real [FIT] life's Easy meals for busy people. Mighty meaty pasta.


 As our real [FIT] lifer’s wrapped up their first week of food logging, as well as calorie and macro nutrient tracking, a LOT of conversations centered around what to eat.


I LOVE these conversations as they offer me a welcome reminder of all the misunderstandings and hidden fears many of us have surrounding food.


There are many foods and ingredients that people have come to fear over the years and, as I’ve been writing in many of my recent segments, these fears are frequently unfounded. Food allergies and sensitivities aside (and that’s a WHOLE blog topic unto itself), there are no individual foods that trigger unpleasant side effects or weight gain. It’s the excessive quantities we eat that cause us to pack on the pounds.


I have thoroughly enjoyed watching our real [FIT] life’rs go through their light bulb moments as they track their food intake and come to realistic terms with the areas in their diet that are causing them to take in a lot more calories than they thought they were consuming. I always welcome these realizations as positive moments. Why? Because it’s something we can CHANGE. Results are just a few steps away. Those steps wont be easy, as changing habits never are. But once we can get a handle on our portions, we can see weight loss. It is possible and not nearly as elusive as people think it to be.


 Today I want to highlight a food that has gotten a REALLY bad rep over the years, yet it’s a food that was a staple in my diet growing up. I was raised by an Irish mother and Italian father so naturally, carbs were in every meal,and many nights of the week pasta was the center of those meals. 


As I’ve said before, carbs need not be vilified. They pair with protein for muscle building. They give us energy. They satiate our taste buds and can help make feeding a family affordable. And pasta, just like other carbs, does not make you fat when you stick to only eating the servings your body needs.


Today I’m sharing with you a favorite meal of mine that includes pasta but also some other filling ingredients, like beef and mushrooms. This meaty sauce is really substantial and when you pile it atop a serving of pasta it LOOKS like a lot of food. So, you can have your pasta, and get your protein, and feel satisfied after. The recipe I’m going to share is extremely basic and simple. Feel free to add your own ingredients that you think your taste buds would enjoy. But be sure to adjust the calories accordingly.


Mighty Meaty Pasta – Makes 6 servings so you can save some for future meals, or feed a whole crew.


Ingredients for the sauce topping

(Calories are for the whole batch. Calories per serving are featured down at the bottom)


1. 1 full jar Victoria Marinara Sauce plus another 1/3 of a jar

(560 calories, 5.33 grams fat, 2.67 grams protein, 8 grams carbs)


2. 1 1/4 pound 91% lean ground beef

(889.2 calories, 46.89 grams fat, 0 grams carbs, 107.6 grams protein)


3. 4 large Red Peppers

(120 calories, .3 grams fat, 7.3 grams carbs, 1.1 grams protein)


4. 24 ounces sliced Baby bella mushrooms

(240 calories, 0 grams fat, 6 grams carbs, 9 grams protein)


5. 4 TBSP Olive oil 

(480 calories, 56 grams fat, 0 grams carbs, 0 grams protein)


6. Olive oil cooking spray


7. Pasta


1 serving (2 oz) Barilla Protein Plus Spaghetti

(190 calories, 2 grams fat, 38 grams carbs, 10 grams protein)


Cooking directions for the sauce topping


 1. Cook your mushrooms and peppers first


In separate pans, saute the mushrooms with 2 TBSP olive oil as well as the peppers (clean and slice first) with 2 TBSP olive oil (make sure you measure the olive oil)


The mushrooms cook down significantly, so I start with a lot. Plus, mushrooms have a good amount of protein and they are pretty filling. 


 Peppers are really flavorful and very low in calories. They are pretty filling as well. 


2. When the mushrooms and peppers are done, set them aside and brown the beef. I use cooking spray for the beef. 


3. While the beef is cooking, pour the Victoria marinara sauce into a pot and dump the mushrooms and peppers in. Set it on a low heat so it starts to warm.




(If you prefer to make your own sauce from scratch, have at it! I use the jar sauce when I’m short on time but homemade is always freshest and has a lot less sodium. For the record, Victoria also sells a low sodium variety for their sauce.)


4. When the beef is done, add it to the sauce and stir it all together.


If you happen to have some leftover red wine sitting around, you can pour some of that in for added flavor as well. However, when I posted about this recipe and mentioned the use of leftover wine, many of you immediately claimed shock and confusion at the thought that anyone would ever have leftover wine at their disposal. If all your wine appears to have been consumed and the bottles are empty, don’t worry. This will still taste yummy. 

 The pasta


1 serving (2 oz) Barilla protein plus spaghetti 

(You know how to cook pasta, right?)


I use “Barilla Protein Plus” spaghetti for obvious reasons. It has more protein! If you can’t have gluten, there are some great gluten free varieties available that also have high protein. Read the labels to be sure. You want a lot of protein for a reasonable amount of calories. This pasta has 190 calories and 10 grams of protein per 2 oz. 


(The front of the box does say 17 grams of protein but that’s for 3.5 oz. and 350 calories. Just another example as to why it’s important to read your labels.)


How do I measure my pasta?


The Barilla pasta I bought has 7 servings per box. So, what you could do, just to get a sense of what a serving looks like when it’s dry, is divide the box into 7 separate bunches. Don’t get too obsessive about them being perfectly exact. Eyeball it. I laid the 7 piles out on my counter. Then I felt a serving in my hand. If you’re cooking for more than one person, count out how many servings you need and add them to the pot.



When the pasta is done, simply mix some of the Meaty sauce with the pasta so it doesn’t get sticky. Scoop a serving of pasta onto your dish then add 1/6th of the sauce on top of that.


You could add a side salad, and maybe a glass of wine, if your days worth of calories allow.


I made this for myself yesterday, and I have to tell you. I forgot how filling this dish is. It’s also quite yummy and my kitchen smelled wonderful.


Here’s the nutritional breakdown:

(1/6th of the Meat sauce plus 1 serving (2oz) of pasta


Total calories per serving: 571.5


Total protein: 32.27 grams


Carbs: 50.2 grams


Fat: 14.22 grams


We’re getting a really filling dish for a modest amount of calories. Especially if you consider that most pasta dishes in restaurants can total well over 1,000 calories and probably don’t have nearly as much protein as they could. Don’t let the carb total scare you. As long as you are staying within your daily calorie needs for the day, this dish is just as great as any other. 


(To learn more about staying within your calorie range and eating a healthy days worth of food and nutrients while maintaining, or even losing, weight, go here.)


If you have any questions or great ideas of your own, please share them here. If you’d like to get more healthy, easy food ideas, be sure to get signed up for our newsletter!


Stay sane and healthy!


Jeannine Trimboli

Founder, real [FIT] life


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