The Pasta Pot

Healthy and simple to make, pasta may be the ultimate staple for every family kitchen. Although many moms have a ‘love-hate relationship’ with carbohydrates, they may want to consider adding a hearty pasta meal to their family’s comfort food menu. The complex carbohydrates in pasta provide a great fuel source plus lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

The nutritional quality of pasta, along with its taste and texture, depend upon the flour. Those made with whole grain flours, such as whole wheat pasta, are naturally the most nutrient-rich because the bran and germ of the grain have been left in. Most pasta is made with durum wheat, a hard wheat high in protein and gluten. Many of the pastas we are used to eating are made with semolina or farina flours in which the germ and bran have been removed, thus lowering the fiber and nutrient content. Judge the ingredient list for pasta in the same way you judge the ingredients on bread labels. Because most pastas are made from refined flour, ounce-for-ounce or calorie-for-calorie, they are less nutritious in fiber, vitamin E, B-vitamins, zinc, and folic acid than a whole wheat pasta. Check if the main grain on the ingredient list is whole or refined.

Here are some more words to look for when reading the label on the next pasta you purchase:

• Whole wheat means what it says – the whole grain.

• Macaroni means the pasta is made with semolina, farina, and/or flour made from refined durum wheat (in other words “enriched white flour”). Macaroni comes in many shapes: spaghetti, elbow macaroni, shells, etc.

• Flavored pasta includes vegetables, such as spinach and tomato, to add taste, variety, and nutrition to plain old pasta.

Consider eating pasta at least twice a week. Because it reheats so easily, pasta makes a great leftover meal. Makeover one of your pasta recipes one step at a time. Start tonight by trying a tomato-based pasta recipe that your kids will love – a pasta pot full of fresh vegetables in the sauce mix and served over whole grain pasta. Your kids can help with the preparation by measuring ingredients and adding grated cheese before serving.

Garden Primavera Pasta

Ingredients

12 ounces whole grain spaghetti such as Barilla Whole Grain Angel Hair Pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5 cups diced fresh tomatoes (3-4 medium tomatoes)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Cook pasta according to package directions. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook just until they begin to soften about 3 minutes. Stir in parsley, basil, (optional salt and pepper). Turn off heat. Immediately add the cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese, and toss gently.

Makes 4-6 servings.

About the Author

Guest Post by Kindy Peaslee, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach for EverydayHealth.com and its calorie counter tool (http://www.my-calorie-counter.com). She also loves creating family-friendly recipes at her personal nutrition site. (http://www.healthy-kid-recipes.com)