2 Fast Pastas: Almond-Pesto Pasta or Marinara Pasta

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Creating a deliciously healthy meal couldn’t be easier! Make a pesto spaghetti recipe or a marinara spaghetti recipe simply by preparing the noodles according to package directions and tossing with either of these 5- ingredient-or-fewer  meatless sauces. Read on to find out about these variations and recipes.

Looking for an alternative to whole wheat or whole grain pastas? Legume-fortified pastas, Barilla Plus, are a good alternative.

For pesto spaghetti dishes, try these variations:

1. Parsley and almonds (recipe follows)

2. Basil and pine nuts (See our Basil, Spinach, and Pine nut pesto for this type)

3. Arugula and pine nuts

4. Watercress and walnut (simply substitute the parsley with watercress and the almonds with walnuts, following the recipe below)

Quick tip:

Add halved cherry tomatoes or cooked broccoli to the pesto pasta to add nutrients and create a larger portion sizes. For instance if pasta is full of broccoli, the portion size could be larger with no added carbs.

For marinara spaghetti dishes:

Use whole canned tomatoes or freshly chopped tomatoes, chopped basil, garlic and some olive oil (recipe follows).

For extra flavor, add any or all of these ingredients: 1 tablespoon of capers, a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes,  4 or 5 anchovies, broken up, and about 1/4 chopped kalamata or black olives. When all of these ingredients are added to the marinara sauce, it’s a quick Puttanesca sauce. Want to make this a Puttanesca sauce but not an anchovy fan? Add chunks of canned albacore tuna at the end of cooking time.

Try your favorite pasta with one of these side dishes:
Spring Mix with Roasted Feta and Pears
Rainbow Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing
Warm Cauliflower Salad

2 Fast Pastas: Almond-Pesto Pasta or Marinara Pasta

marinara sauce

For the pesto pasta (including sauce and pasta):

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1 cup | Calories: 343 | Total Fat: 13 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 7 mg | Carbohydrates: 49 g | Sodium: 169 mg | Dietary Fiber: 8 g | Sugars: 1 g | Protein: 11 g | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 10

For the pasta with marinara sauce (including sauce and pasta):

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1 cup | Calories: 319 | Total Fat: 9 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 0 mg | Carbohydrates: 57 g | Sodium: 163 mg | Dietary Fiber: 12 g | Sugars: 4 g | Protein: 8 g | SmartPoints: 10


  • For the pasta:
  • 8 ounces whole wheat pasta of choice such as spaghetti, linguine, farfalle, cooked according to package directions
  • For the Almond-Pesto:
  • 1 cup loosely packed Italian (flat leaf) parsley leaves (stems removed)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup almonds, peel-on and lightly toasted (the peeling is full of nutrients)
  • OR for the marinara sauce:
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole tomatoes with juices
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. For the pesto:
  2. Toast the nuts in a skillet over medium-heat for about 3 to 5 minutes, until fragrant. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Add parsley, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and oil to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add the nuts and pulse until coarsely chopped into the puree. Do not over blend/ over process the almonds. There should be very small coarse pieces in the pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir.
  4. For the marinara sauce:
  5. Crush tomatoes, coarsely, by squeezing and breaking them up with your hands. Set aside with the juices.
  6. Heat olive oil in a saute pan or skillet and add the onions, cooking for 5 minutes over medium heat, until softened and translucent. Do not allow the onions to brown, use lower heat if necessary. Add the garlic, cooking for 30 seconds more, until fragrant.
  7. Add the tomatoes and juices immediately, and continue to cook over medium heat until much of the juice evaporates. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. To assemble:
  9. Toss the sauce of choice into the pasta and top with freshly ground black pepper to serve. Recommend adding 1 cup diced Roma tomatoes with the Almond-Pesto Pasta.


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