Better, healthier pasta can be yours when you open your mind to new noodle varieties and put those veggies, greens and pantry items to work. Let us show you the ways.
EXERCISE YOUR NOODLE
Traditional semolina spaghetti isn’t the only way to noodle. In fact, these days, you can purchase a whole host of gorgeous noodles made with whole or heirloom grains. Some are made with veggies, like kale or beets baked in, and there’s even chickpea flour pasta for a grain-free punch of protein. To mix up your ordinary pasta plate, aim to try as many grains as possible for maximum health benefits. Remember that when it comes to consuming grains, variety is the spice of life.
SALT THE WATER (NOT THE PLATE)
Before you drop your noodles into their cooking water, add a bit of salt. The salt dissolves in the water and brings out a richer flavor in the pasta itself, without adding salt to the finished dish — which means a lower sodium meal.
Instead of reaching for a jarred or canned pasta sauce, or way too much Parmesan cheese, fill your plate with fresh, seasonal vegetables. Whether you’re adding sauteed greens, spring asparagus or peas, or even pre-roasted beets, carrots or mushrooms, you can turn them into a fresh-forward dish with these simple steps:
While your pasta water is cooking, place your veggies in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon butter, olive oil or ghee. For greens, asparagus or peas, saute them for 1–2 minutes until they start to brown slightly. Bonus points for adding flavorful spices during this stage: Try a pinch of turmeric and black pepper; a little bit of zaatar or harissa powder; a pinch of cumin and coriander. Experiment with whatever sounds good! Then, add to the pot your cooked noodles, 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and another tablespoon of olive oil or ghee. Stir the noodles and veggies to combine, cooking until the water has reduced to a sauce. Remove from heat and enjoy!
IT’S EASY BEING GREEN
Instead of sauteeing your veggies with your noodles, you can also blanch them then blend into a super-green sauce like so:
Take 2 large bunches of Tuscan kale (ribs and stems removed) or spinach, and cook the leaves in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright green and wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet with tongs and allow the greens to cool before wringing out the excess water with your hands. Meanwhile, in a blender, puree 1/4 cup (37g) pistachios, pine nuts or walnuts, 1/4 cup (59ml) of olive oil, 1 garlic clove and 1/3 cup (78ml) water until smooth. Add the cooked greens and 1 tablespoon finely shredded Parmesan and blend until smooth, adding water if necessary to thin. Toss with your favorite pasta as you would a pesto.
FLEX THE FLAVOR
Chances are you have a few nutritious staples in your pantry that are just waiting for you to pull them out and put them to good use in a quick pasta. In this game, flavor is your friend and a little bit goes a long way! Tinned sardines, a drizzle of great olive oil, a pinch of red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper, a sprinkling of crumbled seaweed, or just a small shaving of shredded Parmesan all do wonders for your pasta. What’s even better: None of them require heavy sauces or tons of cheese to make them great. Remember that simple is superior. The better the ingredients, the better your pasta will taste, and the less of it you’ll need to eat to feel satisfied.
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.