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Posted on May 19, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food, Recipes, Working Out | 32 comments

Baked Caprese Pasta

If any of you were following my tweets yesterday, or saw the end of last night’s Daily Eats post, you may already know that yesterday was not exactly the best of days. Someone managed to get ahold of my credit card info and charged over a thousand dollars at a Giant in Alexandria that I’ve never been to somehow (not quite sure how they managed that though, since I still have the card! Plus, who can spend that much money at the grocery store?!). In addition to that, I popped my knee out of its socket yesterday morning (and yes, subsequently back in, but it still hurts!), and on top of the regular drama that my life normally entails, lately work has been on the, er, not so great side of the spectrum, and it’s really starting to get to me.

So, what with the credit card fraud, extreme body pain, and all the rest of the hubbub going on in my life, things were a bit dim for me. So dim, in fact, that I found myself fighting tooth and nail not to fall right back into my old habits. After the last straw on this camel’s back, I was seriously contemplating hightailing it to the nearest drive-through and shoving the equivalent of, oh, I don’t know, 5 or 6 Baconators into my cakehole. I’ll be honest, today was the lowest point I’ve had in a long time.

But! Trying to draw upon the person that I’ve become, rather than who I used to be, I stuck it out. I persevered, and I resisted the urge to crawl back into (disgusting, nasty, bad for you on soooo many levels) food for comfort. I’m so proud of myself! And after all of that emotional turmoil and temptation-resisting, I still managed to make to the gym to try to bang out my last run before the Fitbloggin‘ 5K on Friday. Unfortunately… the whole aforementioned knee-popping ordeal? Yeah, it didn’t exactly make for an easy ride.

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At first I thought it felt okay, but after about the first .75 miles it started to really twinge and running on it just didn’t seem like an option anymore. However, you should all be very proud of me, because I stayed on that damn treadmill for the entire 30 minutes I had planned on, alternating between walking and some light jogging. I only ended up at just over 2 miles, which isn’t quite what I had been hoping for, but at least I did it with a smile on my face.

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We’ll just have to wait and see if my knee has healed up enough by Friday morning to actually run the 5K. I really hope it does! But I suppose that even if it doesn’t, you’ll see me out there walking up a storm. Perseverance is the lesson of the day, after all. And I think that deserves celebrating. Celebrating in the form of indulgent food that I can feel good about running back to:

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Caprese salad. In pasta form. Inspired by this recipe. This seriously may be the best pasta dish I’ve ever made. Or eaten. Or even tasted. And at less than 400 calories per serving (recipe makes 8 servings), this is the kind of comfort food that the new and improved Gretchen can fully, 100% support.

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There are really no words. So instead, here are lots of pictures of the food. Beautiful, beautiful food.

Italy.
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Baked Caprese Pasta
Print this recipe!

This hearty pasta dish combines the flavors we all know and love from the classic caprese salad: juicy tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and the punch of fresh basil. Bon Appetit!

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:
- 1 box whole wheat rigatoni (or pasta of your choice)
- 1 jar marinara sauce of choice
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella (1/2 the log pictured above)
- Small amount of almond milk (optional)
- Salt & pepper, red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. While it’s boiling, cube up your cheese, slice your tomatoes (I halved some and left some whole), and shred your basil.

2. Drain your pasta. Put it back into the pot with the whole jar of marinara. Then, you can “wash out” your jar with a little almond milk and add it into the pasta for volume and to enhance creaminess. Add the mozzarella, tomatoes, and most of the basil (leave a little for garnish.)

3. Mix well, and add any additional seasonings of your choice. I added a tiny bit of salt, some pepper, and some red pepper flakes (’cause you know I like a little spice in my life!)

4. Pour the entire mixture into a baking dish or casserole pan and top with the optional shredded mozzarella. If you wanted to be especially gourmet (or didn’t care about the higher amount of calories) you could put more fresh mozzarella, cut into slices, on top instead. Mmmm.

5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until cheese is melty and bubbly and delicious. Garnish with leftover basil.

WARNING: You will be tempted to stick your face directly into the dish when you remove it from the oven. Yes, that is how good it smells. Please refrain from doing so. I do not want to hear about any burnt faces, even if they are in the name of pure, unadulterated deliciousness.

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Scoop out your portion (this should be enough for 8 servings) and dig in! If you want to up your protein, I bet this would be great with some grilled chicken or maybe even shrimp! I made a totally rando omelette for protein in this particular instance, and it didn’t really go flavor-wise but I was trying to use up some of my huge stockpile of farm-fresh eggs.

Mmmm. So glad I didn’t waste my taste buds or stomach-space on crappy fast food, when this was just around the corner.

Any thoughts about my knee injury issue and running the 5K on Friday? Is there anything in particular I can do to ensure I’m able to run on Friday? Or is it pretty much a lost cause right now? I’ve never been injured before while actively trying to run or do any kind of exercise, hahaha. Either way, I’m just happy to say “sayonara!” to yesterday’s bad day, and to welcome today with open arms. Actually, to welcome tonight specifically, since tonight is the official kick-off of Fitbloggin‘! See you from the road!

32 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about your bad day! I hope everything is better today.

    The food looks delicious! Great job staying strong!

  2. Wow, your Wednesday was dramalicious! I’m so sorry to hear about the knee pain and credit card fraud but hopefully that will get cleared up easily? I am really curious to know what they spent all the money on?

    On a brighter note, your pasta looks bomb. I am always game for anything with basil and fresh mozzarella. Hope today is better for you!

    • Right?! Who can spend over a THOUSAND DOLLARS at the grocery store!? Yeesh. Anyway, yeah, it looks like they’re clearing it up (Discover is awesome!) but it was still a pain in the butt. And thanks! I cannot WAIT to dig into leftovers for lunch… hehe.

  3. Oh my gosh your dinner looks a-MAZING! You know how I love a good Caprese salad. And pasta. Mmmmm yum. I hope your blog conference weekend rocks! Sorry to hear about the knee, but I’m glad it’s better, or at least mostly better! Is it like a sharp pain when that happens? What does it feel like? My knee has definitely been weird lately. I’ve had a couple of days where it feels almost swollen and twisted and eventually it pops and feels better. Does that mean it’s popped out? Yikes!

    • In my experience, popping it out of its socket is a very sharp, very quick, very painful occurrence. It’s not a gradual swelling or anything, but literally you feel it come out of alignment (and it hurts!) and then hopefully when you extend your leg it will pop back in (also painfully!) It sounds like you may have done something to your knee for sure (maybe twisted it? If you can do that?), but thankfully I don’t think what happened to me is happening to you!

      • I think I probably twisted it somehow. The weird thing is that I usually wake up with that feeling and at some point during the day it sort of pops (it kind of feels like any other joint popping but more dramatic because well, knees are like that). So weird! I actually had physical therapy a few years back because I had/have a tilted kneecap (weird huh?!) and I can definitely show you some quick exercises to strengthen the muscles right around it and keep that sucker in place! I don’t know if they’d work for a popping knee, but I’m sure they couldn’t hurt!

        *Puppy break* (haha it’s like your posts!)

        I love that Daxy ran in my room this morning to say hi – he was like “Omg omg good morning I love you… okay, gotta eat!”

  4. i’m new here, and excited to have found your blog. i’m inspired by the progress you’ve made already, and by your persistence, even after the tough week you’ve had. i hope your knee holds up for the 5K!

    • Thanks so much, Julie! Hopefully I can keep it up and continue not to slide back into those old habits of mine… heh. :)

  5. So sorry to hear about the credit card stuff (ugh!!!) and your knee! I have no advice since that has never happened to me, but I would think icing it might relieve some pain. Also, just take it easy with the run and if you feel sharp pain, then don’t go any further. That is what I would do, but I have no idea if that is what you SHOULD do or not. :(

    • Yeah, I spoke to my soon-to-be-a-doctor brother-in-law (that’s a lot of hyphens, haha!) and he said I really need to take it easy, because if I push it too hard it’ll just pop right back out. And I tear up with painful tears just thinking about that! Bleh.

  6. I am so sorry to hear about your credit card! What a pain! BUT I am so proud of you for recognizing your old behaviors and tendencies and adapting appropriately. That is incredible and you are a huge inspiration! Can’t wait to see youuuuuu!

    • Thanks grrrrl. Be seeing you SOON! (Traffic allowing…)

  7. I agree that your pasta dish was very delicious. In fact, I am going to eat some for lunch! ;)

    • Glad to be of service, broda. Ahahaha.

  8. That sucks!I am sorry about you day. I have those days too (minus the credit card thing)but you stayed strong which is so great. It is hard to stay away from fast food when those crappy days just pop up out of no where. The pasta salad bake looks yummy, I might try that tonight. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • Definitely try it out! It is so much faster and easier than I thought, too! :)

  9. If it makes you feel any better, yesterday was a bad day for me also. Granted, I didn’t have crazy fraud going on but I found out my car needs $440 worth of repairs. I did not cope well with that and just like you, I wanted the comfort of food. I didn’t necessarily want to eat anything, I just wanted to go to the store and buy all sorts of food to make me feel better. Instead, with the encouragement of my bff, I went to candlelight yoga class and had greek yogurt with granola for dinner.

    • Good for you! Trying to replace mindless eating with exercise or just some other kind of activity is something I try really hard to do… and don’t always succeed at. What is candlelight yoga though?! That sounds amazing!

      • Candlelight yoga is just how it sounds. it’s yoga in a studio and they put the battery operated flameless candles around the edges of the classroom and turn the lights down low, so it feels very relaxing! It’s perfect to do after a long day.

  10. In the sharing of your bad day pain, I just walked out to discover that my bike is stollen. Fantastic! Now I don’t have a mode of transportation and I’m going to have to spend a tone of money for a new one. Excuse my language, but FUCK!
    All I want is to walk into a Chinese bakery and a buy a tone of spring rolls and various buns.

    • Oh no!! Ai Rei! I’m so sorry, that really SUCKS. :( Does Canada have Craigslist? Maybe you can get a used one for pretty cheap?

  11. What a crappy day! So sorry! I had a crappy Monday and I really wanted to call the Chinese place but didn’t. Good point about old coping methods versus new. Ever since I’ve started this journey, I’ve realized too that food isn’t the answer and it never makes me feel better about a problem. It’s a huge thing to realize so yay for you being there!

    About the knee, I’ve been diagnosed with patella femoral syndrome aka runner’s knee and it happened as I was dropping weight but increasing runs. I had to ease up a bit, ice regularly, take Aleve/Advil, and at times wear a brace but as I kept at it and kept losing weight and running more it eventually disappeared.

    Definitely ice and take Aleve if possible and if you do the 5K just listen to your body – don’t go out too fast and if it hurts, just stop.

    Have fun at Fitbloggin!

  12. I’m really proud of you for resisting the terrible but oh so tasty drive through nasty and going to the gym! I think that is an amazing example of how much you’ve been able to turn around your bad habits into new and improved ones. I really am proud of you :) Enjoy Fitbloggin’!

  13. be careful with your knee and treadmills. If it hurts again tomorrow you can try the elliptical or do some weights. Dont want to push it and hurt it worse. But just suggestions :-)
    and the pasta looks delicious!

  14. Be careful with that knee!! My knee pops out when I am upping my mileage. My IT band gets super tight and it pulls my patella out. Get yourself a foam roller and loosen up that IT band, and be very gentle to your knee. I strongly recommend you switch to biking or the elliptical until you’re feeling better. Hope you recover quickly!

  15. I’m sorry to hear you had a crap day, but I am SO proud of you for sticking to your guns and not eatin’ “comfort food”! Yayy :)

    And seriously, I’m drooling over your pasta dish. YUM.

    • It was seriously drool-worthy, I can’t lie. ;)

  16. This would be super tasty with some lemon zest (microplane + clean lemon) stirred in before baking. Just discovering the magical powers of adding lemon to EVERYTHING :D

  17. Oh my gosh!! That recipe looks fabulous — totally going to have to make that!!!

  18. Just tried your recipe tonight and it was SO delicious! I used Classico Spicy Tomato & Basil sauce, but other than that, pretty much followed your recipe to a tea. Thank you so much. Even my Italian honey loved it!

    • Yay, I’m so glad you liked it! I need to make this again soon myself!

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