Garlicky-Broccoli-PestoEndless pasta bowls, creamy Alfredo, and half-loaves of bread that accompany restaurant orders have given pasta an unhealthy reputation. That’s why turning your focus to whole wheat pastas and homemade sauces can give you a fresh outlook on the dish. One two-ounce serving of whole wheat noodles—just a fraction of what’s served in restaurants—is packed with fiber, protein, B vitamins, and iron; and whipping up a sauce at home can significantly decrease fat and calories.

With a hearty chew and a stick-to-your ribs (not your hips) quality, whole grain pastas fill you up fast. According to a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating more than four servings of whole grains a day is associated with smaller waistlines and less belly fat, particularly visceral fat, which has been linked to metabolic syndrome. Other research indicates increasing fiber lowers mortality rates, especially if that fiber comes from whole grains.

These days, whole wheat pastas no longer deliver the gritty texture for which they were once known. Here we pair three silky pastas with delicious sauces. Grab a fork and dig in.

Parmesan Fettuccini With Spinach and TomatoesParmesan-Fettuccini

Using the pasta cooking liquid as the base of the sauce makes it light enough so that each ingredient shines on its own.

Serves 4

8 ounces whole wheat fettuccini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach (packed)
3⁄4 to 1 cup reserved pasta water
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Basil sprigs for garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Meanwhile, heat oil in sauté pan on medium heat. Add tomatoes and cook until soft and beginning to blister, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Pour pasta into pan along with reserved pasta water (start with 3⁄4 cup) and stir in Parmesan. Cook about 3 minutes until heated through and thickened. Add more pasta water to loosen sauce, if needed. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, salt, and add pepper to taste. Divide among four bowls. Top with another sprinkle of Parmesan if desired and garnish with basil.

TD&N Nutrient Analysis: Calories: 309; Total Fat: 8g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 10 mg; Sodium: 518 mg; Carbohydrates: 48g; Fiber: 9g; Protein: 15g

Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke ShellsRoasted-Red-Pepper

The shell shape scoops up chunkier sauces well. Though you could use canned artichokes here, roasting imparts a nice earthiness to the sauce.

Serves 4

1 artichoke
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil,divided
Salt, to taste
8 ounces whole wheat pasta shells
11⁄3 cups jarred roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed,and chopped
1⁄4 cup vegetable broth
1⁄2 teaspoon oregano
1⁄4 cup feta crumbles
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Clean and quarter the artichoke (making sure to remove the tough outer leaves and the fuzzy insides). Place on baking sheet and rub with one tablespoon of olive oil and salt.Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until tender. Remove the leaves of the artichoke and cut away the artichoke hearts. Cook pasta according to directions. In a food processor, combine red peppers, artichoke hearts,broth, olive oil, and oregano until smooth. Add feta and pepper to taste and pulse to combine. In a sauté pan on medium heat, toss pasta and sauce together and cook until heated through. Divide among four bowls and serve.

TD&N Nutrient Analysis: Calories: 378; Total Fat: 18g;Saturated Fat: 3g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g; Monounsaturated Fat: 10g; Cholesterol: 8 mg; Sodium: 182 mg; Carbohydrates: 48g; Fiber: 7g; Protein: 10g

Meatballs, With or Without PastaMeatballs

Pasta and meatballs are perfect companions,but as Rick Rodgers’ new book demonstrates, meatballs are equally good all by themselves or when sharing a plate with less traditional partners, such as soup and sandwiches. And as long as you’re ditching tradition,Rodgers shows you that a meatball doesn’t have to be ground beef.In I Love Meatballs! he shares recipes for delectable spheres of crab, pork, chicken, shrimp, and more.

You’ll find some familiar comforting dishes, such as Swedish Meatballs With Lingonberry Sauce or Checkered Tablecloth Spaghetti and Meatballs, but also far more unusual flavors, like Braised Vietnamese Meatballs in Caramel Sauce or Chinese Rice-Crusted Meatballs With Soy-Ginger Dip.

More Sauce Ideas

Variety is everything in Spaghetti Sauces:
Authentic Italian Recipes
From Biba Caggiano.

A Different View On GrainsWheat-Belly

Everywhere we turn we see whole grains touted for their health benefits.Well … not everywhere. William Davis, MD, blames the “healthy whole grain trend” for America’s obesity epidemic. Get his point of view in Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health.