^^Doesn't that just make you want to sit down with a big plate of spaghetti?
We love pasta of any kind and in any sauce. It borders on an obsession in this house, but for a while I felt bad about serving it. Spaghetti just isn’t a very nourishing meal, right?
Well, it depends. If we’re talking refined, enriched pasta and sauce made from canned tomatoes (swimming in BPA), then no, spaghetti isn’t very nourishing.
But we can totally make a few upgrades and turn it into quite an acceptable meal in the nutrition department. Let’s talk about that.
Three Steps to Healthier Spaghetti
Pasta: One step up from white pasta would be whole grain or whole wheat. That’s where we are now, because it’s dirt cheap and easy.
Brown rice pasta is easier on the digestive system than wheat, and this is what we’re working towards right now. When I find a good deal, we use brown rice pasta.
I guess the ultimate healthy pasta would be homemade from freshly ground flour, but I’ll just be honest: never going to happen. At least not while I have little kids!
Better cooking method: Wait, how is there a better cooking method for spaghetti?!? I found this little gem of a post through Kitchen Tip Tuesday. I had been looking for ways to feed us more homemade chicken broth, and I thought it was a really interesting idea to cook the pasta in chicken broth! It turns out that it’s super easy to cook pasta this way. It’s a little faster, saves dishes and adds nutrition all at once. I haven’t boiled pasta in water since I first tried this. I’ll show you how to do this in the recipe section.
Sauce: Chicken alfredo is a favorite meal here, but let’s focus on red sauce.
Some folks like to use ready-made sauce and just jazz it up a bit (totally ok! I do this too!). If you use jarred sauce, be sure to check the ingredients. Many sauces contain high-fructose corn syrup or way too much sugar, and sometimes they get sneaky and hide other weird additives. Read labels religiously and pick one with the fewest ingredients. I usually wait for a sale and use a coupon to get an organic sauce with only a handful of ingredients.
If you prefer to make your own sauce using canned tomatoes, beware. Tomatoes are very acidic and are one of the worst foods for leaching BPA from the can lining and into the food. Yuck. BPA-free canned tomatoes are slowly becoming more available. Apparently, Hunt’s plain tomatoes are now BPA-free. Woohoo! Here’s a list of BPA-free canned foods.
Recently I’ve been buying Hunt’s and making large batches of sauce to freeze. It’s a great way to make this speedy meal even faster!
Of course, you could always can your own tomato sauce. That’s probably the best way. Someday I hope to do this. Maybe when no kids are in diapers and no one colors eye shadow all over my dresser;)
Adding lots of garlic and onion to the sauce is a quick way to increase the immune boosting power of spaghetti. If we’re feeling a little run down, I crush a few extra cloves of garlic for the sauce. I also add cooked, pureed spinach and carrots. You can add homemade broth to the sauce, too, which is not only very healthy, it makes this cheap meal even cheaper. If you’re looking for ways to incorporate more healthy fats into your diet, spaghetti sauce is the perfect vehicle. Try adding some olive oil or (my favorite) a good splash of raw cream to the sauce. Rich, healthy and delicious!
Enough with the talking. Let’s cook some spaghetti!
One Pot Spaghetti
1 lb. spaghetti (I use whole wheat)*
3.5 – 4 C. chicken broth (or a mixture of broth and water)
4 C. spaghetti sauce, homemade or jarred
1 C. cooked sausage or ground beef(optional)
A splash of cream (optional)
1. Place spaghetti in a large saucepan or pot. Turn heat to medium, then cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Toasting the dry pasta really does add a lot to the flavor.
Dry toasting the pasta.
2. Add 1 C. of the broth to the pan.
1 C. of broth added, but you can’t really stir at this point.
I like to cover the pan for about a minute just to help the pasta soften quickly. After the pasta starts to soften, stir frequently to prevent sticking and help the liquid absorb evenly.
3. When the first cup of liquid is absorbed, add another cup. Keep stirring and adding broth, 1 C. at a time, until the pasta is cooked but not mushy.
2 C. of broth added, soft enough to scoop and stir a little.
3 C. of broth added, easy to stir. Make sure you scoop the bottom up to the top, to make sure the pasta evenly cooks.
3.5 C. broth added, and the pasta is almost done.
4. Sauce time! Pour the sauce (and meat, if using) over the pasta and toss to evenly distribute (I think big tongs work best for this). Let cook for 5 minutes to heat sauce and finish cooking the spaghetti. Add cream (if using) and mix in gently. Serve immediately.
Notes: The chicken broth flavor is really subtle, barely noticeable. It may seem like a lot of steps, but this is honestly a very fast meal. Start to table it takes me about 25 minutes as long as the broth isn’t frozen.
This also keeps the kitchen much cooler since there are no pots of boiling water steaming up the kitchen. A major bonus this summer!
Yield: Ok, I know 1 lb. of pasta is supposed to feed 8 people or something, but we usually get five servings.
Technique adapted from Newlyweds Blog.
*You could use regular (white) pasta or brown rice pasta, but they will cook faster and need less liquid. 1 lb. of brown rice pasta only needed about 2.5-3 C. liquid and it was almost overcooked. Start with 2-2.5 C. and add more only as needed to get the pasta cooked.
This post is a part of Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes.
Do you eat pasta? Do you enjoy every last carbolicious bite or do you feel guilty?