Healthy Pasta a la Vodka with Zucchini and Greek Yogurt

So I worried about law school for a long time.

Then it started, and all of a sudden I became immersed in the world of reading and cold-calling and research and writing and more reading.

The hours turned into days and the days turned into weeks and I didn't have time to process how different my life had become.

I had momentary glimpses of my old life, I guess. Like that first week when one of my professors intimidated me SO much and I tried to make myself feel better by imagining him facing my worst class of seventh graders last year.

"He's not as tough as me," I told myself.

Then he cold-called on me in class a week later, and I blew it.  He was not nice about it.  I came home and cried for two hours before finally pulling myself together and realizing I've dealt with worse.

Because I have, and I still must admit that my worst day of law school so far pales in comparison to my worst day in teaching.

As the days passed, I started noticing some positive changes.  I liked making my own schedule. I liked quiet mornings spent reading in the library. I liked thinking through complex issues. I liked the challenge of writing succinctly, but well.

But then things really got busy, and the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, and it wasn't until fall break last week that I finally had time to come up for air and think about what I miss about my old life.

And that's when I realized how teaching has ruined me.

Because those quiet morning reading in the library? They're peaceful, but they're also sometimes lonely. Even when I'm in the library studying with friends, there's some chatting, but mostly we're focused on our own work, just keeping each other company. And it scared me to realize how many weeks had gone by of me just plugging away, doing my own thing, studying and reading and writing and talking with friends, but mostly wearing blinders focused on this one goal of success.  And everyone around me was doing the same thing. This is sort of the point of grad school, I know. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with being driven and focused on a future goal. (Especially a future goal that involves helping people.)

But, as I said before, teaching has ruined me.  Because this whole put-your-head-down-and-work-really-hard-for-your-own-future goal-thing--I could do it, for sure--but it wasn't fulfilling. It felt empty. It felt a bit, well, purposeless.

Because here's the thing about teaching--no matter how under-appreciated, overpaid, and overworked you are, not matter how demanding your kids are, or how negative your co-workers are, or how much your kids sometimes drive you out of your ever-loving mind--there's always a purpose.  On the worst days, when you have the least desire to go to work, and your kids have been behaving terribly, there's always that one kid's face who pops into your head and makes you think, "I need to go teach today for that kid." On the good days, there are many faces.

I've known since before I left teaching that I would miss the kids. (There is a hispanic family that lives near me and the kids ride their bikes around our loop. They remind me so much of my former students, and the other morning when I was turning out of the neighborhood, I saw them waiting for the bus with their backpacks on.  I tried so hard not to cry.)

However, I didn't know how much I would miss the purposefulness of it. This is partially my own fault, of course.  I intentionally (and selfishly) didn't get involved with a lot of volunteer activities this first semester because I wanted to focus on my classes and have time to spend with Adam when he was home.

Now I've realized that just "doing" school isn't enough for me anymore. It definitely was at one time, but it's not anymore. And that's how teaching has ruined me.

As much as I try to be a model law student, I have to admit that sometimes my mind wanders in class. I had a recurring daydream this week about pasta--as in every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday  around 2:45 I would dream of swirling fettucini into creamy sauce with a fork. Yep, I have a problem.

This weekend I was able to turn that dream into delicious reality.

See, the creamy sauce I was craving was vodka sauce, which is traditionally made of tomatoes and heavy cream and, you guessed it, vodka. The sauce is rich and indulgent and totally worth the occasional splurge, but I wanted to make a big batch of something healthy that I could eat throughout the week.

Thus, this healthy version was born.  I replaced the heavy cream with 2% Greek yogurt and added in a ton of veggies. I sliced the red pepper thinly and used a box grater to grate the zucchini, which made them similar in both size and texture to the noodles and infinitely more fun to eat.

I'll admit that this doesn't have quite the creaminess of the original, but I think you'll still find immense satisfaction in twirling those noodles and veggies around with your fork and taking a bite.  Adam "doesn't like Greek yogurt," but he has eaten several helpings of this without complaint. I won't tell him if you won't.  :)

Healthy Pasta a la Vodka with Zucchini and Greek Yogurt

7-8 oz whole wheat fettucini (or a little over half of a regular 12 ounce box)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots (or 1 small onion), chopped
2-3 zucchini, shredded on a box grater
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup vodka
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook fettucini according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add leeks, zucchini, red pepper, and garlic. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until leeks are semi-translucent and zucchini is beginning to soften.

Add two cans of chopped tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and vodka. Cook for 15 minutes or until tomato liquid is slightly reduced.

Add Greek yogurt and basil and cook 5 minutes until heated through. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Pour sauce over fettucini and top with plenty of fresh parmesan cheese and extra basil as a garnish, if desired.

Adapted from Skinnytaste.


  1. You did so many wonderful things as a teacher and made impacts on lives that you will never even know :-)

  2. Grad school can DEFINITELY be isolating but I'm pretty sure it does get better! At least, I hope so. I definitely have pasta dreams in lab and I"m pretty sure I'll be daydreaming about this all day today!

  3. your pasta looks soo good, made me so hungry. I'm definitely having this for dinner tonight!!

    Leyla xx

  4. There are always bumps when you follow your dream. I do my best to focus on the now and it looks like that's what you're doing too.

    Your pasta is zesty, healthy and beautiful to look at.

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