Project 2019 – “JuLY-COPENE: Lycopene-rich Foods and Its Biological Importance ft. 15-minute Vegan Black Bean Pasta with Tomato Sauce from Scratch”

(Camera: iPhone 8+)

Lycopene? More like WHY-copene should we consume it in our diet?

Alright, I’m not the best at puns. ANYWAY, lycopene is a subclass of carotenoids, a class of phytonutrients, that contribute to the red, orange, and/or yellow pigment of fruits and vegetables. Lycopene has been studied mostly for its relation with antioxidants. Throughout our lives, our cells naturally undergo metabolism (click for March post on metabolism) and produce free radicals as a by-product. As we age, we accumulate more of these, which cause damage to our cells. According to the a scientific review paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, lycopene induces antioxidant/phase II detoxifying enzymes through nuclear factor E2-related factor (Nrf2) signaling. Some studies have shown the chemopreventive effects of lycopene in vitro (in cells/tissue culture) and in vivo (in animal models with carcinogen-induced cancer), but as how it usually is with food science, more studies need to be done.

Regardless, lycopene-rich foods, such as tomatoes, are filled with wholesome nutrients, like vitamin C, which is overall great for the body. The bioavailability of lycopene in tomatoes is enhanced if it is cooked, so in this recipe, we are making vegan black bean tomato pasta with tomato sauce from scratch…. in less than FIFTEEN MINUTES!!! This meal is low-fat and good source of fiber, protein, and vitamin B and C!

(Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

Disclaimer: It is important to note that each human’s lifestyle varies, and many variables (e.g. genetics, health status, etc.) must be accounted for. It is typically best to consume in moderation, and consulting a registered dietician/nutritionist is recommended when trying to find a diet catered to one’s personal lifestyle.


  • 1/2 pack of Trader Joe’s organic black bean rotini pasta (or choice of pasta)
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 tbsp sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)
  • 1/2 purple onion
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened plant-based milk
  • 3 cups of kale
  • Trader Joe’s seasoning salute (or choice of dried herbs)


Cook the pasta according to the instructions.

In the meantime, dice half an onion and 2 medium tomatoes. In a medium-heated nonstick pan, cook the onions. (You can cook it in oil, but I just use splashes of water to ensure it doesn’t stick). Then, add the tomato paste and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute to taste. Let it simmer for 2 minutes.

Once it is simmering, add the plant-based milk and nutritional yeast to give it a creamy, cheesy flavor. After everything is evenly incorporated, add the kale and tomatoes. The pasta should be done cooking around this time. Drain and add to the sauce. Top with herbs or vegetables, like I did with this leftover eggplant verde from Whole Foods!

(Camera: iPhone 8+)

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