A delicious, healthier pasta sauce
A steaming bowl of refined white wheat pasta, smothered in sauce and cheese isn’t usually high on the top of any nutritionist’s ‘must-eats’. But pasta has fast become an essential part of the modern western diet, a staple for kids and adults alike. So should we just give in and embrace it? This delicious roasted vegetable pasta sauce is a healthy alternative to traditional tomato pasta sauce!
We all know there are many meals better for us than a bowl of pasta, but this is real life – it’s not always practical to cook from scratch every night of the week. When my day goes wrong and I realise I’m too tired to prepare the dinner that I’d planned, or even worse, that I’ve totally forgotten to buy anything at all, I know there will always be pasta in the cupboard, together with a tin of tomatoes or pre-made sauce I’ve put in the freezer. Much as I love it, a big bowl of courgette spaghetti has a time and a place. And that time and place isn’t when I have hungry, grumpy children squabbling after school or when I’m exhausted and am craving comfort food that I can eat with one hand, often I hate to admit, in front of the television.
So it’s unlikely that pasta will ever totally fall off our menu at home.
But there are better ways to eat pasta than the standard kids-restaurant menu option of ‘buttered’ white pasta, penne with tomato sauce, or a dubious ‘meat’ ragu.
In its traditional Italian setting, pasta would form part of a larger meal – a small portion of freshly made egg pasta eaten before a meat or fish main course. This makes sense: the carbs fill us up and are digested first. The protein, in a sensible portion size (no 16 ounce steaks), takes longer to digest so is eaten second. Salads or grilled vegetables are served, meaning the overall quality of the meal is high.
The problem is that we don’t eat it in this way.
A large bowl of pasta can raise blood sugar levels quickly and leave us feeling sleepy 30 minutes later. Fine if you’re heading for bed but an issue if you’re expected to maintain intelligent conversation.
A smaller serving of wholegrain, al-dente pasta with a more nutritious sauce that ideally contains protein, helps to get around this (see our previous blog on the merits of eating pasta – and click here for our veggie-packed bolognese recipe).
But if your pasta meal is a last-minute, white pasta, tomato-sauce version, all is still not lost. An easy solution to bump up protein is to serve higher-protein Greek natural yogurt, topped with fruit for dessert. Snack on nuts while you’re cooking. Or raid the fridge and cupboards for any other lurking protein sources to add: good quality cheese, pine nuts, pulses, prawns, fish, or meat. And including a large leafy or raw veggie salad (or any salady bits the kids will eat: cucumber, pepper, celery etc.) adds more fibre and lessens the impact on blood sugar.
This roasted veggie pasta sauce ticks my healthy pasta sauce list.
It was a favourite of the kids even when they were babies – and it’s not moved off our menu since. It’s simple to make, quick, freezable, nutritious and packed with phytonutrients. I add more olive oil before serving to help absorption of the carotenes from the brightly coloured veggies.
If you don’t want to use it as a pasta sauce, it also makes a great roasted vegetable hummus – don’t add the water or stock, but do blend the olive oil in instead.
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