Pasta is Returning to the Center of the Plate

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Pass the penne.
Serve up some spaghetti.
Fetch some fettuccini.

Pasta is back in style.

Low-carbohydrate fads were trumped last year by rising food prices, as more consumers turned to pasta to stretch their food buck. Sales of the pantry staple rose 5 percent, according to American Italian Pasta Co., the biggest U.S. manufacturer of dry pasta. Part of that increase is linked to the rising costs of commodities, including wheat, which manufacturers passed on to consumers.

Consumption of pasta rose 0.4 percent by volume nationwide. An Associated Press story that ran in the International Herald Tribune said those numbers exclude pasta sales at Wal-Mart, where consumption rates rose higher.

Whole-wheat, multi-grain and other "better for you" pastas are continuing to sell well, according to industry experts.

Pasta is cheap, filling and easy to make, but be careful to not overload on it, even when you're watching your bottom line.
  • Swap whole-wheat or multigrain pasta for the white stuff. It costs just a couple of cents more per serving, tastes just about the same and has added fiber and nutrients. If your family is picky, start with half whole-wheat pasta and half regular pasta. Gradually replace the white pasta with whole wheat, and soon the whole-wheat pasta will be the "regular" pasta in your house. (Tip: Stock up on whole-wheat pasta when it goes on sale and watch for coupons if you're concerned about the added cost.)

  • Know your portions. A serving size of pasta is a half-cup or about the size of a billiard ball. (For those who can weigh their servings, you can alternately consider a serving of pasta to be 2 ounces, though it's not equal to a half-cup.) Serve pasta on a smaller plate or in a salad bowl so your proper portion isn't dwarfed by your serving dish.

  • Sneak in some vegetables. Grate carrots and zucchini, chop up broccoli and eggplant or dice onions and peppers into your tomato sauce. Purée any green vegetable (I like asparagus, spinach, broccoli or peas) with a pesto sauce. Toss a light alfredo with peas, broccoli, or red and yellow peppers.

  • Lighten up your meat. Choose lean ground beef (or, better yet, all-white meat ground turkey) and drain it well before mixing with your sauce. Instead of buying greasy, salty Italian sausage, season your leaner cuts of meat with oregano, fennel seeds, basil, and thyme or a salt-free Italian seasoning blend.

  • Go easy on the cheese. Use hard cheeses like parmesan and romano, which have a concentrated flavor, instead of softer, milder cheeses like provolone or mozzarella. Instead of mixing cheese into the sauce, where the taste will quickly meld with the rest of the ingredients, sprinkle cheese on top for a salty, rich jolt to the taste buds in every bite.

  • Learn how to properly sauce pasta. Letting noodles get cold and gummy before adding sauce. Placing pasta on a plate, then dumping on sauce. Using oil to keep pasta from sticking together. These are all no-no's when it comes to saucing pasta. Watch this quick, entertaining video by Chow to learn how to properly sauce your pasta like the pros do.

Looking for some new pasta recipes? My Perfectly Healthy Pasta was recently featured in a weekly magazine, and SparkRecipes has plenty of other healthful pasta recipes, many for fewer than 200 calories a serving.

Are you keen on pasta? Are you stocking up on pasta and other cheap staples? What is your favorite way to serve pasta?

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I am trying to introduce my guys to whole wheat pasta and have taken the advice of doing 1/2 of each. I will be checking out the added links in the article to get the full affect of how to do pasta right. I come an Italian background and pasta has always been a household staple. I actually have a recipe on how to make it from scratch along with amazing raviolis, but its a LOT of work and makes a HUGE quantity. My grandmother came from a 1st generation Italian background who immigrated to New England and it was a BIG family. She herself had 7 boys so needless to say, I've watched from a pro on how to stretch out homemade meals to cover everyone's appetite. My problem was trying to learn to down size to a family of 3.
Thanks for the article and keep them coming. Report
Who knew thew is wrong way and a right way to sauce pasta?! Report
I loooove pasta, and yes, I'm still one of the insane few that still eats white pasta. I actually eat white and whole wheat pasta, depending on my mood that day. But honestly, I think either kind can be healthy and wholesome, depending on how you prepare it. Whole wheat pasta loading with cheese, butter, meat, and/or fat is no better than white pasta made the same way! Report
Pasta is my weakness... Lasagna is my all time fav food!!! It makes me sad, I have no self control when it comes to Lasagna. Report
thanks for the tips Report
Great information on pasta. Thanks Report
I am a pasta princess, I love the stuff. And when I joined spark I was finally able to drop my low carb fad mind set and embrace balance- and CARBS! YUM! So I am back- and thanks to spark I learned about whole grains- and began eating whole wheat pastas. I have a ton- yes I stock up when the sales hit, I price compare and buy a few boxes at a time. I have a low income so I save a lot of money by weighing and eating my pasta one serving at a ti,e. And I have gottten good with sauces and never go away hungry with only ONE SERVING! I was looking at a bowl of pasta last night and I was thinking about how food looks so much bigger when you have lost weight. I so never would have eaten only 2 ounces before!
PASTA RULES! Proud to be an italian :)
Love in Christ-
Mrs. K Report
mmmmm...we add a million veggies to regular marinara sauce and eat that with whole wheat angel hair and a Morningstar Italian Chick pattie on the side....sooo good. I don't buy into no carbs/low carbs, but we definitely cut the fat by not adding lotsa cheese. Report
I'm going to throw another thing out there that I haven't read here but this is popular with

It's House Brand Tofu Shirataki noodles. It's in the fridge section - 8 oz is serving size 2, calories 20, fat 5 -sodium 15; CARBS 3 Fiber 2, sugar 2, protein 1.

Those of you in the East, you can find them in Wegman's and maybe Whole Foods.

It's made out of Soy Beans and Yam Flour but I've made a fake Fettuccine Alfredo using Laughing Cow cheese and brought it in to work for friends to try and they did not know that these were not real noodles. They may have thought I overcooked them a tad (no al dente here.)

OK, don't shoot the messenger if you don't like them. I wouldn't try them for a family because that would be too expensive, but for me - great! Report
Only eat pasta once a week, that way you can eat the real thing! Report
I love pasta, always have. That's how I got overweight in the first place. Even the whole wheat (when I can find it) and healthy cooking options leave me with way too many carbs and cals. This is my comfort food and I miss it sorely. Report
I had pasta almost daily the first 9 months of my diet. It is a great filler upper and hey it tastes good. Report
Always go whole wheat with your noodles. Once they are cooked you cant taste the difference. Although no carbs would be the best. Honestly who can go without them Report
Pasta should be the least of a recipe. Sure it's cheap, but what a way to louse up a meal with starch and carbs. I'd go very heavy on the vegetables and add a cup of cooked pasta to the whole shebang. Or better yet add a Real food, like quinoa. Pasta is about as healthy as pizza dough, as filling, and as pointless. Just my opinion, of course. Report
for those of us who do not have fast enough video feed in our computer, it would help if you TOLD us what is the 'proper way to sauce pasta'...good info otherwise Report absolute favorite food and my worst diet enemy. For me, it's comfort food ~ a bowl of elbows with butter and parm cheese ~ these days, I am trying to limit my intake to only once a week which is very difficult. Thanks for the suggestions on mixing white with ww while making the switch over. Report
OOPS.. I thought I was in the Salsa topic. Sorry Report
I love Salsa; straight from jar, with salad, with omelets, I do try to avoid the chips.

Lately, I have been mixing it with plain yogurt for a slightly different twist on salad dressing. The plus is a little extra calcium. Report
I love ww pasta! There are so many good brands out there now that it's become more mainstream. It's nice not to have to buy the brands of gritty products that have been around for years and never improved. Report
i love pasta, only that i need to eat wheat free-gluten free-dairy free diet. Lucky, they are nice pastas now for this type of diets. Report
I love pasta. I don't really like the whole wheat , so we've been getting the white with fiber. Also, ground turkey is great in spagetti, it so light and not greasy. LOVE IT! Report
Hi MOMCHEERS; not sure where you live, but sometimes if you talk to the grocer, they will order it for you. Sometimes they want you to buy the whole case, though, which seems impractical. You might want to consider finding a used pasta machine at Goodwill or on Craig's List and just make your own. There's so many things you can do with pasta! I know what you mean about not enough shapes. I live in Central Florida, and we have quite a few shapes in all the formulations, but there are still some variations I'm forced to buy "white," such as jumbo shells, manicotti, etc. Report
I loved the whole wheat pasta the first time I tried it.. its the only kind that I keep in my house now.
I love to toss rotini noodles with a little bit of olive oil, fresh steamed veggies, shrimp and herbs. So delicious!

Brown rice on the other hand is something that Im working on acquiring a taste for... Report
Whole wheat pasta just plain gross. I would rather eat the cardboard box. If I'm going to eat pasta, I'm just going to eat the real thing. The only exception is if I can find Dreamfields Low Carb pastas - they are hard to come by, but you absolutely cannot tell the difference.

The whole wheat pasta is okay, but it takes a while to get used to it. To me no matter how long I cook it, it still has a grainy texture, but I use it. I tried it with sauce and it was horrible, so I just use veggies now with a little olive oil. Report
The whole wheat pasta is okay, but it takes a while to get used to it. To me no matter how long I cook it, it still has a grainy texture, but I use it. I tried it with sauce and it was horrible, so I just use veggies now with a little olive oil. Report
I've never tried the wheat pasta, but I guess it's about time I did. I intend to pick some up on my next shopping trip. I will also try the 50/50 mix the first time. Report
Trader Joe's sell their whole wheat pasta cheaper then most places. Great for those of us that live near one!! Report
I like pasta but I never tried the whole weat, we have only eaten the white. So I am going to try the half white half wheat until we get used to the taste. But Im willing to try anything. I have a picky husband and daughter!!! Report
I find that whole wheat pasta actually tastes better than white, and has a more satisfying texture, too. I love it! Pasta should never be taken out of anyone's diet - it's too mainstream & delicious! It can be paired with so many healthy foods, as well. Report
My favorite go-to-meal is enriched pasta (with fiber which fills me up), green peas, susage (any kind - breakfast, sweet Italian - whatever I have on hand) and a pat of butter. Fiber, veggies and protein - simple and fulling. Report
I am Italian so I love pasta. What I find is that here in the US pasta is served always with very heavy sauces, something that in Italy is rarely done... That adds calories, for sure. Report
I love Pasta and like everybody else I really have to watch it. Report
I like pasta a lot (too much, maybe). I've gotten into whole wheat pasta, and it works out well. What bothers me, though, is how expensive it is in restaurants. A number of years ago I actually spoke up in a diner when I was charged about $10.00 for a small, side-dish bowl of pasta with tomato sauce (no meat). They actually lowered the price. But more and more, it seems like you pay as much for a pasta entree as for a meat entree. Report
When we have pasta we try to use the whole wheat Barilla brand of pasta. It tastes the same and no one notices that it's not the regular white pastas. It's much healthier for you too. Report
I bought some multi-grain pasta on a whim and now my family prefers it! Unfortunately my local, small town grocer only has the mg pasta in spaghetti... I'd really love to have it in other varieties! Report
Really good article. Thanks for the tips. Report
Pasta is great!!

The whole wheat is different in taste and textue, but my family has gotten used to it. In fact, I prefer whole wheat pasta of any kind now. It has become so popular that they even have generic whole wheat pasta now.

Now that I eat the right portion size (and usually leave room in my calories for two servings), I add tons of veggies to bulk it up if I feel it's needed.

Our family also does meatless Mondays (may not always be Monday). We have pasta a lot on these days. The other thing the family really likes is baked potatoes. We buy the large baking potatoes and the kids pick their toppings (sour cream, cheese, broccoli, green onion, chives, etc.). Report
Pleased to see the information clearing up "serving size"!

I have always wondered about the serving sizes on pasta, because I haven't seen "COOKED or UNCOOKED"...NOW I KNOW! THANKS!

I, too am happy to see that pasta is again on our lips ( so to speak). As my 104 year old grandmother used to say..." everything in moderation"!! Couldn't argue that with someone who had made to that age! Report
I love pasta and use whole wheat pasta all the time ... just joined so the portion size I use is way larger than what I should but that will be corrected now. Great article. Report
Not a big pasta lover. Report
I love pasta, I do now eat the whole grain kind and its very good. I never gave up my pasta, and I have always prefered it over rice or potatoes. I now make a low fat fettuccini sauce, or use a nice maranara. Pasta has a lot of variety on how you can use it. Report
I don't really like pasta. :S

When I do have it, 3 ounces overflows my bowl! Report
1/2 a cup of pasta used to be ridiculous for me. Why bother?! But now that my portions are in check, I can eat 1/2 a cup and be stuffed! And on extra special days, I do have 2 servings (but careful not to do that too much as it's well over 400 calories for JUST the pasta!) Report
I LOVE whole wheat pasta. I can't stand regular pasta now, it tastes too slimy. I love the thick, chewy texture and how filling it is! Report
I've always been a white rice lover!! But, since I want to increase my fibre, hate brown rice & just cannot make myself eat it, I've started to use pasta under my stir fries instead. I found I had no problems switching to whole grain & high fibre pastas in the last couple of years because they taste pretty darned good! I'm in Canada & I don't find them 'grainy' at all any more - they were nasty in the past but technology has come a long way!! And I always add extra veggies to my home made sauce - I can my own tomatoes in order to cut the sodium. Report
I like the series of videos this blog linked to; I thought they were pretty nifty. : ) Report
I am now using wheat pasta and brown rice i took my daughter to a dietitian and she was told that the white bread that she insisted on eating was adding weight to her and that she need to eat wheat or whole wheat to get the fiber and that it was easier to burn off the wheat.. i never could get her to try the wheat anything until then... She said that it was to nutty for her now she like it just fine.. My son do not like pasta so it is hard to make it for that reason.. He will eat mac and cheese.. I am not sure what happen he loved spaghetti then one time i made it he said that he hated it.. that was it for him .. the rest of us love it so i only make it about once a month.I need to make it soon with the wheat noodles this time Report
In Bob Greene's revised version of the Best Life Diet, he recommends eating regular white pasta, as the semolina used is not as processed as white bread and therefore healthier. He also recommends eating it in the correct portions! Good luck with that living in the USA! Report
We love pasta at our house - salads are always a great side too! Report
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