Healthier Pasta

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I know lots of people shy away from eating pasta because they think it is unhealthy, usually because of the carbs, the wheat, or the calories. But there can be a good side to pasta, too. The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBHF) cites research that shows eating pasta is associated with higher intakes of total fruits and vegetables and red vegetables in particular (THINK: tomatoes).

On their website, they explain that pasta can be the perfect vehicle for adding healthier vegetables into your diet—not just tomato sauce. It naturally pairs with high-fiber, nutritious and colorful vegetables like broccoli, red pepper, eggplant,
cauliflower, and spinach. The PFBHF suggests three ways pasta can help you add more vegetables to your daily diet:

  1. New Veggies– Pasta is ideal for introducing new vegetables to your family, particularly when you have picky eaters. It is also a great way to get your family to eat vegetables they wouldn’t normally eat alone. Have fun and experiment with different shapes and sizes to give old favorites a new twist.
  2.  Try Light Vegetable-Based Sauces – Pureed vegetable sauces are a snap to
    prepare and are a great replacement for heavy cream-based sauces. For an even simpler option, toss cooked vegetables with your favorite pasta and herb, moisten with vegetable or chicken broth and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Consider Pasta Salad as Your Main Dish – Pasta salads are easy to make and come together quickly. They can be hot or cold, use any produce you have in the house and toss with a store-bought salad dressing or homemade.

This recipe, courtesy of the University of Florida- Sarasota County Extension combines some of these suggestions.

Pasta with Vegetables and Lemon
 9 ounces angel hair pasta
 1 ½ cups chicken broth, low sodium
 1 tablespoon olive oil
 2 teaspoons cornstarch
 1 carrot, thinly sliced
 2 teaspoons lemon juice
 ¼ cup chopped onion
 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
 2 cups broccoli florets
 1 lemongrass stalk, finely chopped
 1 cup zucchini, sliced
 1/8 teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes

Cook pasta according to package directions. In a large non-stick skillet, sauté carrot and onion in olive oil until the onion has softened, about 2 minutes. Add broccoli, zucchini, and ½ cup of chicken broth. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Combine
the remaining cup of broth with cornstarch and lemon juice, and add to vegetables. Stir in ginger, lemongrass, and hot pepper flakes. Cook until the sauce has thickened slightly and the vegetables are crisp and tender. Serve immediately over cooked pasta. Serves 4.

A couple more suggestions for those pasta-avoiders…

  • Try whole grain pasta to increase your fiber (nutritional plus).
  • For those avoiding gluten or wheat there are many options of non-wheat pasta on the market these days made from rice, corn, and beans —give them a try.
  • As for calories, adding vegetables to the pasta allows you to fill up on more than just the pasta and sauce, thus—automatically making your serving of the pasta itself a little smaller– allowing you to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910.253.2610 or by email at cheryle_syracuse@ncsu.edu.