Tag Archives: Pasta

Pick the Perfect Pasta

It used to be that you just had to pick between spaghetti or fettuccine, penne or cavatappi. But now, the pasta aisle is crammed with so many varieties of pasta — quinoa! corn! spelt! — that it’s become more of a library (reading all those stats…). So instead of letting smart marketing get the best of you, consult this guide to find the best pasta for you.

Regular pasta

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 200 calories, 1 g fat, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 7 g protein

Good for: Believe it or not, regular pasta can have a place in a healthy diet. But it’s refined! you say. True; and it is best to eat most of your grains in their whole form. But when a recipe you’re making calls for other fiber-rich ingredients, like white beans, chickpeas, or lots of vegetables, it’s okay to use regular pasta every now and then. The taste of real, semolina pasta is hard to emulate with a whole grain version, and sometimes you just need that chewy, not-grainy texture. The other time to use regular pasta: when you want that perfect, unadulterated bowl of spaghetti, olive oil, and a pinch of pepper.

Pairs well with: high-fiber foods; olive oil and pepper; tomatoes and basil

Whole wheat pasta

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 200 calories, 1.5 g fat, 6 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 7 g protein

Good for: Whole wheat pasta brings a healthy serving of fiber to the table, a nutrient that most Americans are lacking in. Fiber boosts satiety, which is especially important in a pasta, as it’s all too easy to down a bowl with three times the appropriate serving size. But it also helps maintain steady blood sugar levels, boosts digestive health, and improves cardiovascular health.

Pairs well with: Hearty, flavorful sauces like pesto; robust tomato sauces like arrabiatta; pasta salads

Spinach Pasta (or other flavored varieties)

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 200 calories, 1.5 g fat, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 7 g protein

Good for: Flavored varieties of pasta, be it spinach, tomato, or carrot, are good for one thing: presentation. Unfortunately, these vegetable-hued pastas won’t count towards your daily serving of vegetables. If you look on the ingredients list, you’ll see spinach, tomato, or another vegetable listed as one of the last ingredients; that’s because only a few grams of the freeze-dried produce is actually in the pasta. If you’re looking for vegetables, just add a handful of spinach!

Pairs well with: Thin or clear sauces, so that the color shines through. And serve it with a big salad!

Quinoa Pasta

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 229 calories, 3.7 g fat, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 8 g protein

Good for: Because it’s made from a seed, quinoa pasta hits the trifecta of satiety-boosting nutrients: fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids (don’t let the higher fat content scare you; those are healthy fats!). Quinoa is also gluten free, making this a good option for those with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease.

Pairs well with: Anything: quinoa pasta has a mild flavor, so it won’t overpower delicate sauces. Since it offers fiber, you don’t necessarily have to pair it with fiber-rich sides (but vegetables are always a good idea!)

Brown Rice Pasta

Nutrition (2 oz): 190 calories, 3 g fat, 4 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 4 g protein

Good for: Another good gluten free option, brown rice pasta offers both fiber and protein. But since it’s lower in protein than other varieties, it’s a good idea to pair it with protein-rich fare like chicken, shrimp, or beans.

Pairs well with: Brown rice pasta can be stickier and chewier in texture than other varieties, so pair it with thick and chunky sauces.

Shirataki Noodles

Nutrition (4 oz): 20 calories, 0.5 g fat, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 1 g protein

Good for: These Asian noodles are made from the flour of the Konjac yam and are extremely low in calories. They contain a type of fiber called glucomannan, which may help with cholesterol control; because they’re made with little else, they take on the taste of whatever sauce or ingredients they’re paired with (although some people think their smell is off-putting). These noodles are a good choice for those nights when you want to lose yourself in a big bowl of pasta, or if you have trouble with portion control when it comes with pasta.

Pairs well with: Flavorful sauces likes pesto and marinara. And because Shirataki noodles offer very little in the way of nutrition, pair them with lean protein and fiber-rich vegetables. Or, try Asian flavors: use them as the base in a stir-fry with teriyaki sauce or soy sauce.

Spaghetti squash

Nutrition (1 cup, or about 5.5 oz): 42 calories, 0 g fat, 2 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 1 g protein

Good for: Low in calories, spaghetti squash is a good vehicle for hearty, flavorful, chunky sauces — the kind where you really only want to taste the sauce and toppings anyway! It’s packed with fiber, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants. Spaghetti squash also works well in recipes that call for higher calorie toppings, like pesto, alfredo, or meatballs; the extra 200 calories from regular pasta won’t put your dinner over the calorie edge.

Pairs well with: Chunky vegetables sauces; sauces with meatballs; alfredo; pesto

Pasta with Spinach, Slow-Roasted and Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Basil

This recipe is quickly becoming one of my family’s favorite meals. It’s quick, it’s stealthily light, and it’s packed with fresh spinach and two kinds of tomatoes. With the amount of spinach I use, it could even be considered a spinach salad with pasta on top, but it’ll still please the carb-lovers in your family.

It’s not necessary to slow-roast the tomatoes, but I think it brings out their flavor better. If you’re short on time, you can simply throw them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Ingredients:
A lot of fresh spinach
8-10 roma tomatoes
⅓ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
Whole-grain pasta; enough to serve 4 (bowtie, cavatappi, and fusili work well)
A couple bunches fresh basil
Parmesan cheese
Chicken or another form of protein
Olive oil
Dried oregano, dried basil, kosher salt, and pepper

Prepare the tomatoes: cut each tomato in sixths and line them up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle liberally with dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven at 225 degrees for about 3 hours – but keep an eye on them! Although it looks like a lot of tomatoes, they reduce considerably in size when they roast, which is why I start with a lot. The tomatoes are the “marshmallows of Lucky Charms” in this recipe, so you really can’t make too many.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.Place the fresh spinach in a large bowl; top with cooked pasta and allow to wilt. Cover the pasta with the sun-dried tomatoes (you’ll also get some more olive oil from these) and the slow-roasted tomatoes; top with basil, olive oil, and fresh parmesan.

Depending on what protein you choose (we usually do chicken sausage), top pasta with protein.

 

Why should you eat this?
Don’t skip the olive oil in this dish: not only does it provide heart-healthy fats, but it makes the nutrients from both the spinach and the tomatoes more bioavailable. The nutrients in these plants, like lycopene and vitamin A, are fat-soluble – meaning they need to be eaten along with fats in order to be absorbed. Lycopene’s bioavailability is also increased when it’s cooked (and both types of tomatoes in this dish are heated) – your body can absorb three to four times the amount of lycopene when cooked rather than eaten raw – so this dish is an outstanding source of skin-saving lycopene. Balanced with lean protein and whole grains, this one-dish meal fits the bill for a well-rounded, tasty dinner.