16 low calorie pasta recipes for those counting calories
These low calorie pasta recipes are delicious, nutritious, and aid weight loss - perfect for a low calorie diet...
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Our low calorie pasta recipes range from linguine in a tangy balsamic tomato sauce to a classic pasta niçoise salad. You won't know which one to try first.
Low carb diets (opens in new tab) have been on trend for quite some time and we could be forgiven for thinking that a bowl of pasta is the food enemy when watching the calories and trying to shift a few pounds. Yet, it's the perfect meal to keep you well-fuelled, thus avoiding any unnecessary visits to the biscuit barrel.
"Believe it or not, pasta has numerous health benefits. It is rich in carbohydrates, which provide energy to the body, fuelling you for the day," says Click2Pharmacy's Dr. Hussain Ahmad (opens in new tab) who regularly provides support, advice, and treatments for patients looking to lose weight. "Particularly when opting for whole wheat options, these carbohydrates tend to slow release, helping to keep you full and energised throughout the day. In recent years, there have also been a number of new variants introduced to the market such as chickpea pasta, lentil pasta, and pasta made with pea protein, all of which bring additional health benefits with them."
With an array of healthy pasta recipes (opens in new tab) available online these days, pasta has become a popular choice as its low in fat and contains essential nutrients such as iron, B vitamins, and a good amount of fiber. "Whole wheat can help to balance blood sugar levels, improve heart health, and improve digestion," says Dr. Ahmad. "Pasta is a great base for combining with salads, vegetables, lean meats, and oils, making it a great addition to a balanced meal. It’s also really quick and easy to cook, making it a fantastic option for those who are short on time and might otherwise have opted for a not-so-healthy takeout or ready meal."
Low calorie pasta recipes
1. Balsamic tomato pasta
Serves: 4 | Calories per serving: 270 cals | Total time: 20 mins
A mere six ingredients are needed here, and the trick is quality. If budget allows, opt for the best, most flavoursome tomatoes on the vine (tomatoes are one of the things we'd always recommend spending a tad more on – the difference in taste can be vast) also, and a decent balsamic vinegar – try Belazu 1.34 Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (opens in new tab).
The recipe can be cut down to five ingredients and fewer calories if you were to leave off the Parmesan, too. This recipe uses spinach linguine, which we think is a fine choice, but use regular linguine or swap for tagliatelle or spaghetti, should you prefer.
Get the recipe: Balsamic tomato pasta (opens in new tab)
2. Slow cooker aubergine caponata
Serves: 6 | Calories per serving: 221 cals | Total time: 4 hrs 30 min
We always think of meat dishes, particularly lamb and beef, when it comes to slow cooking, but aubergines are wonderful this way, turning out sticky and extremely flavoursome. This Sicilian dish is vegan-friendly and very low-fat, the flavour coming from the chilli, onions, olives, capers, and stock, and the protein from the toasted pine nuts.
The pasta of choice here is orzo, but any smaller pasta like macaroni could work as well and, if you go big on the sauce, small on pasta, it'll reduce the calories even further. A perfect one to have to bubble away to return to the house smelling divine after a hard day's work.
Get the recipe: Slow cooker aubergine caponata (opens in new tab)
3. Mushroom ragu with courgetti
Serves: 4-6 | Calories per serving: 125 cals | Total time: 45 mins
Another low-fat and vegan dinner choice, this sauce is a riff on a classic bolognese. The blitzed mushrooms bring that umami flavour, combined with carrots, celery, stock, passata and Quorn mince (though you could leave out the Quorn if you'd rather, as the mushrooms give plenty of that meaty texture). Throw in some dried herbs for good measure.
And, to really keep the calories down and the nutrients up, serve with spiralized courgettes as 'pasta' – the same portion size as spaghetti will save you around 130 calories.
Get the recipe: Mushroom ragu with courgetti (opens in new tab)
4. Meatballs with lemon tagliatelle
Serves: 2-3 | Calories per serving: 350 cals | Total time: 45 mins
Opt for turkey mince (or 5% fat beef mince) and you'll keep the calories nice and low in this super tasty meatball dish. Leave out the butter (the crème fraîche will make things creamy enough) and swap the oil for a small drizzle of olive oil and get them down even further. The lemon and herbs de Provence are key to the flavour and we highly recommend a pinch or two of dried chilli flakes for punch.
"High in protein thanks to the lean turkey mince, this recipe is a great, hearty meal that will be sure to keep you feeling full and satisfied, making you much less likely to snack on unhealthy foods later in the day," says Dr. Ahmad.
Get the recipe: Meatballs with lemon tagliatelle (opens in new tab)
5. Pasta Niçoise
Serves: 8 | Calories per serving: 300 cals | Total time: 25 mins
A brilliant work option, the quantities in this recipe are for a batch cook, so it could help nicely with a week of low-cal packed lunches. Tons of nutrients from the vitamins of the green beans and tomatoes to the protein of the tuna and hard-boiled eggs, and, of course, carbs from the pasta, we recommend a bite-sized fusilli or penne in this scenario.
This recipe uses a ready-made vinaigrette dressing, but make your own with a drizzle of olive oil mixed with salt, pepper, salad vinegar, and lemon juice – maybe a cheeky sprinkle of mustard powder too. Vinegar and seasonings are, after all, your weight-loss flavour friends.
Get the recipe: Pasta Niçoise (opens in new tab)
6. Slimming World spinach, tomato and red pepper cannelloni
Serves: 4 | Calories per serving: 444 cals | Total time: 1 hr 15 mins
Plenty of veg in this rainbow lasagne, a marvelous choice for a weekend meal for all the family while still watching the calories for yourself. Lasagne is usually a complete calorie and fat-fest, but this version reduces both drastically, using skimmed milk in the bechamel, as well as quark (which could be switched for low-fat crème fraîche).
The filling is super nutritious and low cal, and it's topped with reduced-fat cheddar. A comforting lower cal winner of a dinner.
Get the recipe: Slimming World spinach, tomato, and red pepper cannelloni (opens in new tab)
7. Primavera pasta
Serves: 4 | Calories per serving: 390 cals | Total time: 30 mins
Like Spring in a bowl, this pasta dish is stacked with seasonal greens, including asparagus, leeks, and green beans, cooked simply with veggie stock (we would absolutely throw some garlic and herbs in too, and finish off with fresh basil).
You'll be getting a good 2-3 of your five a day in here, and it pairs perfectly with farfalle (pasta bows, to you and me) though orecchiette (the ears) or fusilli (the spirals) are other good choices.
Get the recipe: Primavera pasta (opens in new tab)
8. Sweet potato pasta
Serves: 4 | Calories per serving: 221 cals | Total time: 25 mins
Sweet potatoes in pasta, you say? Has the world gone completely mad? Trust us, it works, and it works well. This creamy sauce is low calorie, with the sweetness of the spuds a great contrast to the salty Parmesan.
Other root veggies, like squash or carrots, work wonderfully too, and there's zero oil in there to push up the fat and calories. A good one for a quick lunch. Try adding in a handful of peas for some greenery, too.
Get the recipe: Sweet potato pasta (opens in new tab)
9. Tuna pasta
Serves: 1 | Calories per serving: 249 cals | Total time: 25 mins
This recipe uses fresh tuna, which should be seared and left pink in the middle for maximum flavour – though it could be adapted to use tinned tuna if you're after a speedy store cupboard dinner. Simple, nutritious, and delicious, the fish can be a secret weapon in a weight loss mission.
"Oily fish such as tuna is an excellent source of vitamin B12. This can actually be vital for helping to regulate your metabolism. Studies have found that people deficient in B12 generally experience a slowing of their metabolism. When we don’t get enough of this vital nutrient, our body tends to hold onto its fat stores, resulting in a lower overall calorie burn rate throughout the day," says Dr. Ahmad.
Get the recipe: Tuna pasta (opens in new tab)
10. Lower fat carbonara
Serves: 4 | Calories per serving: 409 cals | Total time: 25 mins
"Carbonara is probably one of the least healthy options on many Italian restaurant menus. But, as you can see from this recipe – there are ways you can make it much healthier but still just as tasty yourself. This recipe contains around a quarter of the saturated fat content usually found in carbonara, thanks to the use of 1% fat milk and low-fat cheese, making it a great option for those looking to lose weight whilst still enjoying foods they love," says Dr. Ahmad.
Use back bacon or, even better, opt for bacon medallions, which are purely lean meat sans any whiff of fat. Swapping bacon for smoked ham or even smoked salmon (yes, we know it won't be a carbonara anymore, but it will be a healthier protein) works a treat too.
Get the recipe: Lower fat carbonara (opens in new tab)
11. Low-calorie macaroni cheese
Serves: 6 | Calories per serving: 339 cals | Total time: 50 mins
Because sometimes, you just need a plate of mac and cheese, even when you're trying to lose the kilos. This recipe swaps out full-fat versions of cheese/milk/butter for their less calorific cousins but does not compromise on flavour. There's mustard, there's onion, there's seasoning (we recommend a pinch or two of nutmeg in the bechamel mix), and it's all topped with juicy tomatoes.
Serve with wilted spinach or steamed broccoli and you've got yourself a balanced dinner for a fraction of the calories.
Get the recipe: Low-calorie macaroni cheese (opens in new tab)
12. Crab and mint linguine
Serves: 2 | Calories per serving: 386 cals| Total time: 15 mins
This recipe sure is special enough for dinner guests, and a little different from your average bowl of pasta. Buy a pot of crab meat from your local fishmonger and it will pair beautifully with chilli and lemon, plus, while basil might often be the fresh herb of choice with pasta, this dish uses fresh mint to complement the chilli just perfectly.
The crunchy crumb is a texture sensation too. Ideal with linguine or spaghetti.
Get the recipe: Crab and mint linguine (opens in new tab)
13. Pasta shells with crayfish
Serves: 3-4 | Calories per serving: 321 cals | Total time: 15 mins
Considering it's got butter (ooh, yum) in it, this very special and very simple pasta dish is pleasingly low on calories. And it could be switched out for a small drizzle of olive oil, should you prefer.
Crayfish isn't an everyday food, which makes it a standout dinner and a tasty – yet low-fat and high protein – one, at that. The lemon zest and juice add a fresh sharpness. Serve with plenty of fresh black pepper, and maybe a green salad on the side.
Get the recipe: Pasta shells with crayfish (opens in new tab)
14. Crab, lemon and chilli linguine
Serves: 4 | Calories per serving: 490 cals | Total time: 15 mins
We Brits really should make more use of tinned crab. It's tasty, high protein, and low cal, and can be knocked together with pasta and a bit of garlic, chilli, and lemon for a super speedy midweek dinner dish from the cupboard – slightly better than beans on toast, right?
Linguine, fettuccine, or spaghetti all work beautifully here – even better if you went for the healthier whole wheat option – or why not try a spinach pasta for colour and flavour?
Get the recipe: Crab, lemon and chilli linguine (opens in new tab)
15. Slow roasted tomato pasta with broad beans
Serves: 4 | Calories per serving: 421 cals | Total time: 1 hr
Slow-cooked sticky tomatoes pair beautifully with the freshness of the broad beans in a dish that makes it feel like Spring has well and truly sprung. If you can't find fresh broad beans, frozen work just as well – and they could be switched altogether for edamame beans, that Japanese favourite (and a great low-cal snack option – Tesco and Waitrose sell them frozen).
Wonderful with fettuccine, this vegan dish delivers a protein hit from the beans and is a perfect balance, low-cal dinner.
Get the recipe: Slow roasted tomato pasta with broad beans (opens in new tab)
16. Pasta with prawns, chilli and tomatoes
Serves: 4 | Calories per serving: 236 cals | Total time: 15 mins
The tiger prawns are, quite rightly, the star of the show, in this pasta dish from Slimming World, standing out in a classic sauce of fresh plum tomatoes, chilli, and garlic. Perfect with penne or fusilli, you could also add other seafood – mussels are great (and cheap!) and squid is perfect too.
Just buy a frozen mix if fresh is too spendy and/or inaccessible. Stir through fresh rocket (though spinach is a good alternative if you prefer) before serving.
Get the recipe: Slimming World's pasta with prawns, chilli and tomatoes (opens in new tab)
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Lara Kilner is a writer and editor with two decades of experience in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She writes about food, lifestyle, travel, health and wellness, and entertainment, and regularly interviews celebrities and people with interesting life stories and experiences. Her foodie content has included interviews with Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Queer Eye’s food expert Antoni Porowski, the Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and Nadiya Hussain.
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