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Lighten Up with Constantino’s Kitchen

Posted on: September 14th, 2014 by Taryn Jeffries No Comments

Chef Christopher Costantino of Costantino’s Kitchen, a gourmet line of locally made pasta sauces, knows that during the hot months here in the Valley it’s hard to think about creating a big hearty meal in the kitchen. When its sweltering outside we want something quick, light and refreshing.

Since the summer seems Constantino's Kitchento last forever here, even though our calendars note that it’s been gone for almost a month now, Chef Costantino has shared some quick and light recipes that will warm your heart and belly without warming up the whole house.

Costantino’s Kitchen can be found at AJ’s, Whole Foods and Sprouts.

Chef Costantino’s Tips

A few tips to making lighter Italian fare to feed the appetite but not weigh you down:

Use zucchini ribbons in place of traditional pastas. 

In place of pasta, use a mandolin or spiralizer to slice long ribbons of zucchini (about 1/8  or 1/16-inch thick). Sauté them over medium heat with butter and oil for about 4 minutes and then season with salt and pepper.

Add veggies, rather than meat and proteins, to supplement flavor.

Rather than heating up the oven to make homemade meatballs, try complementing the pasta with grilled or sautéed vegetables. Rather than meat, throw in some shrimp with  parmesan and a few diced tomatoes.

Substitute sauce with garlic oil, olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette.

While Costantino’s is known for our sauces, we also make a great garlic oil that’s a wonderful substitute. Your standard olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette are also great options instead of using your traditional sauces.

Avoid heating up the kitchen by using a cold sauce. 

Why ditch the sauce when it’s just as good cold, or even room temperature? Let the hot pasta absorb the sauce and you have refreshing summer pasta.

For additional tips, recipes and products, readers can visit Constantino’s Kitchen, or find their line of pasta sauces in any AJ’s, Whole Foods or Sprouts in the greater Phoenix area.

Zucchini “Noodles”Costantino's Kitchen Zucchini Noodles

4 zucchini, julienned with a julienne peeler or spiralizer (about 4 cups)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 24oz jar Costantino’s Kitchen Tomato/Basil Pasta Sauce

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Place the julienned zucchini in a colander or wire strainer and toss generously with salt until the strands are lightly coated. Allow the zucchini to sit for 20-30 minutes to remove excess water. Rinse with running water, drain well, and pat dry with paper towels. Spread out on paper towel lined sheet pan and place in the fridge, uncovered, for 1-2 hours.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the prepared zucchini noodles. Sauté them in the dry pan until just tender, about 1-2 minutes.

Remove and top with pasta sauce.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

YIELD: 4 servings

Constantino's kitchen PolentaPolenta Verdura


3 cups water

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 bay leaves

1 cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon unsalted butter


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 pint button mushrooms, diced

1 24oz jar Costantino’s Kitchen Puttanesca Sauce


Grilled vegetables, such as Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Eggplant

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

MAKE POLENTA: Bring water, salt and bay leaves to a boil. Slowly pour in cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Once the cornmeal is incorporated, reduce heat to low and switch to a wooden spoon. Stir constantly until thick. Mix in the butter and remove bay leaves. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Working quickly, spoon polenta into the greased pan, spreading it and packing it down before it sets. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove the polenta from the pan and, using a sharp knife or round biscuit cutter, cut into desired shape. Grill on each side just until heated through and nice grille marks are formed.

MAKE SAUCE: Heat oil over medium heat. Add red pepper and cook until soft. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Add pasta sauce; cook for 10 minutes or until heated through.

SERVICE: Place polenta on the plate.  Top with grilled vegetables, then sauce. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

YIELD: 6 servings

Pizza BurgersCostantino's Kitchen Pizza Burger

4 ground turkey patties

1 teaspoon seasoning blend, such as Costantino’s Kitchen Tuscan Steak Rub

8 tablespoons Costantino’s Kitchen Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce      

4 slices skim mozzarella cheese

4 whole wheat hamburger buns, sliced in half

4 tablespoons prepared pesto

Season patties on both sides with Tuscan Steak Rub. Grill or broil the patties until half cooked and flip them over. Spoon the sauce onto the patties, cover with cheese and close the lid. Split the buns and toast the cut surfaces lightly on the grill just before the patties are done.

Spread a little pesto on the toasted surfaces, add the burger and enjoy.

YIELD: 4 servings

 Copyright © 2014 by Taryn Jeffries

About the Author - Taryn Jeffries

Editor and Chief Eating Officer of PhoenixBites, 2017 Food Writer of the Year (Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame) Taryn grew up in a small town in Illinois with a doting Grandmother who taught her the way around a kitchen and that food is representative of love. Her current quest is to find the love in local dishes and the chefs behind them. In addition to running all things PhoenixBites, Taryn is also a freelance writer, sharing her insight on the best dishes and where to get them each and every month.

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