When it comes to curling up with a bowl of something warm and satisfying, you really can’t beat pasta. It tops practically every “comfort foods” listicle out there: It’s incredibly versatile and can easily be made healthier without sacrificing flavor. Don’t believe us? We’ll prove it.
The secret to this cream-free cream sauce? Cauliflower! Puréed with milk, garlic, and olive oil, it gives this whole-wheat pasta bake an extra serving of veggies. A hefty sprinkling of Gruyere on top makes sure that no cheesy flavor is sacrificed.
Think of this as the pasta version of a tuna melt. This fish is sautéed in a light pink sauce of puréed tomatoes and milk (no cream necessary), with plenty of mozzarella for that necessary bubbly, cheesy topping.
Blanketed in a nutmeg-spiced butternut squash and peppered with sage-speckled breadcrumbs, this is the quintessential fall pasta. It’s the perfect way to satisfy a mac and cheese craving while keeping things nutritious.
Who needs butter, cream, milk, or cheese when you can get the same Alfredo-like results with just one ingredient: sunflower seeds. The tiny but healthy fat- and vitamin E-packed powerhouses give this bake a fantastically nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with the roasted Brussels sprouts.
Sometimes a nip in the air calls for a stick-to-your-ribs meal. This one fits the bill, with sausage, mozzarella, and Parmesan teaming up for a hearty dinner that takes just 15 minutes of prep before the oven does the rest of the work for you. Go for lean meat and part-skim cheese if you’re looking for healthier swaps.
You may not think that something with “three-cheese” in its title could ever be made healthy, but when those cheeses involve lower-fat Neufchatel (or cream cheese), 2% mozzarella, and just two tablespoons of Parmesan, it can be done. Increase the fiber count by using multigrain penne and plenty of spinach, and this dish can easily become part of your usual dinner rotation.
This bake fits right into the season of pumpkin-spiced everything, except it relies on pure pumpkin instead of artificial flavorings—win! The beta carotene-rich veggie is stirred with tofu and chopped kale to become a delicious nondairy filling for the pasta shells.
Who needs dairy when you’ve got creaminess from the puréed squash, tons of garlic flavor, and depth from the caramelized onions and white wine? It does take a while to make (most risotti do), but a good chunk of the cooking time is spent in the oven, meaning you’re not stuck at the stovetop, stirring constantly.
You don’t even need to boil the orzo beforehand for this bake—just sauté the dry pasta in some spices before putting it in the oven, where it’ll actually cook. Topped with chicken pieces and juicy cherry tomatoes, it’s a well-balanced, insanely tasty one-pot meal.
Whoever said that fish and cheese don’t go together needs a big ol’ helping of this recipe. Not only does it take just 35 minutes and nix the cream that’s usually poured by the cupful into gratins, but the seafood and white sauce mixture tastes like something out of a fancy French restaurant. Far from mismatched, the combo is meant to be.
Take eggplants out of the Parmesan rut and use them as the base for easy vegetarian meatballs. Mixed with egg yolks, cheese, and breadcrumbs, they’re a wholesome way to make a simple meal of spaghetti and jarred marinara sauce a bit more exciting.
If you’re always looking for outside-the-box flavor combos, this recipe is a must-try. Figs and onions are caramelized in coconut sugar; spiralized zucchini allows for more volume without going overboard on the carbs; and roasted walnuts add healthy fats plus a nice, crunchy contrast to the melt-in-your-mouth fruits and veggies. Did we mention it’s ready in less than 30 minutes?
It may have been meant as a side dish, but we’d say this recipe is filling enough for a quick-fix meatless main. With only four main ingredients—most of them pantry items like canned pumpkin and dry pasta—it’s what you make when you’re short on time and groceries but refuse to give in to takeout.
If you haven’t used broccoli rabe much before, this is the recipe to introduce the vitamin A-rich veggie into your kitchen. It’s swirled into pasta, topped with cheese, and bacon is involved. What’s not to love?
With cream cheese, grated Parmesan, and plenty of chicken, this is the ultimate bowl of pasta to curl up with on a chilly evening. There are a few healthy tweaks, like whole-wheat pasta and the addition of spinach to give it some more fiber, but really, this one’s got “treat yo-self” written all over it.
In most carbonaras, you’ll find at least three egg yolks and no shortage of pancetta. This vegetarian version skips the bacon entirely, slashes the yolk count down to one, and is still as tasty as ever, proving that a few quality ingredients can go a long way when it comes to making rich recipes healthier.
Vegan pastas can often fall short in the protein department. Not this one! Quick-cooking red lentils are a unique way to give this recipe some more staying power. Sautéd in a garlicky tomato purée, they make the sauce taste like a plant-based Bolognese.
Olive oil is a good fat, but this traditional Sicilian pasta usually requires the eggplant to be soaked in it—not quite so healthy. This recipe cuts down the oil to just 1/4 cup, which turns out to be more than enough for the veggies to become tender and keep the sauce from drying out.
Skip that finicky assembly process of baked lasagna with this “deconstructed” stovetop version, which requires no pre-boiling and no layering; short-cut pasta cooks right in the sausage and tomato sauce, with big dollops of ricotta melting on top. It also takes just 30 minutes from start to finish—no waiting impatiently by the oven.
Crab may be an unusual ingredient in a pasta sauce, but there ain’t nothing fishy about this Bolognese. Flavored with fennel, basil, and lemon, this single-serving recipe shows you that there’s no reason not to eat well just because you’re eating solo.
Roasted butternut squash and soft goat cheese. Crispy strips of bacon and crunchy pecan pieces. Caramelized onions and sage. Need we say more?