Baked pasta can be a delicious meal, and for many people it’s a great comfort food. Just imagine your favorite lasagna or stuffed shells! But just because baked pasta is delicious, doesn’t mean it has to be hard to prepare or unhealthy. Here are some tips to make your baked pasta perfect—healthy, easy and delicious.
1. Add Veggies
Although baked pasta is yummy, it can often be high in simple carbs and low in nutrients. One great way to help fix this problem is to add vegetables. Vegetables will both decrease the calorie count per serving and increase the number of essential vitamins.
If you’re trying to make your pasta in a hurry, you can slice up vegetables in a food processor instead of by hand. And if you’re really pressed for time, you can use frozen vegetables.
Vegetables such as carrots and onions will probably need to be sautéed before baking, or else they might still be crunchy while the rest of your pasta is getting overdone. Vegetables like spinach and mushrooms, on the other hand, can simply be baked along with the rest of the pasta.
2. Use Whole Wheat Pasta
Another way to increase the nutrient content of your baked pasta is to use whole wheat noodles. This does change the consistency and flavor of the dish. Some people don’t mind this change, but others find it unpleasant. You might try experimenting with a few different varieties of whole grain noodles before deciding whether you want to make your baked pasta with them, or whether you’d rather get your whole grains from a different source.
3. Add a Salad or Fruit
Other tips to make delicious pasta a part of a nutritious meal include serving it with a salad or fruit. Baked pasta often takes a long time to cook in the oven, and you can use this to your benefit. Prepare a first course of salad or fruit, and eat it while the pasta is finishing baking. Meals with multiple courses are classy, and eating fruit or vegetables before the pasta course will help you with portion control. If you’ve already gotten some salad in you, you aren’t likely to eat as much pasta.
4. Add Lean Protein
If you serve baked pasta with a salad or add vegetables to the pasta itself, you’ll get some vitamins and fiber. However, you’re still likely to be lacking in protein. You can remedy this by adding protein to the pasta itself. Try pan-frying some chicken breast and then baking it into the pasta. Alternately, add some high quality, lean hamburger or ground turkey to the mix. You could also try adding eggs in some form. These eggs can be scrambled, boiled or mixed into the pasta sauce. One delicious pasta recipe uses a sauce made with tomatoes, eggs, ground beef and sautéed leeks.
5. Use Fresh Herbs
Variety may be the spice of life, but spices are the variety of cooking. Adding herbs can help to turn a humdrum dish into a truly unique and delicious creation. Dried herbs are all fine and good, but when you can get fresh herbs (either from a store or grown in a window garden), it can really add a completely new element to your cooking. If you want to make the best baked pasta, fresh oregano, basil or rosemary may be just the thing you need.
6. Use Up Leftovers
Baked pasta dishes don’t just make good leftovers, they make good ways to use up leftovers. If you have some scraps of meat or a vegetable from a previous night, you can simply incorporate it into your baked pasta with no one the wiser. This can both help save you effort in chopping and help you use up your leftovers so they don’t go to waste.