Menu planner: Mexican pasta so good you can’t believe it’s so easy to make

Thinking ahead to your next few meals? Here are some main dishes and sides to try.

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Easy-to-make Mexican pasta.

Easy-to-make Mexican pasta with black beans and corn.

Easy Mexican pasta

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes


8 ounces uncooked bowtie pasta

1 (16-ounce) jar mild salsa

3 cups water

1 cup reduced-sodium black beans

1 (8.5-ounce) can rinsed shoepeg corn kernels

4 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup shredded four-cheese Mexican blend cheese

1 thinly sliced green onion for garnish

In a pot with deep sides or a Dutch oven, preferably nonstick, combine pasta, salsa, water, beans, corn, butter, chili powder, cumin and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente and brothy sauce has formed, stirring occasionally. Top with cheese and green onion.

Per serving: 384 calories, 13 grams protein, 14 grams fat (33% calories from fat), 8.3 grams saturated fat, 51 grams carbohydrate, 37 milligrams cholesterol, 819 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber.

Carb Count: 3 1/2

King Ranch Chicken

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 4 hours on low


1 large chopped onion

1 large chopped green bell pepper

4 cups leftover chopped cooked chicken

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup (such as Healthy Request)

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup (such as Healthy Request)

1 (10-ounce) can original diced tomatoes and green chilies

1 clove minced garlic

1 teaspoon chili powder

12 6-inch corn tortillas

2 cups shredded 50% reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Microwave onion and green pepper 6 minutes on high; drain. In a large bowl, combine onion, green pepper, chicken, both soups, tomatoes, garlic and chili powder. Tear tortillas into 1-inch pieces; layer one third of tortilla pieces into a 4-quart or larger slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Top with one-third chicken mixture and 2/3 cup cheese. Repeat layers twice. Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 hours or until bubbly and edges are golden. Uncover; cook on low 30 more minutes.

Per serving: 398 calories, 44 grams protein, 13 grams fat (28% calories from fat), 5.7 grams saturated fat, 29 grams carbohydrate, 101 milligrams cholesterol, 890 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

Carb Count: 2

Farfalle with creamy wild mushroom sauce

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 12 minutes, plus pasta


1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta

1 tablespoon butter

12 ounces wild mushroom blend

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup dry white wine

2/3 cup half-and-half or whipping cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Cook pasta according to directions; drain. In a large, nonstick skillet, melt butter on medium high. Add mushrooms, onion, shallots, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper; cook 12 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add cooked pasta, wine, cream, cheese and 2 tablespoons parsley, tossing gently to coat. Stir in remaining salt. Garnish with extra parsley if desired. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 297 calories, 11 grams protein, 6 grams fat (18% calories from fat), 3.2 grams saturated fat, 48 grams carbohydrate, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 483 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb Count: 3

Beef barbecue

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, place a 3-pound trimmed boneless chuck roast (cut into several chunks). Sprinkle beef with 1 medium chopped onion. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, 1 teaspoon dry mustard and 1 (6-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato paste. Spoon over roast. Cover and cook on low 8 hours. Shred beef and serve on toasted whole-grain hamburger buns. Serve with pickled jalapeno slices, coleslaw and baked chips.

Spaghettini with goat cheese and fresh basil

Cook 12 ounces whole-grain or regular spaghettini according to directions; drain. Place in a large bowl and add 2 ounces herb-flavored goat cheese (cut into small pieces), 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; stir until well-blended. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add 2 teaspoons minced garlic; cook 30 seconds. Add 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 2/3 cup unsalted vegetable broth; cook 1 minute. Add tomato mixture to pasta mixture; toss gently to combine. Serve with mixed greens and garlic bread.

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