Carbohydrates had a rough year in 2015. While kale enjoyed another season of sweet success, bread, rice and pasta faced increased scrutiny from wary shoppers on a quest for svelte figures. But with the new year upon us, food industry experts believe carbs are ready for a big comeback — and we couldn’t be happier. Why?
Well, when you stick to the recommended serving size, pasta can be the foundation for nutritious and satisfying meals. It’s generally paired with nutrient-dense sidekicks, like fiber-filled vegetables and beans, heart-healthy fish, antioxidant-rich tomato sauce, and protein-packed cheeses, poultry and lean meats. Using whole grain pasta will add even more fiber to your diet and help meet the daily goal to make half your grains whole (as per the latest version of the dietary guidelines). Once you delve into the myriad different shapes (spaghetti, shells and orecchiette — just to name a few), that’s when the real fun begins. This month, celebrate pasta’s glorious return with these simple, comforting and budget-friendly recipes. (If needed, you can absolutely substitute a gluten-free pasta in any of the dishes below.)
Kale and Pistachio Pesto Spaghetti (pictured at top)
Pesto sauce is traditionally made using a combination of fresh basil and parsley leaves, but this version is packed with nutrient-dense kale, along with parsley and pistachios. Toss the sauce with whole-wheat spaghetti and twirl to your heart’s content.
Spaghetti with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella and Prosciutto
If you like your spaghetti creamy, this is the recipe for you. The smokiness of the mozzarella and prosciutto in this dish is a nice contrast to the freshness of the asparagus and basil.
Tricolore Penne Pasta with Chicken
Ellie Krieger cooks skinless chicken breasts with garlic, tomatoes and arugula to serve as a sauce for whole-wheat pasta. Be sure to save the pasta water so you can add it as needed for a wetter sauce.
Penne with Spinach Sauce
Giada De Laurentiis’ quick penne recipe works as a light main dish or a no-fuss side. Add a touch of cream cheese and goat cheese to fresh spinach for a smooth and tangy sauce.
Rigatoni with Chicken Thighs
Like avocados, chicken thighs are high in healthy monounsaturated fats. They’re also more affordable than skinless chicken breasts, so they’re an all-around smart addition to your weeknight dinner routine. Ree Drummond simmers chicken thighs in a homemade sauce before adding to rigatoni.
Pasta with Escarole, White Beans and Chicken Sausage
Ellie manages to pack a whopping 30 grams of protein into just one serving of this pasta dish with help from whole-wheat bow tie pasta, chicken sausage and cannellini beans. The escarole is key to adding a leafy crunch and, most important, fiber.
Spicy Shrimp Orecchiette
Top this adorable pasta (whose Italian name translates to “small ear”) with shrimp and red pepper flakes for a dinner that clocks in at just over 500 calories per serving.
Linguine with Tuna Puttanesca
Order puttanesca at a restaurant and it could cost you more than double (in dollars and calories) what it takes to prepare the dish at home. Food Network Magazine’s riff on traditional pasta puttanesca uses budget-friendly canned tuna, plus tomatoes, capers and Kalamata olives, and it is ready in less than 30 minutes.
Mushroom-Spinach Stuffed Shells
Fill jumbo pasta shells with an irresistible filling of spinach, mushrooms and three cheeses (part-skim mozzarella, low-fat cottage cheese and Parmesan). Then bake in a garlicky, fennel-seed tomato sauce until bubbly.
Squash and Spinach Lasagna
If you need to feed a crowd, this hearty lasagna is your best bet. Packed with butternut squash and spinach, this vegetarian main dish gets its creamy goodness from part-skim mozzarella and low-fat milk.
For more comforting pasta dishes, check out these recipes from our friends:
The Lemon Bowl: Whole Wheat Pasta with Sausage, Peas and Ricotta
The Mediterranean Dish: Easy Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage and Fresh Mozzarella
Dishing with Divya: Homemade Maca and Cheese
Taste with the Eyes: Red Lentil Spaghetti (gluten-free) with Cauliflower Rosa Sauce (vegan)
The Mom 100: Greek Chicken Pasta Salad
Big Girls Small Kitchen: The Best Broccoli Linguine
Creative Culinary: Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Goat Cheese
FN Dish: Baked Pastas > Every Other Pasta