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Who does not like a plateful of tasty and filling pasta? Diet plans go for a toss just at the sight of a plate filled with pasta in all its geometric shaped glory. Yes, pasta seldom looks boring, comes in so many shapes, and can be cooked in so many different ways. But the question that bothers us, is pasta unhealthy? Since we have it a good number of times a week, it is important to know whether the appetizing looking dish is healthy at all. So let us explore in this article whether the pasta on your plate is good for your waistline too besides your taste buds of course!
What Is Pasta
Pasta in its simplest form is a blend of durum wheat flour and water. Durum wheat is high in protein and is used to make pasta but is not fit for making bread other baked products. The flour of durum wheat can be kneaded into a stiff paste, especially so that it can be molded into varied shapes and retain its shape even when cooked.
Wholemeal pasta is generally made by blending wholemeal flour with durum wheat. It is with the addition of wholemeal flour which adds texture to the mixture. Wholemeal flour alone cannot add the chewy texture to the pasta.
Pasta takes on a yellow color which comes from carotenes, a blend of the anti-oxidant beta carotene and lutein, which is found in wheat flour. Durum wheat is full of carotenes, so it has a slightly stronger color. Sometimes to add color to your pasta, spinach is added to give it a green color. Beetroot juice is also sometimes added to give it a flaming red appearance. The purple- black pasta, however, gets its color from the addition of squid ink!
Is Pasta Healthy?
The low carb or no carb mantra is what works best to make weight loss a reality. Most nutritionists tell you to go off carbs so that you will be able to get rid of the extra layer of adipose tissue which refuses to budge from your waistline. So should you give up on all pasta dishes, which might have been your comfort food? Not really, if you choose one which is whole wheat and full of nutrients.
One cup of cooked pasta contains approximately 220 calories, 1 gram of fat and zero cholesterol. Most of the pasta found on store shelves is enriched with iron, too. Whole-grain pasta contains the same calories as regular pasta, but what sets it apart from regular pasta is that it has more protein, fiber, and vitamins. The more nutritious it is, the more full you are likely to feel with only a small amount As an added bonus, all that protein and fiber means that you’ll feel more satisfied by eating less.
Your options are not limited to whole wheat alone. Other whole-grain pasta includes brown rice, corn, and soda. These varieties come with added fiber, protein or omega-3 fats.
So instead of thinking that pasta is your enemy, think of it as a nourishing food. It all depends on what your plate looks like, is it full of pasta alone? Or you have added veggies and some nuts and seeds. Add a little bit of protein, and you will have a perfect dish, so elimination is not the key; rather balance is the key. Instead of jumping over a pasta dish and devouring it like no tomorrow, learn to control your portions.
Nutritional Lowdown of Pasta
Pasta is a source of carbohydrate, protein, fiber and traces of vitamins and minerals. If you take 100g of dried pasta, which is a standard serving size, it provides around 1300-1400 kilojoules of energy, comprising of 65g carbohydrate, 3-4.5g fiber, 12g protein and 1-2g fat.
When it comes to choosing between whole wheat pasta and refined flour pasta, the whole wheat variety provides chockfull of vitamins and minerals. It is also an excellent source of fiber, with 100g providing approximately 13g of fiber. Pasta generally has a low-medium GI, so it stabilizes your blood sugar levels.
Pasta is generally not a fattening food, but it also depends on the way you cook. If you cook it in white sauce and liberally use cheese and butter, then the calories pile on surreptitiously. So let us explore some healthy pasta dishes, which will cater to both wellness and your waistline. So gear up to show some pasta love, and when you say “pass the plate ,” you will be doing it without harboring any feelings of guilt.
Healthy Pasta Recipes
You cannot have salads every single day, just because you are watching your diet. You will become miserable. And if you aren’t happy, it isn’t really worth it, right? So be a foodie but be a nourished foodie! Who said eating right is meant to be boring? Our buzzword is cooking it right. Check out these healthy recipes and enter gourmet heaven with the help of your culinary skills.
1. Pasta with Tomato Sauce
Mark our words, if you want to go the healthy way, skip the store-bought sauces, which are laden with processed products which are passed off as food. Cooking at home can be fun; it can be therapeutic and super healthy. This recipe is no different. It is fresh, it is healthy and it is all about your favorite pasta.
- 12ounces linguine
- 1 ½ pounds tomatoes, quartered
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/2cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/4cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions given on the packet. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
- Puree in a food processor, the tomatoes, oil, garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
- Toss the pasta with the tomato sauce and half the basil. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and the remaining basil just before serving.
2. Broccoli Pasta
You can give your humble pasta a healthy makeover with the addition of broccoli. Broccoli is said to be one of the healthiest foods on planet Earth, so even if you think having a salad with broccoli is not your idea of tasty food, how about adding your favorite pasta to it?
- 1/2pound whole-grain spaghetti
- 2bunches broccoli, cut into florets
- 1bell pepper, sliced
- 2cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/4cup olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/4cup chopped roasted almonds
- 2 ounces Feta, crumbled (1/2 cup)
- Heat the oven to 450° F. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
- Also, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss the broccoli, bell pepper, and garlic with the oil and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Roast the ingredients until they turn tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the pasta with almonds, feta, and the cooking water.
3. Mushroom and Chicken Pasta
This recipe includes the goodness of both mushroom and chicken; it adds the delicious flavor of both the ingredients. Also, the recipe is very easy to prepare. In fact, perfect for your collection of healthy pasta dinner recipes. If you are tired and haven’t got the stamina to cook a four-course meal, this dish can prove to be a pretty safe bet!
- ½ pound whole-grain pasta
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- ¾ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut up
- 1tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions given on the package; drain and return it to the pot.
- Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until it is tender and turns brown, for about 4 to 6 minutes; put the chicken on to the plate.
- Add the olive oil, onion, and mushrooms to the skillet. Add, the spice, and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss occasionally, until tender for a good 4 to 6 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the skillet, blend in the tomatoes and broth, and cook until the sauce turns thick for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the chicken and vegetables, Parmesan, and parsley to the pasta and toss to combine, to notch up a delectable fare.
4. Vegetarian Pasta
Pasta seems to gel very well with meat and all things non-vegetarian. But believe us when we say that pasta tastes as good with plenty of veggies as well. This dish can be a case in point.
To stuff the ravioli:
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 brinjal, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup corn, chopped
- 6-7 mushrooms, chopped
- Salt, a pinch
For the Sauce:
- 20 gm. butter
- 20 gm. flour
- 150 ml coconut milk
- Lemongrass, a pinch
- Some parsley
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 spring onions, chopped
- Dash of pepper
- For Garnishing:
- Chilli flakes
For the Filling:
- In a wok, add 1 Tbsp olive oil, minced garlic, minced onion, and chopped aborigines/brinjal, then Sauté.
- Add chopped red bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, chopped celery, chopped corn and chopped mushroom, then Sauté. The filling is ready.
For the Ravioli:
- Roll out the dough like a flat bread or Indian chapatti. Add the mixture in the middle and brush the sides with a little water.
- Cover it with another dough sheet and stick the edges together with a round biscuit cutter, trim off the excess dough on the sides so that the ravioli is of perfect round shape.
- In a pan, boil water with some salt and boil the ravioli. Drain it out and pat them dry.
For the coconut milk and lemongrass sauce:
- Add butter and flour in another pan, stir continuously.
- Add 150 ml coconut milk and keep stirring to add forming lumps.
- Add lemongrass, some parsley, salt, scallions/ spring onions and with a sprinkle of pepper. Stir till it turns thick.
Plate it the right way:
- In a plate arrange the boiled ravioli and pour the sauce on it. The flaming red of the chili flakes adds the right dash of color. If it looks that good, it is sure to taste as good as well, if not better!
5. Cheese Pasta
Cheese and pasta are surely a match made in heaven. Creamy and oh so delicious, the best part is that it is baked, so you don’t have to bother much about the oil part. Sinking your mouth into a cheesy pasta dish is what slipping into a food coma is all about, of course in a good way!
- 2 cups macaroni
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup cheese (grated)
- 1/2 cup corn
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1/2 cup broccoli
- Breadcrumbs for sprinkling
- Prepare the cheese sauce with the butter, flour, milk, and cheese. Stir the sauce continuously to avoid forming lumps.
- Overcook the pasta for kids. Add the sauce to the pasta.
- Add the cooked vegetables, cheese, salt, pepper.
- Pour the mix into the baking dish.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Serve with garlic bread.
6. Spaghetti Paprika
The beauty of cooking pasta is that it can be quickly churned up, just a few ingredients and you are good to go. So whether they are healthy pasta salad recipes or any spicy pasta recipe, it is easy to prepare and tastes delicious.
- 100 gm. spaghetti
- 8-10 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/2 tsp. chili flakes
- 10 gm. salt
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Some dried herbs, optional
- Boil the spaghetti in a liter of water with some salt.
- Sauté the garlic in some extra virgin olive oil.
- Add the chili flakes.
- Quickly put in the spaghetti with a little bit of the cooking water.
- Just toss once or twice, lightly sauté.
- It’s surprising what a little bit of garlic, chili flakes and olive oil can do together to good old pasta. Whatever they do, the result is sumptuous.
Pasta is loved by everyone and nearly every country has their version of this delicious food. In Germany and Hungary, it is known as spaetzle. The Grecians called it orzo. The people hailing from Poland have their version which is known as pierogi. Ashkenazi Jewish families call it kreplach dumplings. Lastly, the Americans are inspired by the way the Italians cook pasta.
In fact, when we hear the word pasta, we think it is Italian food and most people believe that it originated there. It might have originated from any country, but the fact is that it is a universally loved dish. Both young and old can rattle off with élan their favorite pasta recipes. So don your chef’s hat, explore your culinary skills and cook up a storm in your kitchen with your beloved ingredient, pasta!