A healthier bowl of pasta
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
Ahh, pasta. Like potatoes and broccoli, it’s been a dinnertime staple for many generations and I bet it’s bound to continue being a household favorite for many years to come. But the truth is, while the occasional indulgence is alright in my book, pasta can come in many forms, including those that are served in super-sized portions and others that are doused in calorie-laden sauces.
Here are three tips for turning your pasta into a healthy dish by giving it a fresh spin!
One of my favorite ways to make a healthier pasta is to make “noodles” from veggies, like butternut squash and zucchini. This option provides the effect of pasta, but reduces the calorie count and subtracts the heavy feeling that often comes hand-in-hand with a bowl of the regular ol’ stuff. Here are three options for making veggie noodles:
1. Roast a spaghetti squash. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Halve a large spaghetti squash and remove pulp. Place side by side in a baking dish with cut side facing up. Pour water around the arranged squash, then bake in oven for 60 minutes. Upon removing squash from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes before handling. With fork, scrape flesh of squash to separate into pasta-like strands, placing in large bowl. Discard squash shell. Divide squash pasta evenly among plates and top with pasta sauce, veggies, pesto or other desired toppings.
2. Make zucchini ribbons. This option is easy and budget-friendly, making it a no brainer for making quick veggie pasta. Using a regular vegetable peeler or julienne peeler, peel a zucchini or yellow squash just as you would when removing the skin, but continue pulling the tool end to end, making ribbons that will serve as your pasta. Top with your favorite pasta toppings and serve.
3. Invest in a spiralizer. One of my favorite tools is the Paderno World Cuisine Spiral Vegetable Slicer (find it at Williams-Sonoma or on Amazon). For around $40, the versatility of this tool is well worth its price tag. I use mine to slice fresh apples for a breakfast bake and peel zucchini or squash to make veggie pasta. You can also use it to make curly or sliced potatoes and bake them for homemade fries.
Since my celiac diagnosis in 2010, I have done some serious legwork on gluten-free pastas, discovering the best tasting ones and the options that work best in particular dishes. Since gluten can cause a host of digestive issues, I’ve also found these options are much easier to digest. Made from rice, quinoa, corn and even black beans, here are a few of my favorites:
Ancient Harvest: Elbows, linguine, spaghetti, rotelle, shells, and garden pagodas quinoa.net
Schar: Multigrain penne rigate, tagliatelle, anellini, and spaghetti schar.com
BiAglut: Variety of pasta, including fusilli, penne, ditalini, and shells (Also wheat-, milk-, and egg-free) biaglutusa.com
Jovial Foods: Brown rice pasta, including spaghetti, penne, and fusilli (NOTE: Not all Jovial Foods products are gluten-free, so be sure to check labels!) jovialfoods.com
Tinkyada: Brown rice pasta, including elbows, fettucini and lasagne noodles tinkyada.com
Choose Better Toppings
In the same way a salad bar can turn healthy greens and veggies into a calorie- and fat-laden dish, pasta toppings can turn an otherwise sensible dish into a not-so-healthy option. Nix cream and butter sauces, opting for fresh pesto or tomato sauce instead. Top it off with asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, artichokes and other healthy additions that have been lightly steamed or sautéed in extra virgin olive oil.
I’m curious: What are your favorite healthy pasta recipes? Send me an email! In the meantime, you’ll find one of my favorites below.
Spaghetti Squash Noodles
with Puttanesca-Style Topping
makes 4 servings | gluten-free
• 1 large spaghetti squash
• 1 cup water
• 2 cans albacore tuna, drained
• 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
• 1/3 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
• 1 Tablespoon capers, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
• salt and pepper, as desired
• 1 Tablespoon olive oil
• Parmesan cheese, as desired
(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
(2) Halve spaghetti squash and remove pulp. Place side by side in a baking dish with cut side facing up.
(3) Pour water around the arranged squash, then bake in oven for 60 minutes.
(4) While squash is baking, combine tuna, tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, basil, salt and pepper in a large bowl, stirring to evenly combine.
(5) Upon removing squash from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes before handling. With fork, scrape flesh of squash to separate into pasta-like strands, placing in large bowl. Discard squash shell.
(6) Divide squash pasta evenly among four plates, then top with tuna mixture. Top with Parmesan cheese if desired, then serve.
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.