We think it's safe to say that Italian fare is on everyone's list of favorite foods. But unfortunately, much of the ooey gooey grub we know and love is neither authentic to Italy nor flat belly-friendly! (Think: fried mozzarella sticks and deep-dish pizza.) That's why, for this roundup, we decided to stick with the real deal: food that stays true to the traditional and healthy Italian diet. In fact, according to a study in the European Heart Journal, a diet high in unrefined foods, whole grains, fish, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients who have an increased risk. And if you're iffy about following a diet that praises healthy fats, listen to this: a study in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal revealed that participants who followed a Mediterranean diet lost more weight than those who stuck to low-fat and calorie-restricted fare. So we get to eat more fats, forgo counting calories, and lose weight too? Count us in!
To get in on all the fun, check out our list below, where you'll find wholesome pizza recipes, bountiful pasta dishes, and satisfyingly cheesy eats. The best part might be that you'll be able to indulge in every single authentically delizioso dish, guilt-free! And for more about which untraditional foods get the boot, check out these 11 Italian Foods They Won't Eat In Italy!
Pasta Salad With Figs and Prosciutto
Nutrition: 382 calories, 12.9 g fat (3.9 g saturated), 292 mg sodium, 54.7 g carbs, 5.8 g fiber, 16.5 g sugar, 15.2 g protein
Who says pasta has to be served warm and smothered in calorie-laden cream sauce? Salty prosciutto is diced into bite-sized squares and mingle with sweet dried figs (which are drizzled with a white balsamic vinegar) and heart-healthy olive oil dressing, all over a bed of cold bowties. Not a big fan of consuming your pasta cold? Consider this: studies show that refrigerating noodles turns them into a resistant starch, which will help keep you full way longer than a bowl of piping hot pasta.
Get the recipe from Savory Simple.
Skinny Spaghetti & Meatballs
Nutrition: 398 calories, 9.9 g fat (3.4 g saturated), 249 mg sodium, 50 g carbs, 1.9 g fiber, 9.2 g sugar, 28.4 g protein (calculated with low sodium tomato sauce)
If the title had you jumping for joy, you're not alone. This healthified version of your classic Italian combo boasts less than 400 calories and 10 grams of fat. And that's way better than Olive Garden's meatballs, which pack in 420 calories and 28 grams of fat for just three meatballs—and that's without the added sauce or spaghetti! For more mouthwatering meatball ideas, don't miss these 18 Meatball Recipes For A Flat Belly.
Get the recipe from Pinch Of Yum.
Preserved Lemon Pappardelle With Fried Pine Nuts, Feta, & Mint
Nutrition: 428 calories, 21.6 g fat (5.5 g saturated), 304 mg sodium, 45.9 g carbs, 1.5 g fiber, 1.5 g sugar, 14.3 g protein (calculated with 1/5 cup olive oil)
This fresh combo consists of crumbled briny feta and preserved lemon with crunchy pine nuts and sprinkles of invigorating-yet-palate-balancing mint. It's so good that the blogger behind this recipe vows that this is the pasta dish she'd gain 300 pounds for. Although this dish isn't too high in calories and it's got a good amount of protein, we calculated it with only a 1/5 cup of olive oil rather than the 1/3 cup it originally calls for so it fits with your flat belly plans.
Get the recipe from My Name Is Yeh.
Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Nutrition: 323 calories, 18.1 g fat (6.8 g saturated), 379 mg sodium, 27.3 g carbs, 7.9 g fiber, 13.1 g sugar, 18.9 g protein (calculated with 1/6 cup olive oil and 6 oz mozzarella)
What's better than a dish of ultra-satisfying eggplant parm? Answer: eggplant parm that won't sabotage your weight loss goals—just like this protein-packed recipe right here. If you ask us, it's the perfect way to indulge without the guilt.
Get the recipe from Love And Olive Oil.
Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats
Nutrition: serves: 8, 360 calories, 15.8 g fat (4.1 g saturated), 318 mg sodium, 37.7 g carbs, 1.2 g fiber, 2.8 g sugar, 24.5 g protein (calculated with two four-pound squashes)
Replace carby spaghetti with stringy squash for your lasagna's tasty toppings. This recipe fills you up with some superstar veggies like squash and baby
kale. It's all topped with a turkey Bolognese that's made with lean meat and lycopene-rich tomatoes. And unlike Olive Garden's 960-calorie Lasagna Classico, you can have all of this goodness for a cool 360 cals.
Get the recipe from Pinch Of Yum.
Rainbow Antipasto Pasta Salad
Nutrition: 286 calories, 11.6 g fat (1.7 g saturated), 259 mg sodium, 38.8 g carbs, 2.9 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 8.2 g protein (calculated with 1 cup olives, 1 cup roasted red peppers, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 cup artichoke hearts, and 1/2 cup pepperoncini)
Taste the rainbow with this super colorful starter salad. It's low in sugar and super high in immunity-boosting vitamin C, which makes it one of our favorite salads to serve with our dinner's protein. Or pack this one up in Tupperware, and you've got a delicious lunch that requires zero minutes in the microwave.
Get the recipe from Gimme Some Oven.
Green Cauliflower Pizza With Heirloom Tomatoes, Prosciutto & Pesto
Nutrition: 342 calories, 23 g fat (7.7 g saturated), 650 mg sodium, 16.7 g carbs, 6.1 g fiber, 6.1 g sugar, 23.2 g protein (calculated with 8 oz mozzarella and 1/6 cup olive oil for pesto)
Healthify your favorite cheat meal by swapping pizza dough with cauliflower crust and topping your slices with homemade pesto, baby arugula, and heirloom cherry tomatoes. To further slim down this recipe, we used eight ounces of mozzarella and 1/6 cup of olive oil for the pesto.
Get the recipe from Sassy Kitchen.
Zuppa Di Mumma
Nutrition: 137 calories, 6.3 g fat (0.9 g saturated), 114 mg sodium, 19.1 g carbs, 6.3 g fiber, 8.4 g sugar, 4.3 g protein
Pregame dinner with this scrumptious soup that gives Olive Garden's version a run for its money. It's stuffed with veggies galore—zucchini, celery, carrots, and even creamy beans, which do wonders for the fiber and protein count. Plus, it's high in vitamins A and C, two of the Immune-Boosters Better Than Emergen-C.
Get the recipe from To Her Core.
Italian-Style Poached Cod
Nutrition: 315 calories, 4.1 g fat (0.6 g saturated), 570 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 3.4 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 37.3 g protein (calculated with low sodium broth)
Whenever my dad and I grab dinner at his favorite Italian spot in NYC, this is our go-to seafood pick. The lean and light cod is marinated in a savory red sauce that's spotted with Kalamata olives, capers, and sweet raisins. And if you swoon over swiping your plate clean with a slice of bread, this dish will become one of your favorites, too.
Get the recipe from Begin With Nutrition.
Chicken Florentine Flatbread
Nutrition: 322 calories, 12.1 g fat (5.2 g saturated), 481 mg sodium, 20.7 g carbs, 4.7 g fiber, 3.3 g sugar, 34.1 g protein (calculated without butter and with whole wheat flat bread)
This flatbread is so good, it'll make your guests say mmm! from the first bite. Whether you're serving it as an appetizer or munching on it for lunch, this pick is one of our favorites because it's packed with 34 grams of protein, almost five grams of fiber, and contains memory-boosting vitamin B12 and nervous system-supporting B6.
Get the recipe from Crème de la Crumb.
Spaghetti Piccata With Lemon & Capers
Nutrition: 315 calories, 5.6 g fat (0.8 g saturated), 261 mg sodium, 58.3 g carbs, 0.5 g fiber, 12.8 g protein
While piccata dishes are known for boasting artery-clogging amounts of butter mixed in with lemon and garlic, this vegan pick is heart-approved! Sunflower seed cream replaces the butter and lends this dish some healthy fats. Meanwhile, its über creamy texture stays true to the Italian fare we know and crave.
Get the recipe from One Ingredient Chef.
Serves: 18 (serving size: 2 cookies)
Nutrition: 65 calories, 1.6 g fat (0 g saturated), 11 mg sodium, 12.5 g carbs, 11.3 g sugar, 1.2 g protein
If you're looking for a Mediterranean-inspired dessert, look no further than these soft, chewy amaretti cookies. Two of these almond-infused bites are only 65 calories and are low enough in sugar to keep you on track to slipping into that slinky LBD on New Year's Eve. Not to mention, they're wheat-free, thanks to the almond flour; so if you're planning to whip these up anytime soon, be sure to check out this Healthy Hack: How To Make Almond Flour before you begin!
Get the recipe from Love And Olive Oil.