Quick Recipe Tips for Healthy Living

The National Pasta Association offers these tips and meal solutions to make healthy and quick cooking a reality.

  • When creating an impromptu pasta dish, remember that "less is more" and limit the number of ingredients that you use. Oil, garlic, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and hot pepper flakes is one delicious combination.
  • Be creative! Toss pasta with a little vegetable oil, tomato or broth for a simple sauce.
    Try a no-cook sauce by marinating tomatoes, chopped fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves in a little oil. Toss with hot pasta for a quick, delicious meal.
  • For a change of taste, try pureed roasted red peppers as a sauce.
  • Keep fresh herbs on hand as a quick and easy way to add a lot of flavor. Basil, which has a very fresh, delicate flavor, is best added to sauces at the last minute to maximize its flavor. Rosemary is woodsy, so it's especially suited to cream sauces and earthy ingredients, like mushrooms. Because sage is so pungent, it stands up well in heartier pasta dishes with veal and pork.
  • For a nutrient-packed meal, top pasta with chopped or mixed vegetables and a favorite bottled sauce.
  • When creating a sauce, start with broths or vegetables, and vegetable purees as a bases instead of cream and butter. Experiment with spices and fresh herbs to add interest and flavor. Experiment with ingredients that stimulate the texture of fat - without the fat. One way to slim down your favorite lasagne recipe, for instance, is to cut the quantity of ricotta cheese in half and puree it with two large eggplants that have been roasted and peeled.
  • Use a blender or a juicer to create your own combinations of vegetable purees. Then just bring to a simmer with your favorite herbs and spices and toss with pasta.
  • Pairing pasta with legumes, such as beans and lentils, or low-fat dairy products makes for protein-rich, but inexpensive and delicious meatless meals.
  • Instead of meat, try adding vegetables to a light tomato sauce for a plenty of flavor and crunch.
  • Add leftover pasta to your favorite soup. If you use dry pasta, simmer the soup for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
  • Experiment with new cuisines - purchase interesting-sounding ethnic spices and use them at home with more familiar ingredients, like pasta. For instance, try cilantro instead of basil in your favorite pesto recipe, or spicy chiles like Serranos or Poblanos in a traditional pasta dish with chicken.
  • Prepare a main dish pasta salad following the Food Guide Pyramid. Start with cooked pasta, add vegetables or fruit, top with a small portions of meat or cheese, and use only small amounts of salad dressing. Serve fruit for dessert.
  • Top pasta with leftovers - cooked vegetables, ground meat, chicken, or even a small amount of vegetable soup. Or combine with a low-fat salad dressings or spoonful yogurt.
  • Use fruit to balance spicy dishes. Tropical fruits like mangoes and pineapple temper hot flavors, and balance and brighten, as well. Apples work well with curries, and bananas add a delicious counterpoint to hot chile peppers.
  • Think texture as well as flavor. Add a toss of toasted pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts to a creamy pasta sauce for added interest.
  • Don't be afraid to substitute ingredients. If you plan to use zucchini in a pasta sauce, but the eggplant looks particularly good, substitute the eggplant.
  • Double your favorite recipes, and freeze the extra servings for later use. This works especially well with sauces and baked pasta dishes like lasagne.
  • Make mealtime more enjoyable by serving different, fun shapes - stars, letters, wheels and the all-time kid favorite ... spaghetti. Introduce young pasta eaters to finger-friendly sizes like ziti, rotini (spirals), and radiatore (radiators).
  • Keep leftover cooked pasta in the refrigerator for up to three days. When it's time to reheat, simply put it in a colander an then place it directly into boiling water for one minute.
  • For egg noodles and short goods, like elbow macaroni, shells, spirals, wagon wheels, mostaccioli, ziti, etc., 2 ounces uncooked is 1/2 cup dry and just over 1/2 cup cooked.
  • For long goods such as spaghetti, angel hair, vermicelli, linguine, etc., 2 ounces uncooked equals 1/2 inch bunch dry and 1cup cooked.
  • To make a single portion of pasta use approximately 1/2 cup dry pasta or measure 1/2 inch diameter of dry long pasta (1 cup or 2 grain servings cooked). Freeze 1/2 cup portions of favorite sauces to defrost and use as needed.
  • Use only small amounts of vegetable oils, margarine and vegetable cooking spray when preparing pasta dishes.