Recipes: Whole foods Italian, 3 ways

There’s something so comforting about Italian food — and I’m not even Italian. Must be the noodles. Or the warm, savory sauces. Or the fresh basil and parsley. Or the cheese — oh, the cheese! I’m just not ready to go vegan yet because I can’t say goodbye to the cheese.

But I digress. Whether you prefer your Italian food the traditional, full-fat way or you’re trying to go more whole-foods, plant-based, there’s bound to be a recipe you and your family will love. Here are three we just can’t get enough of. And as always, check the Healthy Little Changes Recipes page for more mealtime inspiration.

Tomato, mozzarella, and basil quinoa salad


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This light salad from Averie Cooks is great for a potluck, or keep it for yourself and make a lunch out of it. I like to make a batch of quinoa at the beginning of the week and mix it into meals, and this is one of my go-to’s. I usually go the cheap route and cut up string cheese instead of balled mozzarella, or you could try dairy-free Daiya cheese to make this vegan.


Skillet tomato casserole with white beans and croutons


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This skillet recipe from Well Plated also calls for cheese, but it could easily be omitted (as with the sugar, which I cut out). Despite being called a casserole, this is actually a sophisticated dish and would impress any vegetarian dinner guest. Admittedly my husband didn’t love it, but I take the blame on that one since I let my croutons get kind of soggy. When executed a bit better I’m sure this is a stunner.


Slow cooker marinara sauce


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If you’re new to whole foods cooking, it may seem nuts to make your own spaghetti sauce when it’s cheap and easily available in a jar. But did you know that pre-made spaghetti sauce is astoundingly full of sugar (not to mention all of the other not-so-good-for-you ingredients)? On average, one cup of sauce has about 12 grams of sugar. That’s 3 teaspoons, people, and it’s WAY too much — and entirely unnecessary. This recipe for slow cooker marinara sauce from Recipe Tin Eats has just 1 tablespoon of brown sugar per 6 cups of sauce, which can be substituted for honey or completely omitted. And this sauce is fabulous, and so easy to make. Just toss it in the slow cooker and boom, you’re done. (You can easily omit the olive oil, too, for a purely WFPB dish.) This marinara has such a range and depth of flavor that after making this once, I swore never to buy pre-made sauce again, no matter how pressed for time I was. One recipe makes a big batch, equivalent to about 3 jars of sauce. Have some now and freeze the rest for later.


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