Dining Services wins national award for lean bean pastas

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Dining Services began serving plant-based pasta dishes like red lentil penne primavera and chickpea rotini with creamy kale this past fall. (Jon Sammis/The Daily Campus)

University of Connecticut Dining Services recently won an award for their “lean bean” pasta dishes.

Dining Services won the 2018 Menu Masters Healthful Innovations Award for its low-calorie, high-protein red lentil and chickpea pasta dishes.

“(I’m) so excited, so proud,” Dining Services Culinary Operations Manager Rob Landolphi said. “…It’s just such an honor.”

This is the second time Dining Services has won the Menu Masters award. Dining Services won in 2008 for the line of spa food it rolled out in the cafes, Landolphi said.

This year’s other honorees for Innovator of the Year include Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani, Sonic, Del Taco and French Chef Daniel Boulud. UConn will attend a gala in Chicago on May 19.

“I think it’s great to have the university there at this event,” Landolphi said. “We’re going to be right alongside the best restaurants in the country and some of the best chefs in the country as well.”

Dining Services began serving plant-based pasta dishes like red lentil penne primavera and chickpea rotini with creamy kale this past fall. The pasta dishes are served at all dining units throughout their menu rotation cycles.

Landolphi said Dining Services wanted to promote an alternative to traditional pasta.

“It’s just a lot of unwanted carbs,” Landolphi said. “There’s really no health benefits to eating pasta made from wheat.”

Dining Services introduced the red lentil penne first. Since students enjoyed the it, Landolphi thought the chickpea rotini would be similarly well-received.

“It’s just been a big winner for us,” Landolphi said.  

The eight “lean bean” pasta dishes have not replaced traditional offerings like pasta with marina or meat sauce. Landolphi said Dining Services wanted to design dishes that were overall healthier and more plant-based.

“We hope students will make the right choice and choose the… bean pastas instead,” Landolphi said.

Because the bean-based pastas have been successful, Dining Services may now expand their usage.

“I think you are going to see us menuing the red lentil and chickpea with marinara and meat sauce more in the future,” Landolphi said. “Now that students have had it, now that it’s been a proven success… I think that’s the next step.”

As part of Dining Services’ ongoing participation in the Menus of Change Initiative, it will continue to modify its menus and ingredients.

Starting in the fall, South Dining Hall will have a designated vegan/vegetarian line. Dining services will be emphasizing serving more whole grains. Students may also begin seeing more sweet potatoes, as opposed to traditional white potatoes.

“We’re looking at ingredients and we’re saying, ‘What is the smarter choice? What is the healthier choice?’ And we’re going to try to offer that to our students more often,” Landolphi said.


Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anna.aldrich@uconn.edu. She tweets @ZarraAnna.

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