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3 Easy Ways to Make Pasta Healthier

Beef & Broccoli Pasta Bake

I wish I could say I was an adventurous eater as a child.

The truth is I loved my pasta just like the next kid. So it’s hardly surprising that my favourite comfort food meals as an adult are good old ‘spag bol’ and my mum’s tuna pasta bake.

And also not so surprising that when I was testing my blood sugar during my gestational diabetes that the two highest readings were for spag bol and tuna ‘dish’.

But here’s the thing…

I should have known better.

I could have avoided these ‘off-the-scale-high’ readings AND still indulged in a little late pregnancy comfort eating.

So today I thought I’d share my favourite easy ways to make pasta a little healthier so I remember the lesson myself!

3 Easy Ways to Make Pasta Healthier

1. Cool and reheat.
You know how ‘wonder white’ bread looks and tastes pretty much like white bread but has more fiber? Well that’s due to something called ‘resistant starch’. It’s a form of starch that tastes delicious but that our bodies can’t digest so it passes through like other fiber.

And the best part is to generate this ‘resistant starch’ it’s super easy. All you need to do is cook your pasta and allow it to cool. And hey presto some of the starch will change into the ‘resistant’ form. Then when you reheat the food it stays resistant. So there’s no need to eat cold pasta to enjoy the extra fiber.

2. Add some veg.
Mixing in some veg like the broccoli in the pasta bake below essentially just ‘dilutes’ the pasta so you’re eating a smaller serve. Of course clever toddlers (and adults) can easily bypass this ‘trick’ by choosing to eat around said veg.

3. Add fiber to the sauce.
A tip I picked up from a Stonesoup reader a while ago. By adding a few tablespoons of fibre like oat bran, psyllium or chia seeds (ground are best) to your pasta sauce, you up the fiber in the whole dish and this slows down how quickly your body digests the pasta and therefore reduces blood sugar spikes.

I’d love to hear from you…

What are your favourite comfort foods? Share in the comments below.

Beef & Broccoli Pasta Bake-2

Pasta Al Forno

‘Al forno’ sounds really cosy doesn’t it? My Italian is pretty much non existent apart from food and cooking terms so I might be wrong but I translate ‘al forno’ as ‘in the oven’ or baked. Apart from the deliciousness / comfort factor it’s hard not to love a good pasta bake for their convenient ‘do ahead’ nature.

This one was inspired by David Tanis from his book ‘A Platter of Figs’.

enough for 4
takes: about 40 minutes + cooling time

300g (10oz) short pasta
2 heads broccoli, chopped
450g (1lb) minced (ground) beef or chicken
4 tablespoons double or heavy cream
2 handfuls melting cheese, grated

1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Simmer pasta as long as the packet recommends. Set the timer so you can add the broccoli for last 2 minutes.

2. Drain pasta and broccoli.

3. While the pasta is cooking, heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook meat, stirring until browned. Season with salt.

4. Combine cooked meat, drained pasta and broccoli and cream in the pasta pot. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Refrigerate until you’re ready to cook (up to a week or so).

5. When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Scatter cheese over the pasta and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and everything is hot.

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low carb – replace pasta with an extra head of broccoli. Simmer 2 minutes drain and use as per recipe.

paleo – replace pasta with extra broccoli. Use a tomato based sauce instead of the cream (add a can of tomatoes to the beef and simmer to reduce down a bit). And use almond meal or grated brazil nuts insteead of the cheese. Give everything a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to keep it nice and moist.

gluten-free – use GF pasta, I like ones using quinoa flour OR see the low carb + paleo options.

vegetarian – replace beef with extra cheese and cream OR use cooked green lentils for more protein and fiber.

different veg – try cauliflower, asparagus or broccolini as well as or instead of the broccoli. Frozen peas will also work (no need to simmer first).

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Randall 8 March, 2016, 3:39 pm

    Mac n cheese, mashed potato, Mexican food, anything peanut butter and actually your ketchup baked beans are a super fav comfort food. I use your template recipe for hummus made with natural peanut butter without sugar and season with a salt free seasoning mix and green onions I usually use it on toast. Yum!

    Love your site and your simple approach to food and life. Congrats on the new little one.

  • Samantha 11 March, 2016, 12:34 am

    French fries, ice cream, and hot cereal such as oatmeal or oat bran are definite comfort foods for me. Pasta used to be a big one as well; however, we cut gluten several months ago. I’ve tried several GF pasta options, but they just aren’t the same. I made this dish last night and even though the pasta was GF, I still felt bloaty. Never thought I’d get to the point where old favorites just didn’t feel as good anymore. I’ve read other’s descriptions of this, but always thought, never me. After last night’s dinner I found myself thinking, this would be really good if I subbed some brown rice and cauli rice for the pasta. Thanks so much for helping us become better cooks and making it easier to make better choices!

  • Lysandra 15 March, 2016, 6:51 am

    My favourite comfort food when I’m ill is rice congee with fish & ginger. That tip about adding fibre to the pasta is fab!! Nor sure where to get any of those ingredients though. Psilium husk in the UK tends to come orange or lime flavoured and sweet (yuck!), but I can probably get whole chia seeds and ground them up myself in my spice grinder.

  • Giovanna 15 March, 2016, 9:29 am

    Cant wait to try these recpies. I am obsessed with pasta and it def was my comfort food as a kid. Obsessed with Mexican food, frozen yogurt, and french fries with chipotle ketchup. Mmm! Ran into your blog today and it’s awesome, keep up the great work. I also have a blog and would love to get your feedback :) xoxo

  • Lauren Deegan 13 April, 2016, 7:51 pm

    I was so happy to even read the title because ever since I have embraced healthy eating I have had to forego pastas and sadly I love pastas. Thanks for the great advice.

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