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Healthy Cooking: Chicken Eggplant Marinara with Whole Wheat Rotini

November 3, 2012

Chicken Eggplant Marinara with Whole Wheat Rotini

This week I thought I’d share with you a staple recipe in my kitchen.  Cooking something healthy and delicious at home can be easy and rewarding, and this recipe for Chicken Eggplant Marinara incorporates protein, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains in a quick and satisfying way that has become a weekly part of my nutrition routine.  It makes four servings, so for a single guy like me, I cook once, and have four lunches and dinners!  But first, let me give you an update on the last week.  I weighed in yesterday at 232.1 pounds.  This was a gain of 1.3 pounds from the week before.  I was disappointed, but I also know why it happened.  I was sick with a cold/allergies for the first part of the week, and I also had plans after work almost every night between my birthday and Halloween this week.  This led to zero exercise this week, a homemade apple cake my mom made me for my birthday, and a couple of high calorie meals that may have included onion rings.  Oh well.  It was one week.

By the way, my 33rd birthday on Tuesday marked 3 years of being on this health and fitness journey!  It was on that day that I stepped into the office of a nutritionist, and began to take the reigns of my life.  What a three years it’s been!  Not only have I lost about 85 pounds, I’ve gained the confidence to change careers, to come out of the closet and begin living authentically, and to live my life with greater purpose and vision.  Reconstructing my life at 30 really took off and became a lasting theme for me!

Del Grosso’s Sunday Marinara

So below is my recipe for Chicken Eggplant Marinara with Whole Wheat Rotini (pictured above).  This recipe uses clean ingredients and whole grains, but also takes advantage of a healthy store-bought jarred marinara.  When choosing a marinara, I like to look for something with no added sugar.  This can be difficult as most mass-marketed brands do add sugar as a way to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.  For me, I don’t like the flavor, and I don’t want the extra calories and carbs. My absolute  favorite brand and flavor of jarred marinara is La Famiglia Del Grosso’s Aunt Mary Ann’s Sunday Marinara (pictured at right).  It is SOOOOO good!!!  The ingredients list is all natural with no sugar, everything can be pronounced by a five year old, and it tastes like it’s been simmering on an Italian grandmother’s stove all day.  It’s a little pricey at $6-7 a jar, but I promise you it’s worth every penny, and for Atlanta locals, I actually found it on sale at Publix this week as a Buy-One-Get-One-Free deal – It made my day, and I stocked up!  So here’s the recipe; I hope you enjoy!

Chicken Eggplant Marinara with Whole Wheat Rotini

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium to large eggplant

2 medium onions

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove fresh garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1 jar marinara with no added sugar (typical size, 24-30oz, I use Del Grosso Sunday Marinara)

8 ounces whole wheat rotini (measured dry, approximately 3 cups)

Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano as a topping, optional

Begin by peeling your onions and then cutting them in half lengthwise.  Lay the flat sides down, and slice each onion half into thin (1/4 inch) half moon slices (This gives your sauce a more interesting texture than diced onions).  Take the ends off the eggplant, and then slice into three planks lengthwise.  Cut each plank into three or four strips, and then chop into approximately 1 inch pieces, leaving the skin on.  Also chop your chicken breast into bite size pieces (3/4 to 1 inch), and toss the chopped chicken in 1 teaspoon of reduced sodium soy sauce.  This small amount of soy sauce will not add an Asian or soy flavor to the dish, it will simply give the bland chicken a richness as it cooks that will add to the depth of flavor of the entire dish – almost like a quick and easy brine.  Don’t worry – the flavors are Italian, through and through!

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, and when it is hot, add the olive oil.  Begin boiling your pasta water/preparing your pasta during this time, as well, according to package directions.  (As a side note, I use a microwave pasta cooker called the Fasta Pasta.  If you follow their cooking chart it really does come out al dente every time, and there’s no waiting for water to boil, or cleanup of a separate pot and colander, etc.)

To the olive oil add the sliced onions and chopped eggplant, seasoning with the salt pepper and dried herbs.  The eggplant will absorb the olive oil at this point, which is why it is important to use a non-stick pan.  As the eggplant cooks down, it will release the oil into the sauce once again.  Sautee, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is cooked through and tender and has a little color.  At this point, add the chopped chicken breasts that have been tossed in the soy sauce, as well as the garlic powder or chopped fresh garlic, and sautee until the chicken is white with a little color on the outside and just cooked through.

When the chicken is cooked through, add the jarred marinara, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Just before serving, add the cooked whole wheat rotini and toss gently until well combined.  This makes four approximately 2 cup servings.  Top with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, if desired.

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  1. Rachel Brandeis
    November 3, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    LOVE this post (I read them every week!). I am trying this recipe:) Happy Birthday — keep focused on what you have accomplished so far and think about where you want to be by this time next year. Well done Chad!

    Rachel Brandeis, MS, RD http://www.rachelrd.com 770.752.4984

    • November 3, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      Thanks, Rachel! I honestly don’t know where I’d be without you. For anyone local to Atlanta who wants to get started eating healthier, do yourself a favor and call Rachel for an appointment. You’ll find no better nutritionist and coach!

  2. Ellen
    November 5, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    This sounds delicious! I am proud of you for your amazing journey! Any journey of self discovery and authenticity takes fortitude. Thanks for your help on Halloween and Happy belated birthday!

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