Saturday night was poker night. With 4 guys and 2 girls, the natural solution for dinner was a pizza delivery. Although that wasn't without its appeal, our upcoming wedding in France means E and I are trying to eat healthily (I especially did not choose a very forgiving dress to wear...). This was good news to the other girl in attendance, as she is one of my bridesmaids, so it was a good enough reason for me to whip something up that would still be delicious, but not too naughty.
The base of this recipe was one that my mum was given from an Italian cookery teacher. It's easy, adaptable, and a very portable addition to barbecues in the sunshine. What's not to love?
I would usually make this as a vegetarian dish, but when boys are involved, you get nagged for meat. So I added chicken, but you can add or not add anything you want. I also made a very big batch, about 7 servings worth, so you can change it up however it suits you.
First, I sliced up a red onion. Since the onion is raw in this pasta, I let the slices rest in some water to take the edge off and make them less bitter.
Next up, I took 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped, seasoned, and cooked them until slightly browned with a little olive oil. I left them on a couple of paper towels to get rid of any excess oil.
Meanwhile, I put a big pot of water on the boil. While that was starting to heat up, I chopped up a head of broccoli into bite size pieces, halved a large handful of black olives, finely chopped some chives (you can use whatever herb(s) you like), and halved 2-3 handfuls of baby plum tomatoes.
I salted the boiling water, added a little olive oil, and dumped the entire bag (500g) of whole wheat pasta in the pot.
2 minutes before the suggested cooking time was up, I threw in the broccoli so that they could be nice and al dente after a couple of minutes in the boiling water.
Ricotta cheese is underrated, in my opinion. It's one of the healthiest, lightest cheeses, very versatile, and has a very fresh taste. I put in the entire pot (about a cup), and everything else apart from the tomatoes into the drained pasta pot. Mix mix mixed and seasoned to taste.
Added the tomatoes at the end, and that was it!
Pasta is one of my all time favourite foods, and I'm not going to lie - a healthified version is not quite the same as a big bowl of fresh, sauce covered, white flour pasta. But I promise you that this healthy dish will fill you up and not taste at all diet-y. It also looks colourful and keeps in the fridge for a a good couple of days, depending on your ingredients.
And as a bonus, I won at poker that night. I'm just saying! Being the chef of this pasta salad brought me luck, so why not give it a go?