Pappardelli Pro or Completely Confusilied? 4 Fantastic Tips for Raising Your Pasta Game with Healthy Options Pasta is definitely a friend in most households. Whether you are a student with a tight food budget or a high salaried professional with a love of cooking, pasta is one of those foodie essentials that can get you from ingredients to tasty plate of food in a matter of minutes. For the health conscious and the cooking connoisseur, pasta is so much more than a bowl of fusilli with pesto! There are so many types of pasta and a huge array of sauces that you could literally have pasta every night for a month and have a completely different eating experience on every occasion (not that we recommend eating pasta every single day). The point being, pasta is so versatile and there are lots of great pairings between different pasta shapes and sauces. Pasta alternatives, such as courgetti are also making the pasta bowl a healthy meal option. A dish of zucchini (another name for courgette) noodles with homemade pistachio pesto is low in carbs, gluten-free and delicious. For those wanting a little bit more from their pasta dinners, here are 4 tips for upping your pasta game. 1. Fresh or dried? There is a quite a big difference between fresh and dried pasta and in the types of sauces that suit each of them. Fresh pasta is generally thought of as superior to dried. Fresh pasta has a more delicate texture, takes less time to cook and is generally more expensive. It works best with light sauces and in most of the dishes it is incorporated in, fresh pasta is usually the star of the show. Fresh pasta is readily available in supermarkets, but if you fancy a cooking challenge it is well worth the effort making it at home. Don’t worry about getting fresh pasta wrong – there are so many different homemade pasta recipes and it’s relatively easy to make a light, springy and delicate fresh pasta for noodles or ravioli. Most pasta recipes are actually quite forgiving. You will need a pasta machine (the manual Marcato Atlas 150 has an impeccable reputation). Dried pasta on the other hand has a longer shelf life, is much more robust and holds up in casseroles, with heavy ragu-type sauces and in soups. Storing pasta is easy – just keep dried pasta in its packet or decant into a jar with an air-tight lid, such as a Kilner jar, then keep in a cool, dry cupboard. Fresh pasta needs to be stored in the fridge and will only stay fresh for a few days. This is largely because most fresh pasta contains eggs. It can however, be frozen, so making a large batch to eek out through the month and storing it in the freezer is a great idea. Remember to cook from frozen, rather than defrost when you come to use up your frozen pasta stash. 2. Parpadelli, fettucine or fusilli? Are you confused by the many different types of pasta available at the supermarket? You’ve probably heard of spaghetti, tagliatelli, fusilli, penne and ravioli but what about campanelle, cavatelli, anelli, orrechiette and Paccheri? Eh? It gets pretty confusing doesn’t it! There are lots of unusual pasta shapes designed to work well with specific sauces to give your pasta dinner a new lease of life, so the shape of your pasta does actually matter. See here for good matches between pasta shapes and sauces. Stick to healthy pasta dish recipes and watch your pasta portion sizes or switch to a veggie alternative to ensure your pasta repertoire is as good for you as it tastes. 3. Pasta alternatives As for the nutritional content of pasta, it is a carbohydrate, and although it contains a good amount of fibre it can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar. The biggest difference in terms of ingredients between fresh and dried pasta is that fresh pasta contains eggs, which means fresh pasta has protein and Vitamins A and D, but also adds cholesterol. The healthiest pasta options are wholemeal pasta, which contains twice as much fibre as standard pasta. Varieties such as brown rice, chickpea, green pea and buckwheat pastas are great gluten-free alternatives. Swapping pasta for vegetable alternatives is another brilliant way to help you eat better and make a traditional pasta dish healthier. Prepare fresh vegetables as noodles, such as courgettes and sweet potatoes, using a spiraliser. Simply steam or blanch the vegetable noodles and eat with your favourite pasta sauce. 4. Expand your sauce repertoire You are probably familiar with pesto, bolognaise and perhaps one or two other pasta sauce staples, but there are many other healthy pasta sauces you can make. Consider swapping beef for lentils to make a faux bolognaise (pre-cook the lentils and add to a simple tomato and basil sauce). Avoid creamy pasta sauces for health reasons obviously. But if you are craving some full on comfort food, for an alternative to cream, try making a cashew cream sauce instead. Add mushrooms for a meaty texture and spinach because it just works. Trust me, this is curled-up-on-sofa pasta heaven! P.S. Parpadelli are the broad flat strips of pasta and are great with a wild mushroom sauce ! About the Author: Annie Button is a Portsmouth based writer and English Literature graduate. Annie likes to share her experiences and knowledge through her blog posts and has written for various online and print publications. When she’s not writing Annie likes cooking healthy new recipes and relaxing with a good book'. Twitter: Annie Button