Pasta in general terms is usually considered to be an extremely healthy, low fat eating option. It is often vegetarian friendly, it serves as an ideal accompaniment to the delicious and nutritious fresh ingredients otherwise incorporated in the Mediterranean diet and it is quick and easy to prepare. The problem with regard to fat in pasta dishes arises not from the main ingredient itself but what is often added to it, particularly in relation to sauces. Cheeses and cream are perhaps the most frequent culprits when it comes to introducing saturated animal fats in to what are otherwise generally low fat dishes but neither will be found in any of the recipes on this page.

Quick Guide to Cooking Pasta

Cooking Pasta
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Dried tagliatelle pasta is added to plenty of heavily salted cooking water

All the pastas used on this page are of the type which have been made and dried before being sold. Pasta will on most occasions be cooked by submerging it in boiling, salted water. It is important to have plenty of water in the pot and to have the water well salted. It is the perceived excess of water which keeps the different strands or pieces from sticking together by ensuring the sticky starch becomes well diluted. There is a popular belief in Italy that the water for cooking pasta should be as salty as the Mediterranean Sea. It is also important not to overcook it that it becomes soggy and mushy. The popular Italian description for perfectly cooked pasta that is al dente means literally, "To the tooth". This suggests that there should remain some bite to it and that it will require to be chewed before it can be swallowed. The cooking period will vary depending upon the type being cooked and the strength of the simmer but allow for eight to ten minutes in most instances.

Minestrone Pasta Soup Recipe

Minestrone Pasta Soup
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Minestrone pasta soup with fresh ciabatta bread

The inclusion of a soup recipe on this page may raise an inquisitive eyebrow or two for a couple of principal reasons. Firstly and most significantly, soup is rarely considered to be a quick dish to prepare. Soup usually takes several hours or even overnight to prepare properly. In this instance, the soup is on the table less than an hour after its preparation is started. Secondly, pasta is not usually considered a common soup ingredient. Italian minestrone soup is a soup, however, which does not have a hard and fast recipe. It is better described as being a concept, one which incorporates whichever fresh vegetables happen to be in season at the time. One of the popular further additions is pasta.

Ingredients (Serves 6 to 8)

Minestrone Pasta Soup Ingredients
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Basic ingredients for minestrone pasta soup

  • 1 medium carrot, scraped and diced
  • 1 stick of celery, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 14 ounce cans chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
  • 1 14 ounce can borlotti beans (type of cranberry bean) in water, drained and rinsed
  • 3 pints fresh vegetable stock (or even water)
  • 1 cup fusilli spirals
  • Salt and pepper
  • Slices of ciabatta bread to serve


Prepared Vegetables for Soup
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Prepared vegetables for soup

When preparing large garlic cloves like these, it is a good idea to remove the tough, indigestible inner stalks. This is done by peeling the clove and cutting it in half down through the middle. The stalks can then be popped free. See the photo above.

Bring the olive oil up to a medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the garlic, onion, carrot and celery and saute gently for a couple of minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Simmering Tomatoes and Vegetables
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Tomatoes, stock and vegetables are simmered

Pour the tomatoes and the vegetable stock in to the pot. Season, stir well and bring to a gentle simmer for fifteen minutes.

Pasta and Beans added to Soup
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Pasta and beans are added to the soup

Add the drained and rinsed borlotti beans and the fusilli to the soup, stir and bring back to a simmer for a further ten to twelve minutes.

Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if required before ladling in to serving bowls and serving with the fresh ciabatta.

Tagliatelle with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Black Olives Recipe

Tagliatelle with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Black Olives
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Tagliatelle pasta served simply with sun dried tomatoes, black olives and basil

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • Individual serving nest of dried tagliatelle
  • 4 pieces of sun dried tomato, roughly chopped
  • 6 black olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 large basil leaves, sliced (plus small sprig of leaves to garnish)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Prepared Olives, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Prepared black olives, sun dried tomatoes and basil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add the tagliatelle. Simmer for ten to twelve minutes.

A couple of minutes before it is ready, put the olive oil in to a small frying pan, heat and saute the garlic for around a minute. Add the olives, sun dried tomatoes and basil, simply to heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

Tagliatelle added to Sauteed Veg
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Cooked tagliatelle is added to sauteed vegetables

Drain the tagliatelle well before adding it to the frying pan and combine with the veg by lifting and folding with cooking tongs.

Transfer to a serving plate or bowl and garnish with the sprig of basil.

Chicken and Mushroom Spaghetti Recipe

Chicken and Mushroom Spaghetti
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chicken and mushroom spaghetti

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • Dried spaghetti as required
  • 1 chicken breast fillet, sliced quarter inch thick across the grain
  • 3 small white mushrooms, quarter inch sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • Leaves from 1/3 sprig rosemary, finely chopped, plus small sprig to garnish
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Cooking Spaghetti
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Spaghetti is firstly put on to cook

Put the spaghetti in to a deep pan of salted water to simmer for ten to twelve minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and season the chicken slices. Fry for two minutes each side until cooked.

Mushrooms added to Stir Fried Chicken
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Mushrooms added to fried chicken

Add the garlic, mushrooms and rosemary to the frying pan and stir fry for a minute. Drain the spaghetti and add to the frying pan. Toss and combine with the other ingredients.

Plate the pasta and accompaniments, garnishing with the half sprig of rosemary.

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Smoked Salmon and Strawberry Cold Fusilli Salad

Smoked Salmon and Strawberry Cold Fusilli Salad
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Smoked salmon and strawberries combine very well in a cold pasta salad

Smoked salmon and strawberries is not an unheard of combination but it will be unfamiliar to many people. It is also one of those food combinations which people tend to either love or hate so you may find it a good idea to try it in a small quantity before including it in a full scale meal. Do note that the lemon juice is essential to cut through both the sweetness of the strawberries and the oiliness of the smoked salmon.

Ingredients (Serves 1)

Pasta Salad Ingredients
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Principal pasta salad ingredients

  • ¾ cup fusilli pasta
  • 2 large strips cold smoked salmon, cut in to half inch strips
  • 3 strawberries, husks removed and halved down through the centre
  • 2 large basil leaves, sliced
  • Juice from approximately 1/4 a lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Bottle of ice cold Italian beer to serve


Combining Salad Ingredients
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Salad ingredients are carefully combined in a large bowl

Simmer the fusilli in salted water for ten minutes. Drain well, cover and leave for at least fifteen minutes to cool completely.

Put the spirals in a large bowl and add the smoked salmon, strawberries, basil and lemon juice. Season with black pepper. Combine the ingredients by stirring in a lifting, folding motion with a wooden spoon.

Cold Pasta Salad and Beer
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Cold fusilli salad is served with an ice cold bottle of Italian beer

Plate the combination and serve with the cold beer. The beer is not just a "nice to have" accompaniment to this dish, it really does add something special to the taste of the meal and the eating experience.

Penne Pasta in Tomato and Vegetable Sauce

Penne Pasta in Tomato and Vegetable Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Penne pasta in tomato and mixed vegetable sauce is served with bruschetta


  • ½ zucchini (courgette), roughly diced
  • ½ eggplant (aubergine), roughly diced
  • Salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to drizzle on bruschetta
  • 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
  • ¾ cup penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped flat leaf parsley, plus a little extra to garnish
  • 6 slices of ciabatta bread
  • 1 whole clove of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Salting Eggplant and Zucchini
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Salting eggplant and zucchini chunks

It used to be the case that eggplants and aubergines had to be salted and left for a while before they could be cooked. This was to allow the salt to draw the bitter juices from the flesh. In modern times, this bitterness has largely been bred out of the vegetable and the procedure is only absolutely necessary if using a heritage variety. However, it remains a good idea to follow the process where time permits in order to draw out excess moisture and prevent the veg becoming soggy as it cooks.

Put the diced eggplant and zucchini in to a large bowl. Season fairly well with salt and stir carefully. Pour the vegetables in to a large sieve and suspend the sieve over the bowl. Cover with kitchen paper and leave for half an hour.

Sauteing Eggplant and Zucchini
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Eggplant and zucchini are sauteed with garlic

Put the olive oil in to a large pot, heat and saute the garlic for a minute or so. Give the sieve a final shake and tip the vegetables in with the garlic. Season with pepper only and saute for a further minute.

Tomatoes added to Sauteed Vegetables
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Canned tomatoes are poured in to and stirred through the sauteed vegetables

Pour the tomatoes in to the pot and bring to a simmer. Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you tend to and cook the pasta.

Pasta is added to Tomato Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Pasta and parsley are added to tomato sauce

Put the penne in to a large pot of salted water and simmer for ten to twelve minutes. Drain well before adding to the sauce with the chopped parsley. Stir well before dividing between two serving bowls and garnishing with the remaining parsley.

This quick to make bruschetta is simply toasted slices of ciabatta bread, rubbed with the lightly crushed garlic clove, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. It works very well as a simple accompaniment to this dish.