Pasta is perhaps the world’s favorite comfort food. And yet, those watching their weight or guarding their heart are warned off it, for fear of the calories it packs and the carb-overload it gives you. But because it’s nearly impossible to give up, good chefs, nutrition experts and homemakers have found ways to shave off the calories and enjoy pasta in delicious and healthy ways. Here are some of my favorite ideas for using pasta. Do suggest your own!
One big reason for the bad press pasta gets is it’s usually served in a large portion. Serve it as a side dish, and you’re suddenly eating less without depriving yourself. One cup of cooked pasta gives you 200 calories or less, depending on how you prepare it.
Use cheese as an accent, rather than dousing your pasta in a cheese sauce. A touch of parmesan or pecorino adds character to a simple pasta, minus the guilt.
For a protein boost and heart-healthy benefits, toss your pasta in walnut sauce. Simply combine walnuts with basil leaves, olive oil, salt and freshly crushed black pepper. The nutty taste is irresistible.
Ditch the bechamel sauce and opt for marinara for a vitamin and antioxidant boost: add a veggie or two, such as carrots, to your sauce for extra benefits.
Pasta loves to bathe in a sea of cream. So do the smart thing: combine low fat milk with low fat cream cheese. Add a little nutmeg (extra minerals!), salt and pepper. You won’t miss the heavy cream.
Go high on veggies and low on the quantity of pasta: toss your spaghetti or fusilli with lots of roasted vegetables. In fact, pasta can be your excuse to enjoy a variety of nutritious vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, mushroom, zucchini, asparagus and such.
Enjoy it as a salad: ricotta or cottage cheese, cherry tomatoes, arugula leaves. It’s fresh, delicious and full of goodness. Add in some beans or chickpeas for more taste and a protein punch.
One of my favorite pasta sauces is the olive-pesto combo: pitted olives blended with pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, parsley leaves, garlic and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Allow the sauce to sit at room temperature so that the flavors mature. Toss with pasta and reap the incredible health benefits of olives.
Try pasta made from grains other than wheat: spelt and buckwheat pasta, for instance, are healthier options and exciting to work with.