It’s no secret here at Oldways that we love pasta. It’s a pillar of traditional cuisines including the Mediterranean Diet, it’s a sustainable ingredient, it keeps you full and helps you maintain a healthy weight, and of course, it’s delicious.
New research shows that pasta isn’t just a craveable staple, but has unique health beneﬁts that make it a perfect carbohydrate addition to many healthy diets, including the Mediterranean Diet.
In a new randomized trial, published in the Journal of Nutrition and supported by Barilla, researchers examined the blood glucose response from consuming three diﬀerent foods made of the same ingredients – semolina wheat and water: pasta, bread, and couscous.
According to lead researcher, Dr. Francesca Scazzina, the study found, “Pasta, both spaghetti and penne, had lower blood glucose and insulin response than bread or couscous, even though they were made from the same ingredients and consumed in equal amounts. Additionally, pasta required more chews than bread or couscous, and also resulted in larger particles after mastication (chewing) and digestion.”
What does this mean? Not all carbs are created equal. “The way pasta is made creates a complex protein matrix that allows starch in pasta to be digested slower than other reﬁned grains like bread and couscous; ultimately, leading to a longer period of satiety, which may be a helpful tool for weight management,” says Dr. Scazzina.
There are so many good reasons to enjoy pasta! Ready to start cooking? Here are four delicious ways to level up your pasta meals.
Add Healthy Ingredients
Pasta can be the basis for nourishing and energizing meals when paired with the right ingredients.
Opt for vegetable- and olive oil-based sauces, instead of cream- and butter-based sauces. In addition to making your meal healthier, they will add great ﬂavor. Make a pesto with basil leaves, or with a green like arugula or kale. Roast vegetables and onions on a sheet pan, and puree for a “creamy” sauce. Make your own tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes, or no-salt-added canned tomatoes. In Italy, the classic aglio e olio is a beloved favorite, simply spaghetti tossed with olive oil and garlic.
Vegetables are pasta’s best friend. Add zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, onions and more. You can saute or roast them ﬁrst. Short on time? Simply toss a handful of spinach or another leafy green into your pasta dish just before it’s done.
For a boost of protein in your pasta meal, look to beans and legumes, as in this White Bean Pasta dish. Or, try pasta e lentichhie, pasta with lentils, for a hearty vegetarian meal. Seafood lovers will ﬁnd a wide array of delicious pasta dishes to make, from the classic spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) to this Whole Grain Pasta with Sardines and Swiss Chard.
Pair the Right Pasta Shapes with the Right Sauces
Fun fact: there are more than 400 unique pasta shapes! Did you know you can make pasta even more delicious by “marrying” the right shapes with the right sauces?
Longer strands of pasta, like spaghetti, cappellini, and fettucini pair best with tomato-based sauces and olive oil. Short and ribbed pastas like penne and rigatoni are best suited to pesto and Bolognese. Tiny pastas like ﬁdeo and orzo are best enjoyed in broths, soups, and pasta salads.
Check out the infographic pictured here, created in partnership with the National Pasta Association, to ﬁnd the perfect pasta pairing for your next meal.
Use Whole Grain Pastas
You’ll ﬁnd that most of the pasta recipes on our website are made with whole grain pasta. Why? Whole grain pasta has more ﬁber and many other essential nutrients, keeping you fuller for longer and contributing to an overall healthy diet. Plus, its rich, complex ﬂavor pairs beautifully with diﬀerent toppings and sauces.
A serving of whole grain pasta helps you reach your recommended 3-5 daily servings of whole grains. The average American eats less than 1 daily serving of whole grains per day—embracing whole grain pasta (one of the quickest cooking whole grain foods available) is one easy way to add an additional serving!
Over time, you may come to ﬁnd you prefer the nutty ﬂavor and hearty texture of whole grain pasta.
Embrace Global Flavors
Pasta is a beloved staple food around the world, and one of the best ways to jazz up your pasta meals is to look for inspiration from around the globe.
In Egypt, koshari is a dish made with elbow macaroni, lentils, chickpeas, crispy onions and more. In Mexico, sopa de ﬁdeos is a delicious, warming noodle soup. In Greece, orzo dishes are found throughout the country, served as a side dish, in casseroles, and in soups and stews. In Japan, buckwheat soba noodles are delicious, served warm, chilled, or in a soup. And these ideas only scratch the surface of all the wonderful pasta meals around the world.
Here are a few global recipes we love:
Feeling inspired? It’s time to make your next pasta meal! As Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, and founder of the True Health Initiative, said at the 2017 World Pasta Day gathering: ““You don’t have to eat pasta to have an optimal diet and optimal health, but you can. And since you can, why wouldn’t you?”
Want biweekly Heritage Diet information and recipes in your Inbox? Sign up for our Fresh Fridays newsletter by clicking the Subscribe button at the bottom of this page!