If you’re thinking pasta isn’t part of a healthy diet, think again. The following pasta recipes are not only good, but also good for you! In two of the three sauces — light Alfredo and vodka — I substitute evaporated milk for heavy cream, making lo-cal versions of these rich popular classics.
See also: Take the healthy cooking trivia quiz.
Another healthy strategy is to add vegetables to the cooking pasta during the last few minutes. This is not only a great way to get in a serving or two of the five fruits and vegetables you need each day, but also a way to bulk up the pasta so you don't need as much.
Finally if you make these dishes with 100 percent whole grain pasta, you’ll be getting one of the five to six serving of the preferred whole grains you need each day. So if pasta has been off your list, add it back because:
Healthy Pasta Sauces+Vegetables+100% Whole Grain Pasta=A Healthy Diet!
Spaghetti with Spring Vegetables and No-Cook Avocado Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
This quick, no-cook pasta sauce is made with healthy avocado flavored with lemon juice, garlic and basil, and thinned with pasta cooking liquid. This quick sauce is a great source of potassium, vitamins C, K, folate and B6.
If you don’t have a food processor, just mince the garlic, mash the avocado, and mix the sauce by hand. You can also make this pasta sauce with one avocado. Just save and use more pasta liquid.
12 ounces spaghetti or linguini (whole grain or white, your choice)
4 medium carrots, coarsely grated
1 cup frozen peas
3 large garlic cloves
2 avocados halved and pitted
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup juice from a large lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a soup kettle. Using back-of-the-box times as a guide, add spaghetti and cook, partially covered and stirring frequently at first to prevent sticking, until just tender. Add carrots and peas to the boiling pasta the last few minutes of cooking. Reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, drain spaghetti and return it to the pot.
Meanwhile, mince garlic in a food processor. Add avocados and basil; process until smooth. Add lemon juice, olive oil and a sprinkling of salt; process until smooth.
Add sauce and enough pasta cooking liquid to the spaghetti to create a light, creamy sauce; toss to coat. Serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Fettuccini and Asparagus With Light Alfredo
Serves 4 to 6
To make this dish fully vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
You may not need the pasta cooking liquid to thin this creamy sauce, but you might want to toss some of it with the leftovers before storing them in the fridge.
12 ounces fettuccini (whole grain or white, your choice)
1 bunch asparagus, snapped, cut into 1-inch lengths, and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little extra
3 large garlic cloves
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup each: chicken broth and evaporated milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
Ground black or white pepper
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to boil in a large soup kettle. Using back-of-the-box times as a guide, add fettuccini and cook, partially covered and stirring frequently at first to prevent sticking, until just tender. Add asparagus to the boiling pasta the last 5 minutes of cooking. Reserving 1 cup of pasta water, drain fettuccini and return it to the pot.
Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until garlic is fragrant and golden. Whisk in flour and then wine and chicken broth; bring to a simmer and cook until thickened to sauce consistency that is neither too gloppy nor too thin. Whisk in milk and cheese, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper; simmer to blend flavors, a couple of minutes longer. Add sauce to drained pasta; toss to coat. If necessary add pasta cooking liquid to further moisten. Serve, sprinkling each portion with extra cheese.
Penne and Spinach a la Vodka
Serves 4 to 6
Of the three healthy pasta sauces, this is my favorite — a wonderful blend of creamy and tomato. Don’t forget to add the baking soda, which neutralizes some of the acid in the tomatoes and keeps the milk from curdling.
12 ounces penne (whole grain or white, your choice)
8 ounces (about 8 cups) baby (or coarsely chopped) fresh spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia
3 medium garlic cloves
1 cup each: vodka and chicken broth
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to boil in a large soup kettle. Using back-of-the-box times as a guide, add pasta and cook, partially covered and stirring frequently at first to prevent sticking, until just tender. Add spinach to the boiling pasta the last few minutes of cooking. Reserving 1 cup of pasta water, drain penne and return it to the pot.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add vodka; bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Add broth and tomatoes; return to a simmer and stir in baking soda. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer to pasta sauce consistency, about 15 minutes. Stir in evaporated milk and simmer to blend flavors, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Add 2/3 of the sauce to drained pasta; toss to coat. Serve, topping each portion with additional sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.
Also of interest: Should you consider a detox diet?