Cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles are great, but it's hard to beat the convenience and versatility of pasta. And you shouldn't rule it out of your diet completely: A recent survey of over 23,000 people by Italy's Department of Epidemiology showed that the occasional serving (within the context of daily calorie needs) of this Mediterranean diet staple is actually associated with reduced body mass index, smaller waist circumference, and improved waist-hip ratio.
But that doesn't mean you have to dive face-first into a bowl of white pasta or boil up yet another pot of the same old whole-wheat penne. The cool kids in the pasta aisle are made from beans and legumes—black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, red lentils, and more. Though their calorie content is similar to that of wheat-based pasta, these products boast a lot more fiber and protein, making them a great option for Meatless Monday followers and full-time vegetarians alike. They're also a great alternative to a lot of other gluten-free pastas, like corn and quinoa pasta, which are notorious for losing their shape.
And don't worry: If you like the hearty flavor of whole-wheat pasta, you'll likely enjoy bean pastas too. Just play around with different sauces and toppings, like pairing garbanzo bean fusilli with red sauce or black bean spaghetti with another variety. Unfortunately, though, depending on where you shop, bean pasta may be slightly more expensive than regular white pasta. But considering the nutritional boost and their versatility, it can be totally worth the investment.
To get started, try this black bean pasta recipe with a fun Asian flair:
Sesame Broccoli and Black Bean Pasta
- 8 ounces black bean spaghetti
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon plain sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 green onion, chopped
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Toss broccoli florets with 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Roast at 400°F for 35 minutes or until crispy. Shake pan a few times to prevent sticking and burning. Set aside.
- Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve a small amount of the starchy pasta water.
- Toss broccoli with pasta, green onion, reserved pasta water and remaining teaspoon of sesame oil.
- Divide pasta and broccoli mixture into four servings. Garnish each with sesame seeds.