monthly health topic

the comforts of pasta


Warm up this season with these tips on cooking a heartier plate of pasta.

different types of pasta

the comforts of pasta

As winter approaches and the temperature starts to drop, cuddle up to a warm plate of pasta. Savory and creamy pasta can fit into a healthy lifestyle with some simple tips and tricks. Reinvent timeless, signature pasta dishes by adding color, texture and new mouth-watering tastes that everyone will enjoy.

Pasta Is NOT Fattening

The truth is, carbohydrates do not make you fat – it’s eating extra calories from carbohydrates that leads to excess weight. The key is watching portions and choosing complex carbohydrates such as pasta.

  • Complex carbohydrates include starches which take longer to digest than simple sugars, and fiber which is not digestible but increases satiety, helps manage weight and promotes digestive health. Choose whole wheat pasta to include fiber.
  • A portion of pasta is about two ounces dry or one cup cooked. Pasta shapes differ, so be sure to check the label for the serving size of dry pasta given in cups. Two ounces of spaghetti will measure differently than two ounces of elbow macaroni.

Take the Time to Toast

Toasting brings a deep, nutty flavor to pasta. Try these methods:

  • Toast dry couscous, orzo or short shaped pasta in a saucepan with a small amount of olive oil for 6-10 minutes, until browned. Add water or vegetable stock to the pan to cook the pasta.
  • Toss long shaped pasta, like spaghetti, in just enough olive oil to coat and toast in a 350-degree oven for 5-6 minutes. With either method, stir often to ensure even browning!

Fresh Ideas for Filled Pasta

Enjoy pasta filled with cheese, vegetables, or meat in lighter, flavorful recipes.

  • Add cheese tortellini to a homemade vegetable soup.
  • Toss ravioli and garden fresh vegetables in tomato sauce or olive oil
  • Combine frozen cheese ravioli, mushrooms and your favorite tomato sauce in a crock pot and cook for 3 hours. Serve topped with mozzarella cheese.
  • Layer cheese ravioli, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese and spinach in a baking dish for a simple spin on lasagna.

Don’t Skimp on the Sauce

Try these simple substitutions for the same rich texture with a lighter touch.

  • For Alfredo sauce, in place of heavy cream use a medium white sauce made with butter, flour and milk.
  • Puree roasted cauliflower in a blender and add to Alfredo sauce.
  • Make a simple sauce with pureed roasted red peppers.
  • Add richness to macaroni and cheese with pureed roasted butternut squash or sweet potatoes.
  • Blend pureed pumpkin or pureed vegetables into traditional marinara sauce.

Vegetables…More Than Just a Side

Add vegetables to any pasta dish for increased volume, hints of color and fresh flavors. Vegetables add fiber and nutrients to keep you feeling satisfied.

  • Toss broccoli or winter squash in tomato sauce or olive oil.
  • Add sautéed vegetables to your traditional stuffed shell recipe.
  • Split the layers of lasagna with slices of eggplant, butternut squash, spinach or sweet potatoes.
  • Slim down your favorite lasagna recipe. Cut the quantity of ricotta cheese in half and puree it with two large eggplants that have been roasted and peeled.

So enjoy pasta with the quality rather than quantity in mind. Remember to include the ingredients on the plate that keep a pasta dish light, colorful and flavorful.