A Healthier Way to Cook Pasta

Thanks to go pilates Founder & Pilates Guru Sandra Brunner for this guest post.  Visit Sandra at www.gopilates.ca for group and one-on-one pilates instruction in Toronto.

Mmm... Pasta. Who doesn't love it? If we're being honest, we know it's not the best thing to be eating. But pasta can be a pretty decent carb. And depending on what kind you buy, it can actually have pretty good nutritional value.

I love pasta and could probably eat it every day. So I'm always searching for ways to make it better.  I've recently discovered some fantastic new pastas, as well as an absolutely delicious *new* way to cook pasta that helps retain more flavour and nutritional value as well as taking way less time and less water too!

Lets start with the pasta - if you are choosing good old regular dry pasta, it's still worth checking the ingredients list and nutritional value. Most are semolina wheat, sometimes with egg. Nutritional values of semolina pastas are often bumped up with added iron and minerals. If so, it's listed on the ingredients.

If you want more bang for your buck, or have gluten or wheat intolerance issues, there are some great options out there. Rice pasta has been around for simply ages. Its okay, but not my favourite. Corn pasta is good, and has the closest taste to semolina pasta, if you miss the taste. Nutritionally, its not great, although its not any worse than regular semolina pasta.

There have been some recent additions of multigrain pastas on the market that have excellent nutritional value, are gluten and wheat free, and have a great flavour. Made with kamut, spelt, quinoa, rye - they've got tons of fibre and a fair amount of minerals. These organic pastas can be a bit pricey compared to regular pasta, but remember that you're paying for nutrients and quality. You can often find non-organic, multigrain pasta and gluten free pastas at Bulk Barn that come with an easier to digest price tag.

Any of the above pastas can be cooked as described below - as long as they are dried pastas. This method won't work for fresh pastas.

Now... on to the most excellent way to cook pasta!

Have you ever made risotto? Did you know you can make pasta the exact same way?

To start, you heat a little bit of oil in a deep pan at a low-medium temperature (4 on my stove, which is electric) then add the pasta. Stir until its hot and coated with oil (about a minute). Then you slowly add stock or water, a little bit at a time. Keep stirring until the water is absorbed and keep adding water or stock until the pasta is done. Ensure the pasta doesn't entirely dry up and the pan doesn't get too hot and dry. You can actually burn the pasta if this happens. The pasta does need to be kept moist. I find it takes about as long as the pasta usually needs to boil in water.

What's amazing is that:

  1. you're not losing any of the nutrients in the water.
  2. you can add flavour by using whatever type of stock you want.
  3. you use way less water - for my two person portion, i use about 3/4 a cup of water 0 perfect if you're camping or at the cottage, and water usage is limited.
  4. you don't have to wait for the water to boil - saving a heap of time.
  5. it gives you better control over the tenderness of the pasta - much easier to get a perfect al dente this way.
  6. for rice pasta, it results in way less glutinous stickiness - the thing I hate most about rice pasta.

You can also get creative and throw in towards the end of the cooking cycle anything that you might want to mix in - spinach, herbs, tomatoes, spices, allowing for better blending of flavours.

The possibilities are endless! My latest creation involved multi-grain pasta with kale tossed in towards the end to cook and steam the kale a little. I then added left over tofu, roasted veggies and garlic, fresh parsley and sun-dried tomatoes. Mmmm.. Delicious!

Give it a try! Let me know what you think.