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Recipe corner: tri-pepper pasta salad and zucchini noodles with tomato sauce

Jul 31, 2017


Pasta recipes can provide quick and easy meals when you’re in a rush, or when you need larger portions to feed a crowd. 

How many times have you enjoyed a pasta salad this season? Traditional recipes can be surprisingly high calorie when they’re held together with fatty dressings. You can easily cut some fat by substituting reduced fat mayonnaise or light salad dressing for all or part of the mayonnaise in many recipes.

Take advantage of fresh, seasonal vegetables to add crunch and nutrition to your pasta salads-even if they’re not part of the original recipe ingredients.

Mix it up by substituting different pastas for classic white ones. Whole grain and whole wheat pastas have added fiber. There’s a variety of others available including gluten free pastas, and new products made from potatoes, chickpeas, dried beans or lentils.

You can make your own noodles from fresh produce using a vegetable spiralizer. For the best results, select a firm vegetable that’s naturally straight or cut it into smaller, straight sections as needed.  The vegetable should be at least 1 ½ inches wide, but not wider than your spiralizer.

Here are two pasta-style recipes to try for your next gathering. One is made with whole wheat pasta, and the other with zoodles-zucchini noodles.

Tri-pepper pasta salad

Chopped red, yellow and green peppers pump up the color, flavor and vitamin C in this summer salad.  Follow the recipe as written or substitute your favorite pasta type or shape. Pictured-whole wheat penne pasta.

Makes 8 servings.


  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup lite Balsamic vinaigrette dressing (or other light dressing)
  • 3½ cups whole wheat medium pasta shells, cooked
  • 1 each red, yellow and green pepper, chopped (about 3 - 3.5 cups)
  • ½ cup sweet or red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

In a small bowl, whisk mayonnaise and dressing until blended. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  Pour dressing over top stirring well to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Approximate nutrients per serving: 160 calories, grams 4 protein, 9 grams fat, 19 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 188 milligrams sodium, 9 milligrams calcium.

Inspired by a recipe from




Zucchini noodles with tomato sauce

Use up your surplus zucchini to replace typical pasta in this “spaghetti” recipe. While this flavorful recipe is lower sodium, content will vary based on brand of tomatoes used and the amount of salt added for flavor.

Makes 2 servings.


  • 1 large zucchini, spiralized
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ medium onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup sliced, fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (may use frozen)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can no salt added petit diced tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Leave zucchini noodles raw, or boil briefly until desired texture reached. Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic, stirring as it browns to prevent burning. 

Add the sliced onions. Stir and cook until they become soft and brown around the edges. Next, add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown.

Stir in corn and diced tomatoes. Season with rosemary, oregano, thyme, salt, and sugar.  Cook until sauce reaches desired thickness. 

Pour sauce over spiralized zucchini noodles and serve.

Approximate nutrients per serving:  248 calories, 8 grams protein, 9 grams fat, 36 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fiber, 380 milligrams sodium, 114 milligrams calcium. 

Inspired by a recipe by Andrea Giang at


Recipes provided by Mary-Jo Sawyer, R.D., registered dietitian in the Outpatient Nutrition Clinic at VCU Health.

Written by: Massey Communications Office

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