Carbonara, alfredo, parmigiana — the sauces that Americans slather over pasta are most often saturated-fat-laden, cheesy, creamy concoctions.
And although we don't come close (no one does) to the 51 pounds of pasta each Italian downs annually, we consume about 20 pounds apiece. Even if every bite were topped with healthful marinara sauce, we'd still be taking in more refined white-flour pasta than is good for blood sugar control or weight management.
So what's the smart pasta pick? There's a whole pantry to choose from:
• Whole-wheat pasta retains most of its bran, which is loaded with thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. This pasta also delivers more than twice the fiber and iron of enriched refined pasta. Two ounces, uncooked (that's one serving) contains 8 grams of protein and 5.5 grams of fiber. It's great with hearty, steamed veggies tossed in garlic and olive oil.
• Pasta made from lentils or black soybeans generally delivers a lot more protein than white or whole-wheat pasta. Two uncooked ounces of black soybean pasta has 25 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber. Top with roasted veggies, grated ginger, and a touch of toasted sesame oil.
• Chickpea and other bean pastas are packed with fiber and delicate enough for refined sauces — think Vietnamese and Thai. Chickpea pasta (2 ounces uncooked) contains 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
But pasta made from corn or rice isn't a step up from refined white flour. Look on the labels for 100% whole grains, lentils. or beans as the first or only ingredient.