5 Pasta Dinners Under 500 Calories

Heavy cream sauces and out of control portions have given pasta dishes the bad reputation of being unhealthy–sometimes deservedly so. In an excerpt of Restaurant Confidential via ABC, authors Michael Jacobson and Jayne Hurley crunched calorie data for thirteen meals from Italian restaurants in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. The pasta-based options frequently hovered between 800 and 1,000 calories and were filled with fat. That however, doesn’t need to be the case, and not all meals should be judged with these stereotypes in mind. You can make a lighter version at home using any of the following five recipes.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock


1. Spaghetti and Meatballs

The meatballs are baked, and the pasta is whole-wheat in Eating Well‘s updated take on the old-fashioned spaghetti and meatballs. According to Livestrong, the classic Italian dish can easily top 1,000 calories per serving when you order it at a restaurant these days. This dish comes in just under 500 calories, and the recipe yields six servings.



  • ⅓ cup bulgur
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 4 ounces lean ground beef
  • 4 ounces hot Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat

Spaghetti and Sauce

  • 4 cups prepared marinara sauce
  • ½ cup slivered fresh basil leaves, or chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti, or linguine
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, or Romano cheese (1 ounce)

Directions: To prepare meatballs: Combine bulgur and water in a small bowl. Let stand until the bulgur is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a rack with cooking spray and place it over a baking sheet lined with foil. Combine ground beef, sausage, onion, egg whites, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs and the soaked bulgur in a large bowl; mix well. Form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs (about 24). Place the meatballs on the rack and bake for 25 minutes. Blot well with paper towel.

To prepare sauce & spaghetti: Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil. Bring sauce to a simmer in a Dutch oven. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir in basil (or parsley). Meanwhile, cook spaghetti (or linguine) until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the sauce and meatballs and serve with grated cheese.