Dieters, don’t despair: You don’t need to swear off pasta in order to lose weight. The popular Italian dinner dish is often viewed as a fattening food that’s high in carbs and calories, but Livestrong notes that there is no need to fear pasta. You can enjoy it and still achieve your weight loss goals so long as you follow a few simple steps.
Always choose whole-grain versions, which have a high fiber content that will fill you up quickly, and measure your pasta to help with portion control. Livestrong writes that you should always cook your pasta al dente, choose tomato-based sauces over ones that are creamy, and include 1 to 2 cups of vegetables. These five recipes follow Livestrong’s suggestions, resulting in healthy, low-calorie pasta dinners.
1. Spaghetti with Spinach in a White Wine Garlic Sauce
Skip the heavy cream, butter, and cheese, and prepare spaghetti with spinach in a white wine garlic sauce, a vegan-friendly dish that incorporates fresh produce, a light sauce, and fragrant seasonings. You’ll get a heavy dose of several nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, in Kim Barnouin’s recipe, which is in the cookbook Skinny Bitch: The Everyday Cookbook and can be found via PopSugar. One serving has 228 calories and 7.8 grams of fat.
- 1 box thin spaghetti, uncooked
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
- 5 medium white or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups vegetable stock, divided
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces fresh baby spinach
- 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped into large pieces
- ½ cup white wine
- Parsley leaves, to garnish
Directions: In a large pot, boil water over high heat and cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and the mushrooms, and sauté 5 to 8 minutes until caramelized and golden. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook 1 additional minute. Stir in 2 tablespoons of stock and cook until stock is absorbed. Move the mushrooms to a small bowl. Add another tablespoon of the oil to the sauté pan and the onion. Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown. Stir in garlic, and sauté 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Spoon the onion and garlic mixture into a small bowl. Return the pan to the stove over medium-high heat and add the remaining oil. Add the spinach and sauté until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the stock and cook until absorbed. Return the mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Then add the tomatoes to the pan with the spinach and cook over medium-high heat. Add the white wine and cook until reduced by two-thirds, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining stock and cook for 5 minutes, until the sauce begins to reduce and thicken. Top the pasta with sauce and toss to coat.
2. Four-Cheese Pasta with Cauliflower
Bold flavors and creamy textures abound in this four-cheese pasta with cauliflower. Self’s recipe via Epicurious yields 7 servings, with each containing 235 calories and and 9 grams of fat.
- 1¼ cups skim milk
- 2 tablespoons light cream cheese
- 1½ tablespoons whole-wheat flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
- ¾ cup shredded cheddar
- ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- ¼ cup shredded Parmesan
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 4 cups cooked whole-wheat spiral pasta
- 2 cups chopped cauliflower, steamed
Directions: Cook pasta according to package directions. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream cheese, flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne, if desired. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a slow boil, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in remaining cheeses and mustard until cheese melts. In a bowl, toss pasta with cauliflower; pour cheese mixture over top; stir. Divide pasta evenly among seven bowls; serve immediately.
3. Angel Hair Pasta with Fresh Shiso-Herb Mix
The Los Angeles Times’ angel hair pasta with fresh shiso-herb mix is a light dinner dish that gets its great flavor from a wide array of herbs and spices. Each serving contains 142 calories and 4 grams of fat. Shiso leaves, which are frequently used in Japanese cuisine, contain iron and calcium, according to Kitazawa Seed Company, and taste like a combination of spearmint, basil, and cinnamon.
- 4 ounces angel hair pasta
- 1 tablespoon best-quality olive oil
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup loosely packed torn shiso leaves
- ⅓ cup snipped chives (½-inch pieces)
- ⅓ cup loosely packed torn parsley leaves
- ⅓ cup loosely packed torn basil leaves
Directions: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook just to al dente, about 3 minutes or according to package directions. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving one-half cup of the cooking liquid. Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Toss the pasta with the olive oil, lemon zest, and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the shiso, chives, parsley, and basil and toss to distribute evenly. Add the cooking liquid to moisten the pasta as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
4. Caramelized Onion Lasagna
Whole-wheat noodles, sweet onions, portobello mushrooms, spinach, and Gorgonzola cheese create a nutritious lasagna dish that’s filled with vibrant flavors. Eating Well’s recipe yields 9 servings, each with 345 calories and 14 grams of fat.
Caramelized onion lasagna
- 8 ounces lasagna noodles, preferably whole-wheat
Caramelized onion filling
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
- 4 medium portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, diced
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Spinach and cheese filling
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 2 cups nonfat ricotta cheese
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- ½ teaspoon salt
White sauce and topping
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package directions. Drain; return the noodles to the pot and cover with cool water. To prepare onion filling, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and very soft, about 25 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add wine and 1 teaspoon salt and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat; stir in pepper. To prepare spinach filling, place spinach, ricotta, basil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor and process until smooth. To prepare white sauce, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir until bubbling, about 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in milk and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking, until the sauce has the consistency of thick gravy, about 1 minute. Add Gorgonzola and gently whisk until it is melted. Remove from the heat. To assemble lasagna, coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Drain the noodles and spread out on a kitchen towel.
Spread ½ cup white sauce in the prepared pan. Place a layer of noodles over the sauce. Spread half of the spinach filling over the noodles and top with one-third of the onion filling. Evenly spread ½ cup white sauce over the onions. Repeat with another layer of noodles, the remaining spinach filling, half the remaining onion filling, and half the remaining white sauce. To finish, top with a third layer of noodles, spread the remaining onion filling over the noodles, and then spread or dollop the remaining white sauce on top. Sprinkle with walnuts and basil. Bake until hot and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
5. Alfredo Light
Livestrong estimates that fettuccine alfredo from a restaurant can contain as many as 2,940 calories. You can drastically reduce your pasta’s calorie count by making Allrecipes.com’s alfredo light, which has 292 calories and 4.1 grams of fat per serving. Feel free to throw in additional veggies, such as carrots, peas, cauliflower, and squash.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 16 ounces dry fettuccine pasta
- 1 (16-ounce) package frozen broccoli florets
Directions: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden brown. In a small saucepan, stir together milk, chicken broth, flour, salt, and pepper over low heat until smooth and thick. Stir into onion mixture.
Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water. Add broccoli to the pasta for the last several minutes of cooking. Continue cooking until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta and vegetables, and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with sauce. Serve.