Quinoa pasta

Easy Ways to Elevate Your Pasta

Celebrate National Spaghetti Day by taking your pasta dishes to the next level

Today, there are various types of “pasta” on the market to accommodate people with allergies or intolerances, as well as vegans, vegetarians or those who are simply looking for healthy alternatives.

What we know as "pasta" today originated in Italy. Pasta, which means "paste" in Italian, is typically made by mixing ground grain or flour with liquid (eggs, water, and/or oil).

Throughout history, many different cultures have eaten some kind of noodle-like dishes, many of which often composed of a grain or starch. One of pasta's specific key characteristics is its content of durum wheat semolina, which has a high gluten content and is made with a technique that allows the resultant dough to be highly malleable.

For people who are allergic to wheat, there are many whole grain pastas made from buckwheat, corn, quinoa, and rice. And for those who do not eat grains, there are pastas made from legumes, nut flours, and vegetables like zucchini, sweet potatoes, squash, etc

The Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI), whose work and instruction inspires ICE's current plant-based program, celebrated pasta with hand-made, fresh varieties made with different types of flour and dyed with herbs, spices and vegetables. There are many ways to elevate your pasta dishes with easy techniques and simple ingredients..

Here's some easy ways to elevate your next bowl of pasta goodness:

Add shiitake “bacon”

Shiitake “bacon” was an NGI staple, and for good reason. It gives pasta dishes a comforting, umami-rich flavor. Simply trim and thinly slice ½ pound shiitake mushrooms, toss mushrooms with 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Bake until crisp, stirring once, about 20 minutes. 

Get creative with pesto

Pesto can be made with anything from herbs, to leafy greens, to the tops of carrots or beets. Adding it to pasta dishes is a great way to get key vitamins and nutrients from green varieties like spinach, arugula, or parsley. Our favorites are arugula-walnut pesto and carrot top pesto.

Read More: Farfalle with Arugula-Walnut Pesto

Include cheese alternatives

Hosting a gathering and serving pasta? Make sure there are dairy-free alternatives for those who are intolerant or allergic when it comes to cheese and sauces.

For example, you can easy make 1 quart of tofu ricotta by mixing 1-pound firm tofu (pressed), 2 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon white miso, and 1 teaspoon umeboshi paste in a food processor and process until smooth.

Spiralize your veggies

If you are cutting down on carbohydrates or looking for a healthy alternative to traditional pasta, spiralizing or making ribbons out of your vegetables successfully mimics our beloved pasta noodles while adding nutrients, such as beta carotene, vitamin C, and fiber from sweet potatoes or potassium, folate, and vitamin A from zucchini. Try our miso sauce for winter pasta on sweet potato noodles with sage-brown butter sauce for a comforting dish to keep you warm and cozy throughout the cold months.

Keep it simple

You do not need a lot of ingredients to elevate your pasta dish. Make infused oil, roast some garlic, and stew some vegetables and you can have a delicious dish that requires very little work. For example, this Quinoa Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil is very easy to put together, making it perfect for a weeknight meal or weekend get-together.

This post was originally published by the Natural Gourmet Institute. Learn more about today's Natural Gourmet Center.

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