Image by: Brynn
By Robert Spencer
When you’re strapped for cash, need to fix up a quick meal for you and your girl, or if you’re looking for something a bit healthier than ramen, pasta is a great to-to meal. However, most pasta dishes are packed with carbohydrates. If you’re not aiming to go running or cycling afterwards (“carb-loading”), it’s unhealthy to eat too many simple carbs for dinner.
However, if you’re like me, that won’t deter my obsession over Italian dishes. So my alternative is to opt for whole wheat pasta instead. I tried whole wheat pasta a few years ago and was so turned off by it that it was difficult for me to try it again. However, food manufacturers have really made improvements in the taste and texture.
It’s no longer gritty, dry, and gross. It’s also really good for you. Whole grains are a great source for complex carbs, potassium, and magnesium. The USDA also says that if you choose whole grains over those (tasty yet unhealthy) processed grains, you’ll reduce your risk for heart disease. The fiber found in whole grains will help fill you up also.
#1) Spicy South-of-the-Border Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is great because all you have to do is cook the pasta according to the box, rinse it in cold water, and toss it in a bowl with the rest of the chopped ingredients. Pasta salads make a great lunch (especially on hot days), and they make pretty good side dishes to dinners. Pair it with a great chicken bake to make an awesome healthy meal that you can use to impress your girl.
For this specific recipe, I recommend a couple cups of shell pasta or bow ties, a can of red kidney beans, fire roasted diced tomatoes (if you can find the kind with green chiles or jalapenoes, they add a great flavor), a can of black olives (sliced or whole) a bell pepper (chopped), a half a cup of chunky slasa, some cilantro, and a touch of Italian vinaigrette.
This recipe (with all of the ingredients) will top out at around 180 calories per serving.
#2) Salmon Pasta
Fish is great for your heart. Salmon is especially good for you and helps add a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. This recipe requires that you serve the noodles topped with salmon.
This recipe will need 4 pieces of skinless salmon fillets, salt, pepper, a box of noodles (I suggests egg noodles but whole grain linguine works great as well), a lemon, a couple teaspoons of poppy seeds, a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil, and a couple tablespoons of butter.
For the salmon, line a baking sheet with foil (I always line it with foil cause it cuts back on cleaning) then spray the foil with cooking spray. When you put the foil on, put it shiny side down to cut down on burning. Lay the fillet down on the pan (skinned side down), sprinkle some salt and pepper, and bake in a 450 degree oven for about 10 – 15 minutes (make sure to watch it so it doesn’t burn).
Cook the pasta according to the box, run it under cold water, then toss it with the rest of the ingredients (go for the butter first so that it’ll melt easier. Then place a serving on a plate with a piece of salmon across the top.
#3) Tomatoes or Peppers Stuffed with Orzo
Stuffed peppers (or tomatoes) are great because they are so versatile. If you’re feeling like Mexican, opt for some cooked ground beef and season it with taco seasoning. Add some corn, cooked orzo, and onions as well. Throw in some diced jalapenos for a kick and top with cilantro.
If you’re feeling like chicken instead of ground beef, try to mix up some buffalo seasoning sauce (1 cup of low fat sour cream, a half of a cup of Frank’s Red Hot, and a package of cream cheese) with a couple cups of shredded cheese and a cup of cooked orzo. Put a couple scoops in a hollowed out pepper and stick it in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes. Have it with some whole grain tortilla chips
#4) Everything but the Kitchen Sink
I suggest grabbing a couple boxes of different kinds of pasta so if you’re in a bind and need to make a healthy pasta recipe for you and your girl, you can match it well with what you have. Here are some pasta basics for a quick reference:
Image by: Fazal Majid
Rotini: spirals that are about an inch long, cooks for about 8 minutes, goes well with tomato sauce, pesto, and seafood
Image by: Sebastian Zurkuhl
Linguine: spaghetti length but flat noodles, cooks for about 10 minutes, goes well with tomato, pesto, oil, and seafood
Image by: Ragesoss
Penne: small tubes that are cut diagonally, cooks for about 10 minutes, goes well with chunky tomato sauces, any kind of meat, cream sauces, or in vegetable soups
Image by: Amy
Spaghetti: thin, round strands, cooks at around 10 minutes, goes well with tomato, pesto, meat, and seafood sauces, also comes thinner (called Angel Hair)
Image by: sherool
Elbow: small, c-shaped noodles, cooks for about 7 minutes, goes well with cheese sauces
Image by: Live on 001
Farfalle: looks like a bow tie, cooks for about 10 minutes, goes well with cheese sauces or oil
Pasta is incredibly easy to cook with. For the most part, you can just buy a box of whole wheat pasta, throw some sauce in a pot with whatever vegetables are in your fridge, and serve it with a chicken or fish fillet. You can even serve it with pork chops.