Pastas : The ‘light’ food movement has embraced a culinary heavy--pasta. Low-fat noodle dishes from Italy and from Asia--such as shrimp-and-squid chow mein, below--are at the heart of the change.


Talk of pasta in Los Angeles’ restaurants is lightening up at every turn. One hears: “We suggest the angel hair pasta. It has a very light sauce . . . fresh tomatoes, cut up and sauted lightly in their own juice with a thimbleful of olive oil and some basil. Very light.” What has caused this sudden emphasis on lighter pasta dishes?

Growing concern about fat and cholesterol intake is causing many Americans to find low-fat and low-cholesterol alternatives to foods that they love to eat. And pasta is one of them.

Many Italian restaurants today are suggesting light pasta, thus redefining the popular dish as something other than a high-calorie, heavily sauced entree.

“It’s a big movement,” said Silvio di Mori, owner of Tuttobene in Los Angeles. His restaurant’s menu states that most Tuttobene dishes can be prepared “diet-style.”


“Cream and butter are things of the past,” di Mori said. “Today we suggest things like angel hair with fresh tomato and basil, and seafood pasta using natural juices, not oil or butter, to cook the sauce. We get into difficulty when people ask for no salt, however. Pasta without salt is bland, so we suggest arrabbiata, a pasta made with chiles, onion and olives, whose sharp flavors make up for the lack of salt.”

At La Famiglia in Beverly Hills, there is a separate section on the menu for low-fat, low-salt pastas. “It all started because of my own health concerns,” owner Joe Patti said. “Our customers have responded in an overwhelming way to these dishes.” (The restaurant’s pasta de checca uses a brand of pasta from Italy, but any pasta may be used.)

At Locanda Veneta in Los Angeles, owner-chef Antonio Tomassi prepares low-fat, low-calorie, low-salt pastas on request, based on items available on the day’s menu. “If a diner is on a diet, there is always a way to make the pasta lighter,” he said. One way is to cut down on the fat content of meats as well as on oils and butter used to cook meats and to increase use of fresh vegetables. Tomassi sometimes uses vegetable-based pastas to enhance nutrients and to reduce salt and calories.

But Italian pastas are not the only types that offer a lighter approach to cooking. Oriental noodle dishes also are rich sources of light pasta ideas. Stir-fried noodle dishes, for example, require little or no fat, and noodle soups, such as ramen or udon, rarely contain much fat because the noodles are generally cooked in a fat-free broth that is naturally low in calories. If meats are added, they are often lean--roast pork slices, shrimp, squid or other seafood.

Southeast Asian noodles dishes also are abundant, with

pad Thai among the most popular Asian dishes in the United States today. Pad Thai achieves its flavor from fish or shrimp sauce, seasonings used throughout Southeast Asia. Japanese and Chinese lo meins and chow meins also are conducive to low-fat treatments, if the stir-frying is done with a minimum of fat or if the fat is replaced with the natural liquids extracted from foods during sauteing. Using more vegetables, skinless poultry and seafood, and less fatty meat (or by trimming fat from meat) also helps keep fat and cholesterol to a minimum.

Noodles or pastas alone are relatively low in calories because, like fruits and vegetables, they are complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram, compared with seven calories per gram for protein and fat’s 9 calories per gram. Most pastas contain about 250 calories per cooked cup.

Add another 200 calories from meat, fish, poultry and/or vegetables and you will have a 450-calorie meal, or little more than one-fourth of the total calories of an average 1,600 calories per day diet.


Recipes were selected that will show how to keep calories, especially in fat, to a minimum when cooking pasta. The pasta dishes reflect today’s taste in Southeast Asian cuisine, modern Italian and Japanese/Chinese cuisines.

At Horai Tei, a Japanese-Chinese stir-fry restaurant in Little Tokyo, chef Masao Shinkai prepares a chow mein containing shrimp, thinly sliced beef and pork, plus spinach, bean sprouts, mushroom, bamboo shoots and other vegetables. The dish contains such a variety of ingredients (in small amounts) as to make it highly nutritious and relatively low in calories. Vary the dish further by mixing and matching vegetables and meat to your liking.

Shinkai’s Yaki Soba, a traditional Japanese noodle dish based on the Chinese stir-fry, makes use of soba noodles, which are made with buckwheat and are highly nutritious. Red ginger and dried green seaweed serve as garnishes and add color to a nutrient-packed, low-calorie dish.

In Los Angeles, the menu at Giuseppe! is filled with light, airy pastas, such as Capellini Pomodoro (angel hair pasta with Maui onions, tomatoes, basil), and tubular pasta, called penne, teamed with fresh tomato and asparagus. “Any seasonal vegetable can be added to this dish in lieu of asparagus,” said owner Giuseppe Bellisario.


“The New Pritikin Program” by Robert Pritikin (Simon and Schuster: $19.95) provides a recipe for cannelloni that contains 185 calories per serving. (Pritikin is the son of founder of the Pritikin Institute, the late Nathan Pritikin, who espoused a diet very low in fat.) The marinara sauce uses defatted chicken stock as the sauteing liquid. The whole wheat-rice flour crepes are made with nonfat milk and egg whites.

Pasta With Cauliflower, provided by Biba Caggiano, owner of Biba’s in Sacramento and author of “Modern Italian Cooking (Simon and Schuster: $17.95), shows another way to make use of fresh vegetables in a pasta dish for a light effect.

From Atlas Bar & Grill, a new restaurant at the Wiltern Building in Los Angeles, comes a recipe for pad Thai, a noodle dish made with shrimp sauce (available at many Oriental food stores).

Bow-tie pasta is used in an improvised Thai dish made with peanuts. A Southwestern pasta dish teams angel hair pasta with tomatoes and cilantro instead of the customary basil. An easy ramen dish that makes use of canned consomme rounds out our light pastas.




2 tablespoons oil

1/2 pound lean beef, sliced paper-thin


1/2 pound lean pork, sliced paper-thin

1 boneless chicken breast half, sliced

6 shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 squid, cleaned and sliced


4 Chinese black mushrooms, sliced

1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and sliced

1 bamboo shoot, sliced

1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced


1 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup sake



12 ounces fresh Chinese noodles, cooked and drained

1 cup spinach leaves, sliced

1 cup bean sprouts

Heat oil in wok. Add beef, pork and chicken. Saute until beef is browned. Add shrimp and squid. Saute 30 seconds. Remove and set aside.


Add black mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo shoot and mushrooms to wok and saute 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, sake and season to taste with salt. Cook until broth comes to simmer.

Add noodles and toss gently 2 minutes, or until heated through and sauce is absorbed. Add spinach and bean sprouts and toss until spinach turns bright green. Add reserved meat and seafood. Heat through. Makes 4 servings.


2 tablespoons oil


1/2 pound beef, sliced paper-thin

6 large shrimp, cleaned and deveined

1/2 head cabbage, sliced

1/2 pound bean sprouts


1 (7-ounce) package soba noodles, cooked and drained

1/4 cup Japanese Worcestershire sauce (Ikari)

1/4 cup sake



1/4 cup pickled red ginger strips

1/4 cup dried green seaweed

Heat oil in wok. Add beef and shrimp and saute 2 minutes. Add cabbage and bean sprouts and saute 1 minute.

Add noodles, Worcestershire, sake and season to taste with salt. Toss 2 minutes to heat through. Turn onto platter. Garnish with ginger and seaweed. Makes 4 to 6 servings.




2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 pound fresh shiitake and chanterelles, sliced


1 teaspoon minced garlic

Dash red pepper flakes

4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

12 leaves fresh basil, sliced


Salt, pepper

1/2 pound jumbo asparagus, blanched and cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces

10 ounces penne or other pasta

Grated Parmesan cheese


Heat oil in skillet. Add mushrooms, garlic and pepper flakes and saute until mushrooms are just cooked. Add tomatoes, basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add asparagus. Saute until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain. Pour sauce over pasta and toss lightly to mix. Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.


6 beefsteak tomatoes


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium Maui onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch fresh basil, chopped


Dash red pepper flakes


8 ounces angel hair pasta

Grated Parmesan cheese


Peel tomatoes and remove seeds. Finely chop. Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is transparent. Add basil, red pepper and tomatoes. Saute few minutes until flavors blend. Season to taste with salt.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and place on serving platter.

Pour sauce over pasta. Sprinkle with cheese. Makes 4 servings.



1 1/3 cups hoop cheese

1/2 cup nonfat milk

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

3 cups Low-Fat Marinara Sauce

6 Crepes


Place hoop cheese, nonfat milk, oregano, nutmeg and basil in blender container and blend until smooth. Spoon blended hoop cheese into bowl and fold in beaten egg whites.

Cover 9-inch square baking dish with 1/2 Low-Fat Marinara Sauce. Divide cheese mixture evenly down centers of crepes. Fold crepes over and place, seam side down in baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees 10 to 15 minutes or until hot. Do not overcook or cheese will toughen and shrink.

Spoon remaining sauce over cannelloni before serving. Makes 6 cannelloni.


Low-Fat Marinara Sauce

2 tablespoons defatted chicken stock

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped


1 small carrot, grated

3 pounds tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil


2 tablespoons crushed dried basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons grated sapsago cheese, toasted


2 tablespoons Italian seasoning

Heat chicken stock in large saucepan. Add onion, garlic and carrot. Saute 5 minutes.

Coarsely chop tomatoes and add to saucepan. Add basil, parsley, tomato paste, cheese and Italian seasoning. Simmer 1 hour.

Puree in blender or use food processor for more textured sauce. Makes 6 servings.



2/3 cup whole-wheat flour

2 tablespoons rice flour

1 cup nonfat milk


1 teaspoon apple juice concentrate

2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Combine flours, nonfat milk and juice concentrate. Fold beaten egg whites into flour mixture.

Measure 1/2 cup batter per Crepe. Pour into nonstick 8-inch crepe pan, tilting to cover inner surface of pan. Cook on both sides until golden brown. Makes 6 Crepes.


Note: To make Crepes ahead of time and freeze, place wax paper between Crepes and wrap tightly so they are not exposed to air. Before using Crepes, bring to room temperature and heat until soft and pliable. Reheat before using or Crepes will break when folded.



4 large red, yellow or green peppers


1 small cauliflower, separated into florets

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 finely diced red chile pepper


4 anchovy fillets, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons rinsed and dried capers



1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti

Roast peppers over flame until blistered, using long-handled tongs. Cool, then peel. Cut in halves and remove seeds. Cut into small strips. Set aside.

Steam or parboil cauliflorets and set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add garlic, chile pepper and anchovies. Saute 2 minutes. Add parsley, capers, red peppers and cauliflorets. Saute 1 to 2 minutes longer. Taste to adjust seasonings. Keep warm over very low heat.


Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and add to skillet with sauce. Raise heat and toss pasta with vegetable mixture. Serve at once, spooning vegetables over each serving. Makes 6 servings.



1 (7-ounce) package dry Thai flat ribbon noodles


1 cup bean sprouts

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon sugar


1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

1/4 cup Thai fish or shrimp sauce

1/2 cup catsup

2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup ground dried shrimp


2 eggs, beaten

1 cup bean sprouts

2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts

Pad Thai Marinated Shrimp


Chopped green onions, lime, sunflower sprouts and carrot for garnish

Soak noodles in water to cover 15 minutes. Soak sprouts in cold water to cover.

Brown garlic lightly in oil. Stir in sugar, cayenne, fish sauce, catsup and dried shrimp. Add eggs and noodles. Fry until noodles turn orange and are tender.

Add bean sprouts and cook 1 minute. Top with peanuts, grilled Pad Thai Marinated Shrimp and garnish with green onions, lime, sunflower sprouts and carrots, as desired. Makes 4 servings.


Pad Thai Marinated Shrimp

1/2 pound cleaned and butterflied shrimp

2 tablespoons fish or shrimp sauce

1/2 cup lime juice


1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup catsup

Place shrimp in shallow container. Mix fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, cayenne to taste and catsup. Pour over shrimp. Marinate 2 hours. Skewer shrimp on soaked bamboo skewers and grill when ready to serve.




2 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, mashed


1 cup dry white wine

30 Italian plum tomatoes, skin removed

Salt, pepper

1/2 pound angel hair pasta


Heat oil and add garlic. Saute until garlic is golden brown. Add wine and cook until reduced to glaze. Cut up or mash tomatoes and add with their liquid and salt and pepper to taste to garlic mixture. Saute few minutes to blend flavors. Cook liquid until reduced if too watery.

Meanwhile cook angel hair pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and add to tomato mixture. Toss lightly but well. Makes 6 servings.

Note: To basic sauce add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, basil or other herbs. Sauteed shrimp, cube steak strips or other meat may be added to sauce. For anchovy flavor mash and add 1 anchovy to saucepan with garlic.



1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/4 cup honey


1/3 cup water

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup sesame oil

12 ounces bow-tie pasta


Chopped green onions

Place peanuts in bowl or food processor and process until finely ground. With motor running, add soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, honey, water, garlic and oil, 1 at time through feed tube.

Process until thick, smooth paste has formed. Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. Pour warm peanut sauce over pasta and toss to coat well. Makes 4 servings.




2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, sliced


1 clove garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes, crushed or coarsely chopped

3/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt


2 to 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

1/4 teaspoon sugar

12 ounces angel hair pasta

Parmesan cheese, optional


Heat oil in heavy skillet. Stir in onions and garlic. Saute 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.

Add tomatoes, hot pepper sauce, salt, cilantro and sugar. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Cook angel hair pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain. Pour tomato mixture over pasta and toss lightly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.



2 (10 1/2-ounce) cans condensed beef consomme

1 1/2 soup cans water


1/2 cup fine Chinese noodles (ramen)


1/2 cup thinly sliced cooked chicken, pork, or 1 cup assorted cut vegetables

Chopped parsley

Soy sauce

Hot pepper sauce


Bring consomme and water to boil. Season to taste with pepper. Add noodles and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until noodles are tender.

Add chicken, pork, shrimp or assorted vegetables. Sprinkle to taste with parsley. Season to taste with soy sauce and hot pepper sauce. Makes 4 to 6 servings.