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MenuMasters 2018: University of Connecticut Department of Dining Services

MenuMasters 2018: University of Connecticut Department of Dining Services

Reimagining pasta with healthful beans and lentils for Healthy Innovation

Presented by Nation's Restaurant News and sponsored by Ventura Foods, the MenuMasters Awards honor culinary excellence in menu development.

You have your protein flips, and then you have your protein back flips with a twist.

That’s what the University of Connecticut’s dining department has pulled off with its new line of Healthy & Lean Bean Pasta Dishes, a vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb, high-protein, high-fiber take on what can often be a guilty pleasure: a big bowl of pasta. 

The protein flip in this case — pasta that includes protein because it’s made of beans — replaces animal proteins in pasta dishes, and also replaces the “bad guy” unrefined/white-flour carbs in traditional pasta in one fell swoop. The benefits of the bean pastas are impressive. 

“Pasta has always been a popular choice among students, but the negative has always been the carbohydrate overload and lack of protein,” said Robert Landolphi, dining director at UConn. 
“Now it can be a healthier choice for those looking for pastas that are non-GMO, contain all nine amino acids and have 21 to 25 grams of protein per serving.” 

For the most part, Landolphi and the culinary team developed the dishes to keep the flavors reminiscent “of your favorite Italian restaurant,” but also conjured up some composed plates with creamy Cajun sauce, roasted veggies and balsamic gastriques, he said, pasta dishes that are “flavorful and satisfying.” 

During the process, Lean Bean Pasta dishes were developed with fresh ingredients and memorable sauces. 

“Students are loving it,” Landolphi said. “The students refer to these pastas as ‘guilt free’ because they are full of flavor, healthy and don’t leave you weighed down.” 

Benefits of beans

Chickpea rotini is healthful and cooks quickly. Chickpea rotini, made by the Banza company, has 25 grams of protein per 3-oz. serving; is high in fiber; and can be cooked in seven minutes or parboiled for four minutes, cooled and refrigerated overnight. Served with roasted garlic, tomato, mozzarella and balsamic gastrique, this can easily be cooked to order.

Red lentil penne can handle big flavors. Pepperoncini, yellow squash, baby spinach and sun-dried tomato pesto go perfectly with red lentil penne, garnished with the perfect crumble of salty feta cheese.

Flavor profiles veer beyond Italian. Chickpea rotini also acts as a great vehicle for regional flavors, such as a Cajun cream sauce with spices, Sriracha, parmesan, slow-roasted red and green bell peppers, onions and garlic, then topped with diced fresh tomatoes and chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Read more:
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Best new menu item: Del Taco's Epic Queso Chicken Burrito
Meet the 2018 MenuMasters

Contact Tara Fitzpatrick at [email protected]  

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