Ah, Italian food. It may have its roots in Italy, but it’s now an American staple, offered at favorite local restaurants and popular chains like Olive Garden, Buca di Beppo, and Maggiano’s Little Italy.
It’s easy to turn to Italian take-out for dinner, but why not try making them yourself? At home, you control the ingredients. You can substitute the healthier choices with the heavy sauces, meats, and cheeses that you typically find in Italian take-out foods.
You will also get away with it financially. “All food prepared by someone else is significantly marked,” says chef Andrew Zimmern. “Cooking at home is always the cheapest option.”
Once you see how easy and tasty these options are, you can turn your back on takeout for good.
TURKEY AND SPINACH VEGETABLE LASAGNA
By replacing sausage or ground beef with ground turkey, choosing low-fat cheeses and stocking up on vegetables, this vegetarian turkey and spinach lasagna by Chungah Rhee, the blogger behind Damn Delicious: Quick and Easy Meals for the Home Cook, is loaded with flavor, not calories.
“I really like this recipe because you can lighten it up without compromising the taste,” says Rhee. “By using whole wheat lasagna noodles and incorporating so many different veggies, you can still have your favorite type of comfort food without any guilt!” “
You can assemble your lasagna ahead of time and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours, or freeze them for up to three months.
Stock up on eggplants at your farmer’s market and use them to create lighter, healthier Kevin Curry foods eggplant parmesan. Curry, creator of Fit Men Cook, says: “Many people prefer eggplant parmesan to pasta because it’s a vegetable, so it needs to be higher in calories. But when fried in a hot, oily pan at your favorite Italian restaurant, the spongy texture of the eggplant soaks up all the oil in the pan, making it a decadent, heavy dish. We cut the calories in half by spraying the eggplant with oil instead of basting it, and cooking it instead of frying it.
The dish takes about 30 minutes to prepare. “You have dinner for the whole family, or a week’s worth of single-serve meals,” says Curry.
And the savings over taking out can be substantial. “A dish of eggplant parmesan at an Italian restaurant can set you back at least $ 15,” says Curry.
ITALIAN SAUSAGE, PEPPERS AND ONION SANDWICH
“My version uses Italian turkey sausage on pork to make it lighter, but there’s no sacrificing flavor. Tons of fresh herbs, garlic, and Marsala wine give onions and peppers a huge Italian flavor without packing a bunch of extra calories.
Want to lighten it even more? Skip the bread. “Sometimes I just eat the sausages and peppers straight from a bowl,” says De Laurentiis.
LINGUINE WITH CLAM SAUCE
Zimmern, chef and executive producer and host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, attributes his passion for clams to his childhood on the east coast waterfront. “My family dug clams every week in Long Island Bays, and I’ve been eating clams every week since. We grew up with clam pizza, clam casino, clam oreganata, and of course lots of clam linguine – I’m a New Yorker after all.
Zimmern calls his Linguine with clam sauce “The most sophisticated one-course pasta meal I can think of. It’s quick and easy, ”he says.