30 Healthy Pasta Recipes created by Registered Dietitians.
Need some inspiration to put all those boxes of pasta you’ve stocked up on to good use? Check out this list of delicious, healthy pasta recipes – there’s something for everyone: seafood pasta, veggie pasta, meat pasta, kid-friendly pasta and more.
When you think of comfort food, what do you think of? For me, at the top on the list is pasta. Really, any kind of pasta dish. And for Adrian and the kiddos, definitely pasta. The kids could eat pasta every day, 3 times a day – especially is it’s pasta with extra virgin olive oil topped with garlic salt and pepper with Rao’s sauce on the side and parmesan or cheddar cheese.
Before our world changed drastically with COVID-19, we had pasta night about once a week. But, now, pasta will be gracing our table 2-3 times a week, as we try to minimize our grocery trips and eat from the pantry and freezer to stretch how far our food goes.
When we did our first “stock-up” in preparation for school closures and stay-at-home orders, pasta was at the top of our list. And, I bet it was top on your list too.
WHY IS PASTA SUCH A GREAT FOOD?
- it’s comforting
- it’s filling
- it’s inexpensive
- it’s convenient
- it cooks quickly
- it’s tasty
- it’s versatile – there aren’t too many “bad” pasta combos
- served along with veggies and/or protein, it makes a perfectly balanced, healthy meal
- it can make a simple meal – or a more complicated one
- it can be casual – or you can fancy it up
IS PASTA GOOD-FOR-YOU?
Pasta has a bad reputation, one that’s completely unfair. Pasta is a perfectly healthy base to a meal, especially if you toss in fiber-rich veggies (for flavor and bulk) and satiating protein.
From a nutrition perspective, white pasta is rich in carbohydrates, but even white pasta has some fiber (2-3 grams), protein (8 grams), vitamins and minerals. And, if you want more a higher fiber pasta, try a whole grain or whole-wheat variety. And for higher protein (and higher fiber as well) choices, try out chickpea/bean based versions. Quinoa pasta is a great gluten free option that is high in fiber and protein and and brown rice pasta is a gluten-free pasta that is high in fiber as well.
All of this being said, nourish yourself during these times, without worrying too much about “ideal” nutrition. Most of us aren’t going to have nearly the same access to fresh veggies and fruit (or even frozen), as we did weeks ago. Yes, you want to eat as well as you can to keep your immune system strong, but don’t let lack of perfect nutrition stress you out during these already very stressful times. With an empty fridge and dwindling pantry, sometimes our favorite, most comforting pasta dish is the simplest: pasta with extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
LET’S GET TO THESE HEALTHY PASTA RECIPES.
Because I’m guessing we will all be eating pasta much more than we used to, I asked my Registered Dietitian friends and colleagues to share their favorite healthy pasta dishes, so we could all get some meal inspiration during these unnerving times.
Below are some of the healthy pasta dishes they shared. Many contain pantry staples (in addiiton to the pasta) and if they don’t, feel free to make substitutions based on what you have on hand (frozen spinach for fresh; canned mushrooms for fresh; frozen chicken fingers for fresh chicken breast; etc). Also, feel free to sub in any pasta you have on hand for these healthy pasta recipes.
I’ve broken the list down into:
- Seafood Pasta Dishes
- Meat/Poultry Pasta Dishes
- Vegetarian Pasta Dishes
- Vegan Pasta Dishes
I hope you find a few new family favorites in this list of 30 healthy pasta recipes!
SEAFOOD PASTA DISHES
Canned Tuna Pasta Recipe (above) via Create Kids Club. A healthy canned tuna pasta recipe that’s simple to make using tinned tuna and is finished in under 20 minutes. This canned tuna recipe is delicious served hot or cold and makes amazing leftovers!
Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole via Sarah Koszyk. Here’s a healthy twist on the classic and uses pantry staples. And this dish is made in just 1 pot! To make it kid-friendly, use fun-shaped noodles. You can use any shape noodles for this dish.
Clams with Quinoa Pasta (above) via Kit’s Coastal. If you can get your hands on some fresh clams, this is true “from the sea” comfort food. The combination of flavors is, well, perfect. White wine, lemon, clams, and fresh parsley. Kit is not a Registered Dietitian, but creates the most delicious seafood dishes, so I had to include a few of her recipes here.
One Pot Creamy Mushroom and Shrimp Pasta Recipe via Fad Free Nutrition Blog. This pasta dish is made in one pot for easy clean-up. This recipe looks and tastes like it came from a restaurant, but is ideal for busy weeknights since it’s done in a snap. The recipe uses frozen shrimp (another tasty reason to keep your freezer stocked with a few bags of shrimp). A vegan option is give too.
Shrimp Scampi with Spinach (above) via My Cape Cod Kitchen. Linguine tossed with sauteed shrimp and baby spinach in a garlicky, buttery, white wine sauce. This dish is bright, fresh and comforting.
20-Minute Paleo Shrimp Alfredo via Kit’s Coastal. This dish is dairy-free and gluten-free. Plus it’s ready in less than 2o minutes.
Easy Shrimp Pesto Pasta with Asparagus and Sun Dried Tomatoes (above) via The Foodie Dietitian. This easy shrimp pesto pasta with asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes is super easy to make for a quick dinner. This recipe uses store-bought pesto, so no need to pull out that food-processor.
Tuscan Tuna Bowls via Liz’s Healthy Table. Canned tuna is the star ingredient in these protein-rich Tuscan Tuna Bowls. Made with canned solid white albacore tuna, whole wheat pasta, baby kale, tomatoes, edamame, and avocado, this nutrient-powered bowl will hit the spot at lunch or dinner.
Lobster Mac and Cheese (above) via My Cape Cod Kitchen. Lobster is obviously not a pantry staple, however, if you can get your hands on some lobster meat, this dish is the ultimate in comfort food.
MEAT/POULTRY PASTA DISHES
Easy Lasagna Soup (above) via Sweet Cayenne. This dish doctors up some high-quality pantry staples by adding flavor and packing in nutrition with some key ingredients. It also uses chickpea pasta – this time in the form of a lasagna noodle, but you can sub regular lasagna noodles if you prefer. Easy Lasagna Soup contains italian chicken sausage, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato soup, kale (you can use any green), lasagna noodles and cheese.
Taco Pasta Skillet via Your Choice Nutrition. This meal is perfect for Taco Tuesdays – or any day of the week, really. It switches things up from the traditional tacos, but takes in all those same great flavors, foods and puts it in a one pot meal. Whole wheat pasta add in fiber, there’s plenty of veggies (including beans!), and lean beef. Easy to prepare and something the whole family will love.
Pasta with Turkey Meatballs and Homemade Marinara Sauce via Sarah Koszyk. This is a complete meal. You’ve got veggies from the sauce, carbs from the pasta, and protein from the meatball all in 1 delicious bowl! Sarah says the key to making a fabulous sauce is allowing it to sit and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The meatballs can be made with turkey or beef.
Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That Pasta via KeyVion Miller Nutrition. Pasta with canned tomatoes, black beans, chicken, spinach (you can sub frozen for fresh) and red onion.
Creamy Tomato Kielbasa Pasta Recipe (above) via Make Healthy Easy. This pasta dish uses many veggies – tomatoes, garlic, spinach, and basil – but in a rather disguised way since the tomatoes turn into the sauce and spinach cooks down so significantly. The creaminess in the dish is achieved from 2 simple ingredients: juicy cooked tomatoes and a small amount of goat cheese. That’s it! No butter or heavy cream needed.
Garlicky Ricotta Pasta via The Nutrition Adventure. A quick weeknight pasta dish loaded with vegetables and ground beef or lamb.
Southern-Style Pasta e Fagioli via Sweet Cayenne. This Southern-Style Pasta e Fagioli takes an Italian classic soup and merges it with the comfort food flavors of the South.
15-Minute Simple Pasta Recipe via Nourish Nutrition Blog. This 15-minute spaghetti is made with ingredients you probably have in your pantry, plus the Italian sausage. Double the recipe for dinner & leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
Healthy Lemon Carbonara (above) via Nourish Nutrition Blog. This healthy carbonara dish is just as good as the best versions you’ve had, it just has less added fat without skimping on flavor or creaminess. Not only is this carbonara recipe healthy and delicious, it can be made in just about 15 minutes.
VEGETARIAN PASTA DISHES
Pumpkin alla Vodka Pasta (above) via Dishing out Health. Pumpkin alla Vodka Pasta with golden mushrooms and ribbons of kale tossed in vegan vodka sauce. This healthy weeknight pasta recipe is perfect for easy dinners, and sure to become a family favorite. Pumpkin puree (bet you have some cans of pumpkin puree leftover from the fall, don’t you?) and coconut milk lend luxurious creaminess while keeping it completely plant-based. A dash of nutmeg adds sweet spice to bring out the essence of pumpkin. You can easily sub sautéed spinach, chard, or arugula in this dish.
Easy Healthy Pasta with Crispy Rosemary Chickpeas (above) via E.A. Stewart Spicy RD Nutrition. This is a gluten-free (uses chick pea pasta) and vegetarian pasta dish that is packed with the flavors of the Mediterranean.
Penne with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella via My Cape Cod Kitchen. Pasta tossed simply with tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. Drizzled with your best extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Don’t have fresh tomatoes or basil? Use a can of diced tomatoes and dried basil (or a cube of frozen basil or pesto).
Instant Pot Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese via The Foodie Dietitian. This recipe is easy to throw together, ready in less than 30 minutes and uses frozen butternut squash which provides a good source of fiber, potassium and magnesium, and excellent source of vitamins A and C. NOTE: you’ll need an Instant Pot for this recipe!
Orzo with Butternut Squash and White Beans (above) via My Cape Cod Kitchen. Roasted butternut squash tossed with orzo pasta and creamy, protein-rich white beans, topped with salty shaved parmesan and balsamic glaze.
Baked Pasta with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese via Foods with Judes. This recipe uses an easy homemade pasta sauce, but you can use your favorite tomato based sauce. If time is short, you can skip the baking step and toss the warm marinara (2 cups instead of 4 cups), Swiss chard, and goat cheese mixture with hot pasta, top with fresh Parmesan, and serve immediately.
Quick and Easy Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Pasta via Jessica Levinson. Sweet roasted red peppers and savory sun-dried tomatoes are the base of this creamy sauce that perfectly coats your favorite pasta. Ricotta cheese and chickpeas add a boost of calcium, protein, and fiber, making this a satiating meal that’s quick and easy for those busy weeknights.
Veggie Pasta Bake (above) via Bucket List Tummy. This Veggie Pasta Bake is a perfect easy and comforting vegetarian pasta casserole. With a variety of veggies and cheese, this vegetable baked pasta is great for feeding a large family, easy to freeze and reheat, and convenient for meal prep.
Creamy Spinach Artichoke Pasta (above) via Dishing out Health. This drool-worthy pasta dish with white beans is the ultimate vegetarian pasta recipe. Ready in just 30 minutes, this weeknight pasta will become a family favorite. The ultimate in healthy pasta recipes!
VEGAN PASTA DISHES
Meatless Mushroom Pasta (above) via Kiss in the Kitchen. This gluten-free, vegan pasta dish is packed with mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and cannelini beans in a balsamic vinegar and mustard sauce.
Broccoli Rabe and White Bean Pasta via Kelly Jones Nutrition. This broccoli rabe pasta is filled with satisfying flavors, rich in nourishing carbohydrates, plant based protein and many essential nutrients to keep you energized for your busy life. It’s also vegan – uses a nut-based “parmesan” blend, but you can use regular parmesan too (we always need real parmesan with our pasta).
Lentil Pasta Primavera with Frozen Vegetables via It’s a Veg World Afterall. This easy recipe uses lentil pasta, but use whatever pasta you have. Frozen veggies (broccoli and peas here, but use what you’ve got), canned diced tomatoes, oregano and garlic. That’s it.