Want pasta? Eat pasta! Four low-calorie, fast pasta recipes

Watching your weight, but craving a big bowl of pasta? It's possible to indulge in your carb craving and still watch your calories.


Total time: 25 minutes | Serves 6


  • 1 head broccoli (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 links fresh Italian sausage ( 1/4 to 1/2 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound dried short pasta, such as fusilli, penne, or ziti; or long dried pasta such as spaghetti
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 ounce pecorino Romano cheese


Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, clean the broccoli: Separate the florets from the stems and set them aside. Remove the tough peel of the stems with a paring knife or vegetable peeler, then cut the stems into half-inch cubes. Remove the casings from the sausage.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat and crumble the sausage meat into the oil, flattening each piece slightly so it will brown better. Cook until the sausage browns and crisps. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic turns pale brown, about 5 minutes. Do not let the garlic scorch; if it begins to brown, remove the pan from the heat.

Add the pasta and the diced broccoli stems to the boiling water and cook 6 to 7 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and cook until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes total. Scoop out the pasta and broccoli and drain; keep the water at a boil.

Place the skillet over high heat and add the drained broccoli and pasta to the sausage and garlic. Add one-half cup boiling water from the pasta pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the water mostly boils away, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and a good grinding of black pepper.

Divide the pasta evenly among 6 warmed pasta plates and shave pecorino Romano over the top with a vegetable peeler.

Each serving: 406 calories; 15 grams protein; 62 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 11 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 12 mg. cholesterol; 263 mg. sodium.

Total time: 30 minutes | Serves 4 to 6

  • Salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 pound conserved tuna, plus 2 tablespoons of its oil, at room temperature (see related recipe)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 whole, small, dried red chiles (such as chile de arbol)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half (about 2 cups)
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil


Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a rolling boil and add the spaghetti. Meanwhile, chop the tuna (you should have about 1 cup); set aside.

Heat the fresh olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, chiles and fennel. Saute, stirring frequently, until the garlic is lightly golden and the spices are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes and the anchovies and cook for about a minute to break down the anchovies. Add the tuna and use a wooden spoon to break up the tuna and the tomatoes into a chunky mixture. Add the reserved tuna oil, red wine vinegar and salt to taste. The flavor should be sweet, fragrant and bright. Keep warm over low heat until the pasta is done.

When the spaghetti is done, drain it, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water, and add the noodles to the skillet. Turn the heat to high, add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook, tossing the noodles to coat lightly with the sauce. Toss in the basil, season to taste with salt and serve immediately.

Each of 6 servings: 494 calories; 21 grams protein; 62 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 18 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 19 mg. cholesterol; 317 mg. sodium.

Total time: 50 minutes | Serves 4

  • 1 small head cabbage (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 onions (about 1 pound), chopped (2 3/4 cups)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 ounces medium-width noodles or fettuccine
  • 5 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pepitas
  • 1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley


Quarter the cabbage lengthwise. Put each quarter on its side and shred with a heavy knife by cutting the cabbage in thin slices, first crosswise, then around the core; remove the core and any thick ribs. You should have 11 to 11 1/2 cups shredded cabbage.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wide, heavy stew pan. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn golden, about 18 minutes. Add the cabbage, and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook uncovered over medium heat (the cabbage will seem like a very large amount at first, but it will cook down), stirring often, until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. While the cabbage is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Sprinkle the mixture with sugar and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles uncovered in the boiling water until al dente according to the instructions on the pasta packaging (check the pasta 1 to 2 minutes before the time indicated to make sure it isn't already done). Drain, reserving one-half cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Add the noodles to the pan of cabbage. Toss over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Add about 3 tablespoons of the reserved noodle cooking liquid, or enough to moisten the mixture lightly, and cook until the noodles are well coated with the cabbage mixture, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the poppy seeds. Off heat, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Stir most of the pepitas and parsley with the pasta and cabbage, leaving about one-fourth of each to sprinkle over as garnish. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as desired. Serve hot, sprinkled with the reserved pepitas and parsley.

Each serving: 485 calories; 14 grams protein; 64 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams fiber; 21 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 48 mg cholesterol; 13 grams sugar; 53 mg 

Total time: 25 minutes | Serves 4

  • 4 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 1 tablespoon best-quality olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup loosely packed torn shiso leaves
  • 1/3 cup snipped chives ( 1/2 -inch pieces)
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed torn parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed torn basil leaves


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil (the water should be as salty as the sea). Add the pasta and cook just to al dente, about 3 minutes or according to package directions.

Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving one-half cup of the cooking liquid. Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Toss the pasta with the olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the shiso, chives, parsley and basil and toss to distribute evenly. Add the cooking liquid to moisten the pasta as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 142 calories; 4 grams protein; 22 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 4 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 6 mg. sodium.

Want more easy low-cal recipes? Follow me on Twitter: @Jenn_Harris_