We all love pasta. But with the advent of keto and low-carb diets, pasta took a serious backseat in our eating plans. However, pasta doesn't have to add to your waistline.
Believe it or not, pasta can be a very healthy dish if appropriately prepared. It all comes down to the pasta you choose and what you add to it.
Here, I'll show you 11 secrets to enjoying pasta without blowing your diet, along with many healthy pasta recipes to try.
What Type of Pasta Is Healthiest?
There are so many healthy kinds of pasta these days that even gluten-free and keto folks can enjoy a bowl of it for dinner. Healthier options include:
- Whole wheat pasta - anything that says 100% whole wheat on the package.
- Chickpea pasta - this is pasta made from chickpea flour.
- Lentil pasta - as the name indicates, this pasta is made from ground-up lentils.
- Mung bean pasta - also known as bean threads, mung bean pasta is typically found in Asian stores.
- Shirataki noodles - these noodles are made from fibers in Konjac root. These noodles often get marketed under the name "Miracle Noodles."
- Vegetable pasta - spiralized veggies are an excellent option for low-carb diets.
If you are wondering about egg noodles, don't be fooled. While the eggs in egg noodles are great for protein, they are also full of white, processed flour, which tends to stick to our hips and belly.
Healthy Pasta Sauces
While you might have to search for them a little, there are healthy sauces on the market if you don't want to make your own.
- Read the ingredients to avoid added sugar.
- Avoid meat-based sauces that typically have dextrose added.
- Make sure you recognize each ingredient as something you'd otherwise purchase separately, such as tomatoes, rosemary, and olive oil.
This is where you'll want to make your sauce at home. For example, if you love creamy pesto pasta but don't want the fat and calories from the heavy cream, try making it with plain yogurt and fresh basil instead. You can still add some parmesan for flavor.
If you want something cheesy, avoid the packaged stuff at the store and make your own at home. It's quick, easy, and so much better for you! Try this ultimate cheese sauce here.
What Are The Healthiest Pasta Recipes?
Healthy pasta recipes use more nutritional pasta and natural food ingredients. And honestly, when it comes to healthy pasta recipes, the options are endless.
Here are a few mouthwatering recipes to satisfy your pasta cravings without sabotaging your diet.
Whole Wheat Pasta With Tomato and Basil
Cook whole wheat pasta according to package instructions. In a separate pan, sauté diced tomatoes and minced garlic in olive oil until softened. Toss the cooked pasta with the tomato mixture, fresh basil leaves, and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.
Chickpea Pasta With Lemon Garlic Shrimp
Cook chickpea pasta until al dente. In a separate skillet, cook shrimp in olive oil with minced garlic and lemon zest until pink and cooked through. Toss the cooked pasta with the shrimp, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a handful of fresh parsley.
Lentil Pasta Primavera
Cook lentil pasta according to package instructions. In olive oil, sauté a medley of colorful vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes in a large pot. Add cooked pasta and toss with a light dressing made from lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Mung Bean Pasta Stir-Fry
Cook mung bean pasta until tender. In a wok or large skillet, stir-fry a combination of sliced mushrooms, onions, and shredded kale in sesame oil. Add the cooked pasta to the wok and toss with a sauce made from low-sodium soy sauce, ginger, and garlic.
Shirataki Noodle Pad Thai
Rinse shirataki noodles thoroughly and pat dry. In a hot skillet, stir-fry sliced chicken or tofu with minced garlic and grated ginger. Add the noodles to the skillet, bean sprouts, sliced bell peppers, and a sauce made from peanut butter, lime juice, and low-sodium soy sauce. Top with crushed peanuts and chopped cilantro. Try this Noodle Pad Thai.
Chickpea Orzo Salad
Toss cooked, whole grain orzo with fresh cherry tomatoes, sliced black olives, fresh basil, crisp cucumbers, vibrant red bell pepper, and some delicious chickpeas. And a lively lemon vinaigrette, and you have a filling Chickpea Orzo salad.
Remember, the key to creating truly healthy pasta recipes is to focus on whole, natural ingredients. You also want to control your portion sizes.
Load up on vegetables and lean proteins, and use flavorful herbs and spices to enhance the taste without relying on heavy sauces or excessive amounts of cheese.
Pro-Tip for Cooking Pasta
Always salt your pasta water! A large stock pot can usually handle a full tablespoon of salt, sometimes more. Salt will help flavor your pasta from the beginning so that you build flavors from the ground level of your recipe.
Smart Pasta Swaps
If you don't want to eat pasta, you can still enjoy a large bowl of vegetable pasta without sidetracking your diet. Made by spiralizing vegetables, you can load up on zucchini noodles (a.k.a. "zoodles") or any number of spiralized vegetables, add a healthy sauce with more veggies and some herbs and spices, and enjoy a very filling, fiber-filled meal.
Adding Fats To Healthy Pasta Recipes
Fats are not inherently bad for us. A little here and there is not terrible unless your doctor tells you otherwise. If you want to add cheese to your pasta, you definitely should. Just don't go overboard with it. A little just for flavor is all you need. Even in pasta casseroles, you don't need a ton to make them taste great.
Here is a case in point: Spaghetti Pie. This complete meal in one dish is a great way to get your whole grains, protein, and veggies in one casserole. You'll combine whole grain spaghetti with cooked ground meat, vegetables, egg, and parmesan cheese for a healthy meal the entire family will love.
Adding Flavor to Your Healthy Pasta Recipes
If your pasta is "meh," here are some suggestions for bringing out more robust flavors by adding healthy ingredients.
Including Fresh Herbs
Nothing beats the flavor of fresh basil, parsley, or even cilantro. These herbs add tons of flavor without piling on the fat or calories. Here are a few suggestions for including fresh herbs:
- Cavatappi Pasta. This delicious salad is made by tossing a good quality sausage, red bell pepper, onions, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil together.
- Basil-Pesto Penne with Cherry Tomatoes. A classic combination of cooked pasta, homemade basil pesto, and vibrant cherry tomatoes. You can top things off with a bit of parmesan at the table.
- Parsley-Lemon Linguine with Grilled Shrimp. You'll toss some grilled shrimp with sautéed garlic and include some fresh parsley and lemon zest. Add some lemon juice and a touch of olive oil, and toss it all together with the pasta. Serve with a light sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.
- Cilantro-Lime Spaghetti Squash. You'll toss some cooked spaghetti squash noodles with colorful veggies, lime juice, and cilantro. You can even add some small pieces of chicken for protein.
Using Spice Blends
Try adding different spice blends to your sauce. Spice blends like Italian seasoning, Cajun seasoning, taco seasoning, or a curry blend will add plenty of flavors.
Some suggestions for this are:
- Cajun pasta with sautéed shrimp. Toss some sautéd bell peppers, onions, and shrimp with Cajun seasoning and your pasta for a delicious dinner.
- Italian Herb and Tomato Rigatoni. You'll toss some cooked rigatoni with tomato sauce infused with Italian seasoning. This comforting dish will give you classic Italian flavors.
Citrus Zest for Zing
Add the zest of lemon, orange, grapefruit, or lime to your pasta dishes. You can add them to your sauce or directly to your plate of pasta.
Ideas for using citrus zest in your pasta are:
- Curry vegetable orzo. Combine cooked whole grain orzo with a colorful assortment of sautéd veggies and a fragrant curry spice blend.
- Lemon Garlic Parmesan Pasta. Toss your cooked pasta with lemon zest, minced or pressed garlic, grated parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil. The flavors are simple but delicious.
- Orange-Basil Shrimp Linguine. Toss the cooked linguine with succulent shrimp and sauce made from freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh orange zest, fragrant basil leaves, delicious garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Lime-cilantro avocado pasta salad. Toss some cooked rotini pasta with chunks of avocado, fresh cilantro leaves, lime zest, and a delicious dressing made with lime juice, garlic, olive oil, and a hint of honey.
- Grapefruit-Arugula Farfalle. To a bowl of cooked farfalle pasta, you'll add some chopped, fresh grapefruit, peppery arugula, sliced red onions, fresh grapefruit zest, and a vinaigrette made with grapefruit juice, Dijon mustard, and some extra virgin olive oil.
A whole world of pasta is out there, most of which can be very healthy. Avoid boxed and packaged pasta with prepackaged sauce, and let fresh foods come to life in your kitchen and onto your plate.
The best healthy pasta is the pasta recipe you make at home with real food. Your health will thank you for it.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Tiffany McCauley is an award-winning cookbook author and food blogger. She has been featured on MSN, Huffington Post, Country Living Magazine, HealthLine, Redbook, and many more. She has helped thousands of people learn to cook simple, clean, and healthy foods in their own home kitchens. She lives in Maine and loves Elvis, sunflowers, and a good seafood chowder, as well as travel writing.