26 Healthy Pasta Recipes That Will Nourish Your Soul

So you like eating pasta, and you like cooking food that’s good for you. (Or maybe you’re hate-reading about healthy pasta recipes, IDK.) It’s kind of beautiful how naturally those two things go together.

“Pasta is such a lovely, easy way to work in a variety of different foods,” and in turn the variety of flavors, textures, and nutrients that are key to a truly satisfying meal, Rachael Hartley, R.D., certified intuitive eating counselor and owner of Rachael Hartley Nutrition, tells SELF. Plus, it’s super practical. It’s fast, easy, budget-friendly, and not intimidating. In fact, as Hartley points out, it’s one of the first things that many people learn to cook.

So what is a healthy pasta recipe? A well-rounded meal generally includes deliciousness, as well as carbs, protein, fat, and, if possible, fruits or veggies, Hartley says—pretty standard fare in pasta dishes! You’ve obvs got carbs covered, and almost always fat, from olive oil or butter. Then you typically get some protein (meat, chickpeas) and/or veggies (tomato sauce, broccoli). If one of those is missing, it’s easy peasy to riff on the recipe without royally screwing up dinner. Throw in a handful of spinach to get your greens in, or a diced chicken breast, a can of chickpeas, a fried egg, or some cheese and nuts for protein, Hartley recommends. (My lazy-butt hack on nights when I just can’t: Using protein-rich legume pasta.)

And, depending on your dietary preferences and needs, healthy pasta recipes might be ones that include gluten-free or whole wheat versions—but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone. Sure, those options are great for people with celiac disease, for someone looking to up their fiber content, or for someone who just likes the taste, but forgoing white pasta—which still provides energy and vitamin/mineral fortification, as Hartley points out—is not the all-around healthier option, especially if it makes you enjoy your meal less. The same goes for dairy-free alternatives. There is no one-size-fits-all healthy pasta recipe. (FYI: You can learn more about how we chose these recipes in the note below.)

To wrap it up: Pasta is awesome, and there are about a zillion ways to make it. Here are 26 healthy pasta recipes to have some fun with.

A note about the word healthy here: We know that healthy is a complicated concept. Not only can it mean different things to different people, it’s a word that’s pretty loaded (and sometimes fraught), thanks to the diet industry’s influence on the way we think about food. At SELF, when we talk about food being healthy, we’re primarily talking about foods that are nutritious, filling, and satisfying. But it also depends on your preferences, your culture, what’s accessible to you, and so much more. We selected these recipes with those basic criteria in mind, while also trying to appeal to a wide variety of nutritional needs and taste buds.

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