No matter where you’re from, pasta is one of the most universally adored foods, and a staple in many cultures’ cuisines. Even though it’s a versatile, simple comfort food for many of us, pasta has gotten a bad rap as a high-carb, high-calorie food presumably lacking in nutritional density. Fortunately, you can eat your spaghetti with gusto: your pasta dinner can actually be a healthy and satisfying meal whipped up without too much fuss. We’ve curated six creative, delicious and healthy pasta dinners that you can enjoy over and over again.
Quick, easy and totally satisfying, this basic spaghetti carbonara with seasonal Spring peas features whole wheat spaghetti instead of regular white spaghetti. While regular spaghetti is made from refined wheat stripped of its outer bran and inner germ, whole wheat spaghetti retains some of these nutritious components. The result is a slightly chewier and more nutrient-dense option with more fiber, vitamins and minerals. When making any simple recipe like a spaghetti carbonara, swap out white pasta for 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain pasta for a more nutritious bowl that is just as delicious.
This hearty chicken dish features bright Mediterranean flavors on a bed of whole wheat penne pasta. Whole wheat penne provides more fiber and micronutrients than regular unfortified pasta, so there’s more nutritional bang for your buck. Whole wheat penne also has a hearty texture and requires a bit more more chewing than its white wheat counterpart: studies have shown that the longer you chew, the greater your sense of satiety (and the less you end up eating!).
Move over microwave meals, this whole wheat fusilli dish makes for a warming, filling pasta dinner fit for the whole family. Ninety-percent lean ground beef fortifies this dish with a major boost of protein, while mushrooms and carrots provide more than two servings of veggies per bowl. As with any pasta dish, make sure you watch your portions and mind your second and third helpings: One 2-ounce (dry) serving of whole wheat pasta, which makes approximately 1 cup of cooked pasta, has approximately 200 kcal and constitutes two of your daily grains servings according to the USDA Dietary Guidelines.
The star in this plant protein–packed bowl is the buckwheat noodle. Unlike the mild flavors of a rice noodle, buckwheat has a nutty, complex flavor profile that pairs perfectly with the brightness of peppers and broccoli. A 2-ounce serving of gluten-free buckwheat noodles provides 11 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, which, when paired with additional protein from tofu and fiber from fresh vegetables, is a satisfying combination of macronutrients that take longer to digest than regular wheat or rice noodles. This provides a steady stream of energy without the blood sugar highs and lows that sometimes come after a big bowl of plain macaroni. This craveable dish can be served hot or cold, so you can even have quick and easy leftovers for lunch the next day!
Veggies can be pasta too! This unique shrimp scampi dupe features spaghetti squash as a gluten-free spaghetti alternative. Easy to make and infused with flavor, spaghetti squash is 4–5 times lower in calories and 4 times lower in carbohydrates per cup than grain-based pastas, so if you are trying to actively cut calories or watch your carbs, this is the way to go. Not a spaghetti squash fan? Try zucchini or beet “noodles” as veggie-based alternatives.
If you have dietary restrictions such as gluten intolerance, or follow a vegan diet, you can still wholeheartedly enjoy a tasty bowl of pasta. This vegan soba noodle salad recipe features soba noodles as a gluten-free pasta alternative (just make sure to choose gluten free soy sauce if you’re avoiding gluten!) and tons of crisp, fresh vegetables. There are many gluten-free pasta options available in supermarkets, and in some cases, gluten-free options such as chickpea-based pasta can actually contain a significantly higher amount of protein and fiber than white and even whole grain pasta. The great news is that any of the recipes featured on Zipongo can easily be substituted with gluten-free pasta.