Chefs Dish on better-for-you pastas 

Chefs are often caught in the middle of consumers or decision makers who say they need more healthy options on the menu, and then seeing those same dishes not sell beyond a token few. We know what the experts are saying, so we checked with working chefs who are solving for this challenge every day. Here are three approaches we heard about from our Barilla Brand Ambassador network: 

  1. Lead with the veggies! Pasta is something guests know and love already; use it as a vehicle to amp up the vegetables on the plate. Lean into seasonality, especially for LTOs or specials. Consumers are less excited about meat analogs these days than they are just wanting to eat plants.  

Our approach over the last two years was to quietly elevate our pasta dishes by creating a healthy blend of pasta, aromatic vegetables, sauce and if needed use protein as garnish. We found we could go as high as 50/50 veggies to pasta and have big flavor impact and an overall healthier plate.” – Chef Jeffrey Quasha, Morrison Dining 

Barilla® Moroccan Spiced Lamb, Lentil, Ditalini and Harissa Soup by Chef Jeffrey Quasha
  1. A little stealth health never hurts. Blend pureed veggies into sauces, like cauliflower or butternut squash into cheese sauces. You can use less cheese and fats, amp up flavor, and get a better nutritional profile. Blending mushrooms or legumes into meat sauces or meatballs is another winning approach.  

Healthier food – especially from foodservice – only works if it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. It should feel good to order it, and to eat it. I love the blend concept because it not only improves the nutritional profile of the plate, but it adds flavor, too.” – Chef Pam Smith, RDN 

Lemony Orzo Soup by Chef Pam Smith
  1. Embrace global flavors, especially from parts of the world that feature fresh produce and lighter fare, from the Mediterranean to India, Africa or Asia. Particularly in campus dining, exposing students to new cultures and cuisines is easier with a comfort-food favorite like pasta at the foundation of the plate.   

“I find it helpful to think of pasta simply as another grain, one with a particular shape. Doing so opens so many culinary possilbilities. A lentil pasta with spinach and paneer cheese for instance. Or at the base of an East African dish with silsi tomatoes, eggplant and greens – Chef Charles Kimball, Chartwells

Barilla Red Lentil Pasta with Harissa Squash Nage, Roasted Eggplant, Greens and Silsi Tomato by Chef Charles Kimball