Recipes | My Complete Go-To Dinner – Four Healthy Pasta Dishes
Growing up, we rarely had Pasta in our menu. Not that Pasta was easily available in India, it was non-existent in mom’s kitchen. The only recipe I could remember which remotely resembled today’s Pasta was our indigenous Daal Dhokli. Hmm…those delicate stripes of whole grain pasta…err…Dhoklis floating in spicy lentil broth…I would never trade my hot steamy bowl of Daal Dhoklis for any fancy pasta, not in the least.
But no matter how creatively you present these traditional recipes, children are children, they fail to notice.
As your children grow older, your sayings on the dinning table fall off and your food preferences are put to shelf.
So, for now Pasta it is.
Over the years of hits and misses in my kitchen, there are a few Pasta recipes which have come out winners and are accepted by both children as well as their parents whole-heartedly.
These carb foods are certainly not a very good option for a healthy meal, but then we can make these recipes healthier with a few tricks and twists. Cutting down on cheese, using whole grain pasta, increasing the ratio of vegetables to pasta and decreasing the portion size can surely go a long way in making these carb food a better meal option. And yes, swapping homemade fresh vegetable sauces with bottled sauces can bring in loads of extra nutrients into your diet.
Whole grain Pasta has come a long way in making a quick, guilt free and delicious go-to dinner. Though whole grain pasta takes longer time to cook than the regular white pasta made with refined flour, but the wait is worth. These pasta recipes are so versatile and easy to cook and these dishes never fail to impress your family and friends.
Good quality wholegrain pastas are now readily available in most of the super malls in India now. So much so, that companies are giving buy one get one free offers to increase the awareness towards these international cuisines. Do not get tricked in buying cheaper versions of locally sourced pastas which are made with refined flour.
1.Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Sun-dried Tomato Spaghetti
- 200 gms wholewheat Spaghetti
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 10-12 sun-dried cherry tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. Olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. chilly flakes
- 1/2 tsp. corn flour
- Salt as desired
- A pinch of sugar
Method; Roast bell pepper as explained here. Peel the roasted bell pepper, de-seed and chop them finely. Pulse chopped bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes, garlic cloves, into coarse paste. Mix corn flour in 2 tsp. of water. Heat Olive oil in a flat pan, pour bell pepper paste, 2 ladlefuls of water, add salt, sugar, chilly flakes and the corn flour paste in it. Simmer the pesto for 5 minutes and take pan off the flame. Cook Spaghetti in the similar way as explained above.
Pour the roasted bell pepper and tomato sauce over cooked Spaghetti and serve hot.
You could completely avoid roasted bell pepper and sun dried tomatoes if you wish and use the same amount of fresh tomatoes instead to make the sauce for this recipe. Normally tomatoes are first boiled and de-skinned before making the sauce, but I don’t like to loose the nutrients in the skin.
Do not forget to add extra ladles of pasta water (water in which pasta is boiled) in the recipe if you feel the sauce is to thick.
2. Healthy Spinach Pasta
- 3 cups boiled wholewheat elbow Pasta
- 2 cups shredded Spinach leaves
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- 1/2 cup grated cheese
- 3 tbsp. Olive oil
- 20-25 Almonds
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper powder
- Salt as desired
Method; Grind almonds with salt and garlic clove into coarse meal. Add shredded spinach leaves, diced tomatoes and grind again till the pesto is the consistency you like.
I keep it slightly grainy and like the spinach peeping out of the pesto.
Heat Olive oil in a large wok, do not let the oil smoke. Pour the spinach pesto and sauté for a few minuets.
Add cooked and drained pasta, pepper powder, grated cheese and take off from the flame.
3. Quick Tomato Pasta
- 3 cups cooked Fusilli Pasta
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. crushed roasted peanuts
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 tsp chilly flakes or garam masala
- 1/2 tsp. fresh or dried herbs
- Salt as desired
- A pinch of sugar
Method; Roughly chop all the tomatoes and grind into fine paste. Heat butter in a wok and pour tomato puree in it. Cook for 5-6 minutes, add chilly flakes powder, salt, sugar and herbs and mix well.
Cook pasta as per instructions on the pack or with a few cooking tips in this post.
Add cooked pasta in the tomato sauce and toss nicely to coat all the pasta with the sauce.
4. Breadcrumbs and Pasta Primavera
Pasta Primavera is a simple-to-prepare dish that has pasta and fresh vegetables of the season in it. You can use vegetables of your choice in this recipe. Carrots, tomatoes, fresh peas, onions and Broccoli go well with past Primavera. I got the idea of using breadcrumbs in Pasta recipes from here.
- 3 cups cooked Penne pasta
- 1 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup Olive oil
- 1 cup diced vegetables or more
- 1 tsp. dried herbs
- 1/2 tsp pepper powder
- Salt as desired
Method; Tear 5-6 fresh bread slices in small pieces and grind them for a few seconds to make bread crumbs. Toast the breadcrumbs in a hot pan till they turn golden in colour. Add a tbsp. of Olive oil in the toasted breadcrumbs and take off the flame.
Chop colour bell peppers into small pieces. In another vessel add cooked pasta, rest of olive oil, salt, pepper powder, dried herbs and stir well to coat each pasta with the oil. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a lager wok and stir fry dice bell pepper for a few seconds on high heat.
Reduce heat, add pasta, sauté for a few seconds and take the wok off from the flame. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs on pasta Primavera just before serving.
I add grated Parmesan cheese and bake for a few seconds to serve the dish to my children. But for me and DH, we like our Pasta without any cheese but with loads of crunchy veggies as topping.
Most of the times I add Indian spices and garnish to the recipes to suit our palate. My own Garam masala, coriander leaves and cottage cheese comes handy to replace the exotic herbs, parsley or feta cheese which are hard to find here.
Whenever I am cooking for friends or my children’s birthday parties these dishes never fail to impress. Versatile, easy to cook, these dishes don’t need any set recipe to follow. Yes, Pasta is a worthy go-to meal, confesses this forty something mom
- Always store a cup of water in which pasta is boiled, use it in the pasta recipe whenever you feel it is too dry.
- The starch in pasta water also helps in thickening the sauce and holds the pasta together.
- Do not add butter or oil while toasting the breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs will absorb all the fat. Instead add butter/oil after the breadcrumbs are toasted and done.
- Long strand pasta such as Spaghetti is mostly served with smooth sauces like pesto which will coat them evenly.
- Short tubular Pastas with funky shapes and curves are better served with chunky sauces or in cold salads.
- Skip the regular white pasta made with refined flour, opt for whole grain pasta which has more fiber.
- Garam masala gives a wonderful flavor and a spicy Indian touch to the Pasta recipes.
- Add one or two tablespoons of grated cheese in all the Pasta recipes above before serving to make it creamy & yummy.
- Add a carrot or two while making the pasta sauce for Spaghetti to increase the nutrition quotient in the recipe.
- Try this whole wheat flour white sauce Pasta recipe from here.