grilled vegetables, pasta, and pesto can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and kept chilled in the fridge until ready to use.
- Double the recipe to feed a family, or for leftovers as lunch or dinner the next day.