Stealthy Healthy: Legume Pasta
Getting the whole family on board with healthy eating may be a struggle for even the most convincing people. Whether you have picky eaters, stubborn snackers, or indulgent diners, finding ways to sneak in healthy ingredients requires some creativity. Stealthy Healthy is a series of tips, tricks, and product reviews designed to help you help your family eater healthier, without them ever realizing it.
My husband abhors whole-wheat pasta. The taste, texture, and color are all off-putting to his raised-on-white-pasta palate.
Occasionally I can sneak whole-wheat by if it's a sauce-heavy dish, with bold flavors like capers and olives. But this whole-grain option stands no chance for light pasta salads or cream sauces, all of which give away their noodles' healthy status. I can't say I blame him. I do prefer the taste of white pasta, but still happily eat whole-wheat products for the health benefits.
Because of the varying pasta opinions in my household, it could sometimes be a struggle to find a happy medium for the two of us when dinner happened to be spaghetti or macaroni and cheese. That is, it was a struggle until legume-based pasta came into my life.
I was hesitant upon first seeing red lentil penne at the grocery store. I made assumptions that it was like some other gluten-free pastas and contained extra fillers or had a low protein content. Much to my surprise the ingredient list was incredibly short with just one ingredient: lentils. And the nutritional makeup was similar to plain cooked red lentils, just with a little less fiber per serving.
I cooked the penne according to box instructions and the pasta came out perfectly. Not gummy and with a springy texture and mild lentil flavor. I tossed it with marinara sauce and roasted veggies. After I served the meal, I peered at my husband across the table, waiting for him to know something was up with his dinner. But that moment never came. He ate the entire bowl without a peep about flavor or texture, and no complaints or questions.
Since that fateful meal, legume-based pasta has become a regular rotation in our household. It makes him happy because of the mild flavor, and I'm happy because it's a minimally refined product that checks all of my nutritional boxes. Pastas made from red or green lentils, chickpeas, and even edamame have made their way into our cupboards. A few pieces of advice I've learned while eating legume-based pastas:
- Stick with short pasta. Products like macaroni, penne, and rotini make for the best texture. Longer noodles like spaghetti or linguine tend to break apart after cooking.
- Prep your leftovers. Just like any other kind of pasta, legume-based products will cook extra if you reheat the leftovers. This sometimes results in changes to texture. When cooking the pasta, if I know I'll be saving half for leftovers, I'll scoop out half of it just before it is fully cooked, leaving it to cook the rest of the way in the microwave.
- Match colors. While it doesn't affect the flavor, I like to match the color of the pasta with the sauce for presentation's sake. So I serve red lentil with marinara, green lentil with pesto, and chickpea with creamy sauces.