We have been wanting to write up a post on cooking healthy pasta – tips and tricks that we have learned over the last year and use in our own kitchen! We are posting these tips because pasta can be a very frugal and affordable way to eat and feed a large family for less especially! Plus, there can be these awesome pasta sales and coupons for all types of pasta: regular or wheat and in a dozen different shapes. But the question we are continuously asked is that no matter how frugal the pasta is, how can you make it into a healthy meal?
No matter the pasta stock-up supply you may have on your shelf, you can do a few simple tips to cooking a healthier meal with your cheap pasta! This may also make it a little easier to serve those affordable pasta dishes more often!
We have learned most of these tips from The Doctor Oz show and we started implementing them immediately as they are so easy!
Tip #1: Cooking Healthy Pasta Just by Cooking Under Al Dente
Cook your pasta until right before Al Dente! Why? Well, this is a healthier way to cook the pasta as when you cook the pasta to it’s very soft form, the sugars have been broken down for you and you get a high spike in your glucose levels. When cooking to just under al dente, you do not experience such high glucose spikes. This is good for anyone to consider when eating, not just diabetics! It will also leave you fuller longer, which means not needing to eat as much (which saves money) and not having to refuel on food again so quickly.
Neither one of us are health experts, just a frugal family trying to eat as healthy as we can on our tight budget, so we will leave further explanation to the following sites:
- Healthology.com (Pasta Cooked To Al Dente)
- BrightOnYourHealth.com (Many details on Pasta Cooked To Al Dente)
How do we ensure cooking this way: I boil the water first, then I dump all of the pasta into the boiling water and set the timer for 1 minute under the recommend Al Dente cooking time. Most pasta boxes will give 2-3 recommended cooking times – we just choose the shortest and cut another minute off!
Tip #2: Dashing Cooked Pasta With Balsamic Vinegar
We love this one! We literally do this every time we cook pasta, and the kids have no idea (and they hate vinegar because they can smell it on our salads!). This recommendation comes right from Dr. Oz.
From the Dr. Oz Show HERE:
Vinegar’s acetic acid slows down how quickly you digest and absorb glucose from starch; this helps to control hunger and makes you less likely to eat later. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a starchy dish to stabilize your post-meal blood sugar.
As soon as we are done cooking, we throw the pasta in a bowl and toss with a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, then continue the preparation like normal! We even do this in the kid’s Annies Organic Mac and Cheese before adding the cheese sauce 🙂 Shhhh!
Tip #3: Mixing Fresh Veggies to “Expand” the Pasta
We’ve been doing forms like this for a while, but our ideas expand as time goes on for tips on how to expand the pasta! 🙂 We recently watched the Dr. Oz show where he had Hungry Girl on the show and she was giving ideas on how to “expand” your pastas with fresh veggies.
Hungry Girl’s Mac and Cheese made with 1/2 elbow macaroni and 1/2 cauliflower.
Again, it was something we already were doing, but the list of items we are adding is continually growing. It is a brilliant idea to add veggies to your pasta and slip it in for the kids to eat and for the family to eat healthier without anyone really noticing the difference! The newest veggie idea that we got from Hungry Girl was adding cauliflower to your elbow, rotini, etc. shaped pastas! FABULOUS!
After adding your “fresh veggie expanders” then just prepare like you normally would or the recipe that you were going to do originally!
So, with this in mind, here are some ideas that we have now on veggies to add to pasta to “expand” it! But we want to expand this list too, so share any ideas that you might have in the comments below.
- Fresh Tomatoes (all types!)
- Carrot Shreds
- Zucchini Shreds
- Sweet Pepper strips thinly sliced for spaghetti or in chunks for shape pasta
- Broccoli chunks
- Cauliflower chunks
- Replacing half (or all if you have enough!) of your spaghetti with 1 spaghetti squash.
- Fresh herbs are a nice addition too for some extra healthy spice
- What other ideas do you have?
Our family can eat 2 boxes of spaghetti/pasta each meal, so by doing any of the above, it means 1 box and then a good serving of veggies quite easily!
Depending on the dish, we also add beans for a cheap healthy protein too! It actually works well!
We hope this post and these 3 Simple Tips to Cooking Healthy Pasta will help your family to eat a bit healthier while on a budget and incorporate that affordable pasta. You can literally do all three at each pasta meal you make. But even if you don’t incorporate the veggies, the first two are simple and will make a big difference while not costing extra (or at least verry minimally as a cheap bottle of balsamic vinegar will go a very long way!). Share with us any tips you have on cooking health pasta!
Also, don’t miss our Dr. Oz section to find Dr. Oz recommendations for less!
Photo Credits: LucioRestaurant.net, Cafemom.com, DoctorOz.com, StartCooking.com
Hi Alex & Cassie!
Grazie for the link on cooking pasta al dente. It is important for health & taste. Your website looks great, look forward to reading more. I totally advocate living thrifty. With 4 kids it is a must for me.
Continued success, Mary @ Brightonyourhealth
Thank you Mary and welcome to our site! We are glad you are here. Thank you for your diligent work on a thorough explanation on cooking pasta al dente too 😉
Hey, that’s great. Never heard of the first two. I will be trying them…though I already like my pasta pretty “toothy,” so I’m not far off from the first anyhow. 🙂
I actually like the taste of pasta when it is “toothy” too. After several years, I never really knew that there was different ways of cooking pasta and I think I always cooked it way too much as I thought it is better to be thoroughly cooked! 🙂
I really learned a lot with this post. Thank you for taking the time to teach us healthy techniques in such an inhealthy society. I will also be making the cauliflower macaroni tonight.
Awesome to hear Ashley! We want people to save money, but not to the detriment of health! Let us know how your cauliflower macaroni turned out! We Also used cauliflower – but instead made a cold pasta salad with it tonight, here’s what we did:
Wheat Spaghetti as this was the pasta on our shelf that needed to be used next 😉 (broken into pieces)
Cauliflower pieces (steamed and cooled)
Mixed it all together and it was so simple and delish! I love the versatility of pasta and how to make it healthier!
Love your site — came across it on a google search trying to nail down what the vinegar tip was. I am always getting bits of Dr. Oz’s tips, and his site is too gadgety for me (and my computer!); very frustrating to know there’s a good tip out there if only you could get it!
Jicama is an under-used but tasty vegetable that I use in salads—both pasta and other types.
Thanks for the balsamic vinegar tip—I had not heard that before and will definitely start doing that!
Hmm… we haven’t tried Jicama, but this sounds good! I am going to keep my eyes peeled for a deal on fresh Jicama and try it next time. Thanks for the tip!