Swap basic noodles for quinoa, buckwheat, and more healthy pasta options that will please everyone—even gluten-free folks
If you’ve taken a walk down your supermarket's pasta aisle recently, you’ve probably noticed you now have way more options than traditional versus whole wheat, or ziti versus penne. Not only is that diversity exciting (how much macaroni can one really eat?), lots of these newer noodles—including quinoa pasta, spelt spaghetti, and more—have much more nutritional value than your basic white pasta, says chef and dietitian Sara Haas, R.D.N. Here’s how she makes the most of the new noodles. (Want to upgrade your carbs? Try these vegetable-based Spiralizer Recipes to Crush Pasta Cravings.)
Nutrition benefit: Lots of brands are gluten-free, so if you want to avoid gluten, this is a great choice. (Just check the label.) Make sure you’re picking a pasta that’s mostly made with quinoa—many list corn as the first ingredient. If quinoa is the primary ingredient, you’ll get the added fiber and protein of the superfood, says Haas. (It's one of The Best Carbs for Weight Loss.)
How to eat it: Swap it in any time you’d use regular whole wheat pasta. The flavor is mild and many people won’t taste the difference.
Nutrition benefit: Spelt has a similar nutrition profile to whole wheat. While it’s not gluten-free, some gluten-sensitive people can tolerate spelt flour.
How to eat it: Spelt has a nuttier taste than wheat. It works well with earthy flavors, says Haas, so try it with French or Italian sauces that include mushrooms, broccoli, onions, and garlic.
Nutrition benefit: If the noodles are 100 percent buckwheat, they’ll be gluten-free. And they have more minerals and more protein and fiber than white pasta, says Haas.
How to eat it: Traditionally, these go really well with an Asian flavor profile. Try peanut sauces, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, Thai sauces, cilantro, lime juice, and chili. If you cook them correctly, they’ll hold for a few days—perfect for prepping lunch in advance.
Nutrition benefit: This has tons of fiber, says Haas, so make sure to drink plenty of water with it! The serving size is also a bit larger than is standard for spaghetti.
How to eat it: Since this pasta tastes like black beans, pair it with foods you’d normally eat with beans. Try Mexican flavorings like cumin, cilantro, and lime juice. Southwestern spices and herbs work great too.
Nutrition benefit: Made from yam starch, these essentially have zero calories or carbs.
How to eat it: While some people use these as a replacement for pasta, Haas prefers to stir them into brothy soups that are packed with flavor. She also suggests tucking them into lettuce wraps or spring rolls, or pairing them with vegetables stir-fried in soy sauce and sesame oil.
Nutrition benefit: Spiralizing is an easy way to pack more vegetables into your diet.
How to eat it: One big advantage is that these noodles often don’t have to be cooked. Try lighter flavors, like garlic and oil with herbs and pepper. “Think of how you would dress a salad,” says Haas.
Nutrition benefit: Most are gluten-free (again, check the label).
How to eat it: These are a great neutral base, and hold up well to traditional pasta toppings and sauces.