Pasta gets a bad nutritional rap sometimes, but it can be a healthful choice—especially if you choose whole-grain pastas, such as those made from whole wheat, spelt, buckwheat, and quinoa, which are rich in fiber and also provide some iron, protein, and B vitamins. Of course, pasta can also be a recipe for weight gain, if it’s consumed in oversized portions or drowned in a heavy meat, cream, or butter sauce. That’s not the case with these eight dishes, which are flavorful, packed with nutrients, and relatively low in calories. From delicate shellfish fettucine to bow-ties swimming in bulgur, these recipes are as healthful as they are satisfying.
Mushrooms are low in calories—about 20 in one cup of raw mushrooms—and can be a good source of vitamin D, if they’ve been exposed to sunlight (in fact, they’re the only vegetarian food that can manufacture this vitamin). While there’s no meat in this dish, the earthy mushrooms combined with textured vegetable protein give the sauce a heartiness that even committed carnivores will find satisfying.
The hidden nutrition gem in this delicious pasta dish is the spinach, which is packed with numerous vitamins and minerals—including B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, and iron—plus is rich in the carotenoids beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The mussels supply low-fat protein along with vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients.
Nothing says Sunday family dinner like spaghetti and meatballs. Our version—in which the meatballs are made with skinless turkey breast meat—keeps the protein and flavor with a lot less saturated fat than traditional meatballs made from pork or beef. We’ve also added healthful fiber by using oatmeal or whole-wheat sandwich bread as a binder rather than white bread.
“Healthy” and “alfredo” aren’t two words often uttered in the same sentence. But our recipe accomplishes just that, using fat-free half-and-half and low-fat milk for creaminess and adding in chicken breast for protein and peas for fiber, B vitamins, and zinc.
By pairing radiatore pasta—which looks somewhat like little pieces of cauliflower—with actual cauliflower, this recipe tricks your mind into thinking you’re eating more pasta than you really are while pumping you full of vegetables. The result: You’ll feel satisfied on fewer calories, plus get the benefits of the many nutrients in cauliflower. If you can’t find radiatore, short fusilli pasta or rotini will do.
This dish with a tongue-twister of a name is simpler than it sounds. It’s a classic Middle European recipe made of two main ingredients: bow-tie noodles (farfalle, or varnishkes in Yiddish) and kasha (roasted, hulled buckwheat kernels that are cracked into coarse, medium, or fine granules). Traditionally, a whole egg is stirred into the kasha to coat the grains so they remain separate instead of cooking into a mush; our version uses an egg white. Caramelized onions add big flavor with minimal calories.
The crabmeat in this flavorful pasta dish is a good source of low-fat protein as well as zinc, folate, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and the antioxidant mineral selenium. But crab is most notable for its vitamin B12 content, with 3 cooked ounces providing over 250 percent of the recommended daily amount.
A traditional Mexican or Cuban hash, picadillo is usually served on its own or over rice, but we’ve put it over pasta for a change of pace. The bite of the minced jalapeño peppers is tapered by the sweetness of the crushed tomatoes and raisins. When buying the fresh pork tenderloin for this recipe, look for cuts that are well trimmed of fat, with the meat a deep red color.