Apr 4, 2011

Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce



A light Spring pasta dish the whole family will enjoy; baby shells are tossed with chopped asparagus and a light marinara sauce. Quick and easy, perfect for vegetarians or meatless Fridays.

Asparagus is in season, and I'm probably the only one in my house who truly loves it, so to get everyone else on board requires some work (or sneaking into their food). Chopping it real small and combining it with cute little pasta shells which hug each bite of asparagus works perfect in my house!

Having a toddler and a teenager in the house, I try to come up with quick and healthy, well-balanced meals everyone will enjoy because making separate dishes is not an option in my house. I always have marinara sauce on hand to use throughout the week. I make large batches of it and freeze the rest in portions in zip-lock bags. You can make a double batch of this sauce to use for other recipes throughout the week or freeze it for a later time. This recipe requires having cooked marinara sauce on hand, so if you don't have any make the sauce as your first step.

I wish there was more variety in pasta shapes for high fiber and whole wheat pastas. If you prefer to use a high fiber pasta, low carb or gluten-free pasta you can use elbows instead.



Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce
Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 4 Serving Size: 1-1/4 cups • Old Points: 5 pts Points+: 7 pts
Calories: 282.5 • Fat: 3.6 g • Carbs: 52 g • Fiber: 4.2 • Protein: 11.2 g  

Ingredients: 
  • 8 oz baby pasta shells (gluten free use brown rice pasta)
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, tough ends removed
  • 1 1/2 cups homemade marinara sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
Directions:

Boil about 4 inches of water in a large pot, when boiling add asparagus and cook about 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender crisp. Drain and chop into small bite sized pieces.



Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (you can use the same pot from the asparagus not to dirty too many dishes). Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente.

While pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan heat 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce. Drain pasta and RESERVE a cup of the pasta water.

Return pasta back to the pot and toss with marinara, asparagus, grated cheese, salt and pepper and a 1/4 cup of the pasta water or as needed to loosen the sauce. Divide between four bowls and top with fresh pepper and more grated cheese if desired.



Quick Marinara Sauce
Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 6 Serving Size: 1/2 cup • Old Points: 1 pt Points+: 1 pt
Calories: 51.5 • Fat: 0.8 • Carbs: 9.0 g • Fiber: 1.1 • Protein: 0.1 g  

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic, smashed
  • 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes (I love Tuttorosso)
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste


In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden, careful not to burn. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, and bay leaf. Stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer about 15 - 20 minutes, add basil just before done.

66 comments :

  1. This looks delish, but I had to second your vote of confidence in Tuttorosso! It is THE BEST canned crushed tomato, sauce, puree, etc I've ever had. As close to homemade as you can get.

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  2. Hi Gina! Love your recipes, I will try some soon!

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  3. Alicia, yes!! You can't make a bad sauce with those tomatoes!!

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  4. Looks yummy! I LOVE asparagus, and am always looking for new ways to cook it. I echo your thoughts, though, regarding the lack of variety in high fiber/whole wheat pastas.

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  5. Looks yummy. I just love how healthy and delicious can come in one plate. Thanks for the share!

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  6. I can not say enough how much I love your recipes! I made 4 of them this weekend and all of them were loved by my husband and 15 month old son. If that's not impressive, I don't know what is! I am on WW but my husband is not. Finding recipes that are healthy for all of us but delicious enough not to taste like "diet" food is a challenge. I just finished eating carrots and your skinny ranch dip. You make me want to be in the kitchen again. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart (and tummy!). :)

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  7. how much does that recipe for marinara make? i am single and not sure how much it would make. i usually half your recipe. glad i can freeze some of this!

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  8. I agree about the whole wheat pasta. I'm in a rural area and long for the days I can take a road trip to a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods, to gawk at all the variety of foods we never have close to home.

    I have a teenager and two lil ones at home. And what I cook for dinner everyone eats; I'm not a short-order cook.

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  9. this sounds delicious and I would LOVE to make it tonight but I don't think my husband would eat it. I have a turkey breast that hasn't thawed and have no clue what to make tonight. This would be marvelous for me (but I would use spaghetti, I don't have shells in the house)....and I would have to use feta...it sounds really good!

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  10. mmm, looks good Gina, gonna try this one!!

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  11. Hi Gina,
    Love this! Question...what brand did you use for the brown rice baby shells?

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  12. klalaw - I hope they read this and start adding more variety to their pasta shapes! I love unusual shapes.

    symphony - aww, that means a lot to me, that of course is what I strive for!

    The marinara makes about 3 cups, just freeze what you don't use. This recipe is easy to make for one. Whatever asparagus you don't use, you can use in another recipe or throw in a salad.

    Christina - The pasta I used was not brown rice, but I love the Tinkaya brown rice elbows if gluten free. The pasta used in this recipe was imported from Italy, the brand was Anna.

    Julia, finally you'll make one of my dishes!

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  13. Now this is going to get made THIS week! I just wish I had looked before I went shopping. :) I'll just send hubby for the asparagus...

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  14. this sounds awesome! i'd ditch the cheese though, since i'm lactose intolerant :) if only i could cook..

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  15. Add baby peas and you have a traditional Italian dish.... and another point or two!

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  16. Dumb question: Isn't pasta 2 pts for 1/2 cup?

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  17. Hehe, I remember when I had to sneak food into my dishes so it got eaten. I love this recipe. That past looks just delicious!

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  18. This looks fabulous!! I was looking for another recipe or two to add to this week's menu and asparagus are on sale at Whole Foods... so guess we'll be having this!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

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  19. I made this tonight and it was totally GOOD! Thanks Gina!!!

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  20. Going to try this tonight. For the marinara - is it 1 can of crushed tomatoes? Thanks!

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  21. The recipe was awesome...although i used spaghetti because i didnt have any shells, next time i will use the shells! I love your homemade marinara also :) I added a touch of crushed red pepper for a little kick

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  22. Gina- me and my husband were wondering if you have dome any pasta dishes with a lower fat lemon-butter sauce?

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  23. This recipe looks delicious Gina. We had the chicken & mushrooms in the white wine garlic sauce. Everyone wanted seconds. It was terrific. Trying to lose weight is hard enough, but if it was boring it would be difficult. Thanks for letting us change it up quite a bit.

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  24. Hi Gina - Looks great, it is amazing that you can take simple ingredients and turn it into something wonderful and delicious!

    Quick question - looking at your marinara sauce, I can't understand why it wouldn't be zero pts? If you distribute the min oil used per serving, wouldn't it be zero pts?

    thanks :)

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  25. I LOVE asparagus! Is there any reason I couldn't just throw it in the pasta water for the last 3 minutes?

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  26. I love different pasta shapes! What a great idea to add asparagus. I love that stuff! Thanks for sharing!

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  27. I recently found a big variety of whole wheat pasta at Amazon. Amazing - I would have never thought about looking there!

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  28. I Just made this is and it's FAB! I used bow-ties because my husband has a thing about shells... (don't ask...:))). It tastes delicious, it's easy and spring-y -- even though it snowed here in upstate NY this morning.

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  29. Thanks for leaving your reviews! I'll have to shop on amazon for whole wheat pasta shapes, thanks for the tip!

    Sauce is not zero points, there's carbs and calories in tomatoes. Pasta is about 5 points plus per cup depending on the brand and shape.

    Sorry, no lemon butter recipes.

    Melissa, absolutely! That would be the smart thing to do!!

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  30. It may be true that all of us appreciate this kind of food preparation, but this is good for those who want to try out new things and explore what the food world has to offer.

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  31. Just had this for dinner tonight! Really easy to make and tasted great! We just subbed in some whole wheat noodles.

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  32. Very good! I had two pieces of peppered bacon in the fridge so I crumbled them right into the dish. A tasty surprise here and there.

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  33. Since gluten free pasta doesn't expand as much as regular pasta, would you suggest increasing the amount specified in this recipe?

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  34. You could but you would have to re-adjust the points. It may be fine as is, the gluten free pasta is pretty filling.

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  35. possibly a stupid question...but for your marinara sauce, do you remove the bay leaf and blend it all together?? or is it pretty much ok to use straight out of the pot??

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  36. I use it straight outof the pot, it's a matter of preference really.

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  37. I've made several dishes from Gina and all turn out great. This one was no exception; absolutely delicious! Very easy to make and comes together at the end nicely.

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  38. Hi Gina, Love your recipes! If I use high-fiber pasta, what would the points be?

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  39. The points remain the same I believe with high fiber pasta.

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  40. Why not cook pasta and 4 minutes before it's done throw in the asparagus?

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  41. I got this recipe in my inbox this morning. Had 2 grocery sacks full of asparagus in my frig from the past few days. I have homemade canned marinara sauce from last summer. I made this for lunch and it was loved by all! Such a good "light" lunch option! And takes no time at all! I think next time I might throw some baby portabello mushrooms in as well! Thanks so much!

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  42. my mother use to make this
    she called it Irish Spaghetti!
    yummy so good!

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  43. So good! I wilted some spinach into my marinara (jarred I'm ashamed to admit) and added even another veggie!!!

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  44. Can't wait to try!

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  45. Made this last night, the hub and the 8 yr old now-picky-eater loved it and opted that instead of fideo for lunch today!! YAY!! It is so light and filling. It reminds me of a lean cusine meal (thats a compliment, I can make my own!)

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  46. Just wanted to say that I am eating leftovers of this dish right now for lunch. I left it cold because its a hot day here and wow! It makes a great cold pasta salad type of lunch too!

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  47. I just made this for my family and we all loved it! Thanks so much.

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  48. I am featuring this on my blog (www.mimisfitfoods.com) tomorrow . . . with the addition of shrimp. Yum!

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  49. I found a brand of high fiber mini pasta and my fred meyers!! It is barilla. I loved this meal, btw, and my BF, who likes to joke that its not dinner without meat in it, liked it and said so! Yummmmmmmmmm.

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  50. For the marinara - is it ONE 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes? Or two? Thanks!

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  51. Just made this recipe tonight for dinner, It was delicious!

    I'm so happy to add this recipe to my collection. Even my 20 year old (picky as could be) sister ate her whole serving and raved about it. I was completley shocked and so happy to have pleased her! Believe me, its hard to!

    Thanks for the great recipes, keep up the awesome work :)

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  52. do you serve it hot or cold

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  53. Great idea! Very much enjoyed getting my serving of asparagus in. Thank you!

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  54. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  55. Hi Gina, I was just wondering where you can get the Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes. I didn't see them at Dierbergs today. I used Hunts and the sauce turned out very good. I would love to try the type you used though. So glad that I have found your website.. its nice to have Weight Watcher friendly meals that taste good :)
    Amy

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  56. This sounds awsome. I am going to try making it this weekend. Hope I can get my husband to try it as he does not like asparagus. I wonder what it would taste like to substitute broccoli for the asparagus.

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  57. next time try and roast the asparagus. sea salt, fresh ground pepper and a little olive oil and roast at 400 for about 15 min. then chop

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  58. Piccolini makes baby shells in a high fiber pasta. The calorie difference is minimal though right?

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  59. This is one of our favorite recipes..so simple yet super delicious..making this tomorrow night...but tonight is grilled chicken with some roasted cilantro corn

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  60. Love this recipe. So quick and easy. I just throw the asparagus in the last few minutes of the pasta cooking, and it's easy clean up. Thanks Gina!

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  61. This looks really good, though there isn't really any protein. Maybe I'll add some chicken. Oh, and I don't eat gluten and Tinkyada makes a DELICIOUS shell pasta. Doesn't taste any different from regular!

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  62. I was wondering if your marinara sauce is canning safe?

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