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Healthy Pasta Choices For Your Table

October 3, 2014
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LinguineOctober is national pasta month and what better time to try some healthy pastas? Even if you don’t know your spaghetti from your fettuccine there’s a healthy way to enjoy pasta. If you’re on a diet or have particular health problems be sure to check labels carefully.

The common macaroni and cheese has long been a favorite with both kids and adults. It’s quick, it’s easy to make and, if you choose wisely in creating it, versatile and healthy. It can be a side dish with fish or meatloaf, or main dish in a casserole, or as macaroni salad at a picnic or potluck.

With the mention of healthy one thinks of whole grain and for pasta lovers this often means Ronzoni brand pasta. Advertised as “whole wheat, plus flax, rye, oat, barley, corn, triticale and buckwheat” the 7-grain is available just in fusilli and spaghetti. However their “Healthy Harvest” is in more varieties. This is the leading brand of whole rain pasta for a reason – it cooks up light and great tasting. It’s a blend of durum and semolina (that’s good for healthy!) and is naturally low in fat cholesterol and sodium. For those that have an issue with diet, this can be a factor in having, or not having, pasta.

Dreamfield is another tasty option, toted as the solution for diabetics who need to watch blood sugar or those dieting for weight loss. Diet and recommendations mean little if it doesn’t taste good – and this is pasta that tastes good. The 5 grams of digestible carbs, 5 grams of fiber and glycemic index of 13 are all great for health but it still needs to taste good to be a part of the meal plan! Especially for those where the adults are following a diet but children eat the meals too, starting with these healthy pastas can mean the children benefit also!

Barilla is brand name pasta that has focused on making pasta healthy. Tasty and healthy, nutritional information shows that with ¼ pound ground beef 100g of their PLUS pasta has 21g protein, 10g fat and 190mg Omega-3. With ½ cup broccoli added it’s 3g, 0g, 1725mg respectively plus 3g fiber. Prepared with 3 ounces of salmon there’s 22g protein, 4g fat and 1725mg Omega-3. This offers three nutritious ideas with one easy to prepare pasta that is easily available at many supermarkets.

For many the opportunity to purchase whole grain is challenged by the economic downturn. Many are changing to “knock off” or lower priced brands to stretch their food dollars. One of these that rises to the challenge is the Value Time brand from Topco Associates, LLC. This was formulated as a co-op with, among other stores, Piggly Wiggly. Available at many stores as well as in large value bags at stores such as GFS Marketplace, the Value Time meets the cost, nutrition and taste for today’s busy families. A 1 ¼ cup serving of their wide egg noodles has 2g fat, 60mg cholesterol, 42g carbs, 9g protein and 220 calories.

Kraft foods has long been a familiar name when it comes to pasta, not only the macaroni and cheeses but also the pasta salads and “spaghetti classics dinner.” If there was a criticism it would be in the sodium content which could be a factor for those watching their sodium intake.

Need a refresher course to the types of pastas? There are many types of pasta but the most familiar include:

Angel hair – thin, delicate pasta that does best with equally thin, delicate sauces. This is also a good choice for breaking to add to soups, salads or stir fry.

Egg noodles (medium) are typically corkscrew shaped and do well baked, cooked in soups or salads or paired with cream, tomato, cheese or meat sauces. There is also a wide egg noodle available that is much the same, and used the same but more popular to use in casseroles.

Elbow macaroni is very familiar as the base of macaroni and cheese, macaroni salad and a host of stir fry and other dishes. Popular with butter or cheese sauces, tomato sauce with or without vegetables or a meat based sauce these are popular in a variety of settings.

Fusilli is long spiral shaped spaghetti that does well in casseroles or with a variety of sauces.

Jumbo shells are wonderful when stuffed with cheeses, meat or vegetable mixes of a wide variety. Popular in the small variety as “shells and cheese” boxed meals, the large variety stuffed is a heavenly variation.

Lasagna is most commonly used in casseroles layered with sauce, cheese, vegetables and/or meats. Try it with rich baking sauces such as a traditional Bolognese style sauce.

Linguine is flat shaped pasta that is nice as a main dish or for salads or stir fry dishes.

Manicotti is another pasta that is often stuffed with a meat, cheese or vegetable mixture and topped with a variety of sauces then baked. Three Cheese manicotti is a heavenly treat for the best of company.

Penne is round pasta cut at an angle and is best when combined with chunky sauces, chunky meats or cream sauces. They hold up well for baked dishes as well. Like the corkscrew pastas it’s also good with refined dairy based sauces or cream sauces.

Rotini is small spiraled pasta that does well with meat sauces as well as cheese or vegetable sauces. Like the other pastas with many twists or spirals it allows the sauces to get in and around the pasta, holding flavor in each bite.

Spaghetti is America’s favorite and most versatile shape. Explore beyond tomato sauce with it – the tastes are many!

Thin spaghetti is thinner than regular spaghetti and similar to vermicelli. Great with a variety of sauces.

Tortellini is ring shaped typically served as a stuffed pasta with broth or cream sauce.

Vermicelli is similar to but thinner than spaghetti. Equally versatile with sauces, salad or stir fry.

Ziti is medium tube sized pasta best with chunky sauces or meat dishes, baked dishes and stir fry. Good with light tomato sauces with or without diced vegetables as well as dairy or oil based sauces.

It doesn’t have to be pasta month or World Pasta day to enjoy pasta. Explore the tastes, variety and many ways pasta can add to a healthy diet.

Did you know….Don’t rinse pasta unless you’re preparing a cold dish or not planning on adding a sauce to serve immediately. If either of those are planned rinse and drain well. Use plenty of water and don’t overcook.

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