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10 Healthy Pasta Dishes You Can Enjoy Guilt Free

If you’re like, well, just about everyone, you have a favorite pasta dish (or two or three) that you just never gets old.

For me, it’s usually something creamy and savory like an Alfredo or stroganoff, but sometimes all it takes is a simple spaghetti dish to hit the spot.

Whatever your tastes, you’re going to find something in these pasta recipes that whets your appetite…and you’re going to love how “diet-friendly” they are, too. No having to eat an entire day’s worth of fat in one sitting!

Most of these dishes can be made with zero cooking skills as well, and while you can’t go wrong with staples like the bolognese, pesto, and vodka sauce, you can also get quite creative with combinations of meats, vegetables, and spices.

For example, check out the Lemon Ricotta Parmesan Pasta with Spinach & Grilled Chicken for a surprisingly low-fat main course, the Pulled Pork Pasta Bake for a quick weeknight dinner, or the Grilled Corn & Avocado Pasta Salad if you want something vegetarian.

Bon appétit!

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Alfredo

Serves 6

When you brown butter in a saucepan, it adds extra dimensions of flavor, so a little goes a long way. Make it in advance – a quick, easy process – and you can use it for weeknight recipes that you throw together on the fly. You’ll get more buttery flavor without adding extra fat once it’s browned, making it a great trick for healthy pasta dishes like this spaghetti with sweet potato alfredo sauce.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

364

Calories

17 g

Protein

50 g

Carbs

11 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, browned

1 medium sweet potato, cubed 2”

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

1 3/4 cups water, divided

1 cup (about 4 oz.) freshly grated Parmesan

1 lb. spaghetti

1/4 tsp. cayenne

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Get the Recipe

Drunken Wild Mushroom Pasta

Serves 8

Don’t have a jar of pasta sauce on hand? It helps to know some simple pasta dishes that don’t rely on tomato sauce. This one uses tons of fresh mushrooms, plus other ingredients that are easy to keep on hand like garlic, onion, and sherry. It’s finished with goat cheese and hazelnuts, but would be just as good with gorgonzola and walnuts, or Parmesan and pistachios.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

331

Calories

13 g

Protein

45 g

Carbs

12 g

Fat

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

26 oz. wild mushrooms, sliced

1 red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. sea salt

2 Tbsp. sherry cooking wine

2 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped

1 lb. dry linguine

6 oz. goat cheese

3/4 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid

Salt to taste

1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped

Get the Recipe

Lemon Ricotta Parmesan Pasta with Spinach & Grilled Chicken

Serves 6

This is a great pasta recipe whether you have leftover grilled chicken, or need to cook some in a skillet while the pasta is boiling. Either way, it comes together fast once you have those two things ready, and you won’t need alfredo or tomato sauce like most chicken pasta dishes rely on. Simply toss al dente pasta with olive oil, lemon juice, ricotta, and Parmesan. Add the grilled chicken with some spinach, and serve.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

410

Calories

24 g

Protein

46 g

Carbs

15 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 lb. grilled chicken breasts, sliced into strips

1 lb. dry linguine (or spaghetti)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup reserved pasta water

6 oz. fresh baby spinach, steamed until just wilted

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta

1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

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Pasta Skillet with Chicken Sausage, Cheese & Spinach

Serves 6

Have leftover noodles from a quick dinner the night before? You can turn it into a new dish with an easy pasta recipe like this. And if you use your favorite jar pasta sauce instead of making marinara from scratch, this healthy dinner can be prepped in just 10 minutes. Then you can chill for a half hour while your home-cooked meal finishes in the oven.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

531

Calories

31 g

Protein

58 g

Carbs

22 g

Fat

Ingredients

Marinara:

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups diced red onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp. pure honey (or sugar)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

Pasta:

8 oz. dry penne

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. chicken sausage, sliced

4 to 6 cups baby spinach

1 1/2 cups (about 6 oz.) shredded mozzarella

Chopped parsley, for garnish

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Pulled Pork Pasta Bake

Serves 4

When you think of meaty pasta, ground beef or grilled chicken are probably what come to mind. But with this recipe, you can use pulled pork as the base of easy pasta dishes that are loaded with protein. Start by making your favorite pulled pork, which you can do in advance and freeze for later. Then when you’re hungry, keep it simple with a minimal baked pasta dish. This one takes just three ingredients: pasta, pulled pork, and cheese.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

565

Calories

43 g

Protein

55 g

Carbs

18 g

Fat

Ingredients

1/2 lb. pulled pork

4 ½ cups (8.8 oz.) dry macaroni

1 cup (about 4 oz.) shredded cheddar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Get the Recipe

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Creamy Tuscan Chicken Pasta

Serves 8

When you think of Italian pasta dishes, what comes to mind is probably tomato sauce. But there are other ways to enjoy classic Italian flavors. This easy Tuscan pasta casserole puts the Parmesan in the sauce for a creamy alfredo. Then there’s sun-dried tomatoes, which have a sweet, rich flavor without overpowering the simple pasta dish. And using rotisserie chicken means you can get the protein you need without doing extra cooking.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

619

Calories

34 g

Protein

73 g

Carbs

21 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 lb. dry rotini pasta

1 jar (22 oz.) alfredo sauce

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups diced rotisserie chicken

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 jar (4 oz.) roasted red peppers, drained

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and minced

2 cups fresh baby spinach

1 cup (about 4 oz.) shredded mozzarella

Get the Recipe

Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese

Serves 6

This Crock Pot pasta dish is almost as easy as microwave mac and cheese, but way more satisfying. Want to make it fancy? Use a blend of cheese like smoked gouda and cheddar, or fontina and Parmesan. And if you need even more calories, serve with a protein-packed breadstick. Try this recipe made with almond flour and unflavored whey isolate like Legion WHEY+.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

244

Calories

11 g

Protein

24 g

Carbs

8 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups low-fat milk

2 egg whites

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 cup (about 4 oz.) low-fat sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups dry whole-wheat penne

Get the Recipe

Grilled Corn & Avocado Pasta Salad

Serves 6

Even if you’ve had your fair share of pasta salad, you haven’t had one like this. It’s already one of the best ways to enjoy pasta in the summer. And this pasta salad captures even more seasonal flavors with grilled corn, fresh basil, and creamy avocado. This pasta side dish will have everyone at the barbecue begging for the recipe – or at least asking you to make it again.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

389

Calories

5 g

Protein

48 g

Carbs

22 g

Fat

Ingredients

Pasta:

8 oz. gluten-free rotini

2 ears sweet corn, shucked

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 avocado, chopped

1/4 small red onion, minced

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Chili-Lime Dressing:

6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)

1 Tbsp. pure honey

1/2 tsp. chili powder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Caramelized Onion Black Bean Pasta

Serves 4

It’s not hard to make basic Italian pasta with tomato sauce into a vegan dinner. Yet this recipe gets creative with the concept, using black beans instead of classic marinara. For a low-carb version, this vegan pasta dish also goes great with spaghetti squash. That not only reduces calories and carbohydrates, but adds more protein and antioxidants.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

416

Calories

20 g

Protein

77 g

Carbs

4 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 large onion (sweet or white)

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed

3 cups water

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 bay leaf

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt to taste

12 oz. dry pasta

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One-Pot Baked Ziti

Serves 6

One of the best pasta dishes is baked ziti. Not only is it comforting and delicious, but it’s easy to make. For a low-fat version, substitute turkey sausage instead of pork, or just look for anything that’s marked extra-lean. Then use half-and-half in place of the heavy cream, and choose a part-skim mozzarella.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

665

Calories

35 g

Protein

55 g

Carbs

35 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. Italian pork sausage, casings removed

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes

12 oz. dry ziti

3/4 cup (about 3 oz.) grated Parmesan

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup (about 4 oz.) shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Get the Recipe

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