Is there anything better than pasta? From rigatoni to fettuccine, and tortellini to cannelloni, every type of pasta sings its own song that fuses perfectly with a mouthwatering sauce and a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Unfortunately, at the same time as being heavenly, it’s not the most healthy dinner choice. However, there are a few simple ways to make pasta more nutritional without impacting the taste.
1. Measure your portions
Some of us love pasta so much that we just can’t face changing anything about our beloved recipes, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Although there are many ways to make scrumptious and healthy dishes, we all have our vices, and as these go, pasta is definitely not the worst one to have. If you’re one of those people, you’ll be glad to know there’s still something you can do to keep it as healthy as possible: paying attention to your portions.
It’s so easy to fill a whole salad bowl with a mountain of pasta as tall as Kllimanjaro, but it’s not recommended. For example, when it comes to tagliatelle, Pasta Evangelists explain that Italians usually cook around 100g of pasta per person, though they also add that pasta fresca (fresh) doesn’t enlarge during the cooking process in the same manner as pasta secca (dried). If you stick to a reasonable portion, you can enjoy the delightful dish in moderation.
2. Load it up with vegetables and protein
Vegetables are such an easy way to boost the nutritional value of any dish, especially pasta. When it comes to veg, the more the merrier. If you’re a big fan of greens, you can go for big chunky ones in dishes such as Pasta Primavera or kale, ricotta and leek lasagna. However, if you’re a little apprehensive, there are many ways to incorporate vegetables into your pasta without you even noticing the flavor.
This tomato sauce has all kinds of veg hidden in it, for example. Whatever you do, don’t forget the herbs –– they really will take your pasta to the next level, while serving as a fantastic source of minerals and vitamins. Another great way to step up your meal is by maintaining a good level of protein. This can easily be done with beef, chicken or fish, but if your diet is plant-based, this red lentil pasta sauce is just the ticket.
3. Make the sauce from scratch
There’s nothing easier than cooking some pasta and plopping some store-bought sauce on top of it. It takes around 10 minutes from boil to mouth, and honestly, it tastes yummy. However, jarred sauce isn’t actually good for you. The copious amounts of sugar, salt and unnecessary fat combined with flavorings and preservatives just don’t create a nutritious outcome, which is a shame, because tomato sauce especially can be incredibly healthy. Coupled with the fact it barely uses any fresh ingredients, you’re really better off making your own. The best part is that it’s not only super simple to cook, but you can make a big batch and freeze it for whenever you want a quick meal.
4. Avoid creamy or cheesy sauces
Fat. It’s delicious. We all love it. There’s nothing like a rich, creamy, cheese-packed sauce paired with the right shape of pasta to boost your mood. Or is there? Saturated fats are notoriously bad for us –– they raise cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. It is even linked to depression and anxiety.
The good news, however, is that not all fat is bad for you. We need the unsaturated kind to live, and it can be found in many tasty yet healthy foods, such as nuts, olive oil, and fruit and veg, like coconuts or avocados. Even some saturated fats aren’t too terrible for you, including yogurt or fatty fish, to name a couple. So, if you’re looking for some creaminess in your sauce but want to keep it healthy, why not opt for a nut-based option like this cashew alfredo, or go the adventurous route with a quick avocado pasta? You can also replace the flavour of cheese with some nutritional yeast to give it that extra umami kick –– and it’s even vegan-friendly.
5. Try a pasta variant
Pasta doesn’t have to be white and boring. There are so many healthier varieties that also taste delicious. Chickpea, lentil, pea or buckwheat pastas are packed full of protein and can really level up your bowl from being refined-carbs-with-a-sauce to a nutritious meal. If you’re struggling to get past all the Italian grandmothers in your head screaming to put that quinoa farfalle down, you can opt for a whole-grain version of your favourite pasta. It may not be as healthy as the other types, but it is definitely better than the alternative. However, our preferred choice is to make it fresh from scratch and add vegetables to it to boost its nutritional value. This simple spinach pasta recipe is a great one to start with.