First things first, I don’t want to dis pasta in any way shape or form. Pasta is definitely a tasty side dish, but it is high in calories and carbohydrates. Most of the time pasta is made with highly processed flours that metabolize quickly in our systems, leading to basically a sugar crash. Also, if your body has a hard time processing gluten, you will have a problem with most of the standard pasta varieties lining your supermarket’s shelves.
So, how can we enjoy all the pasta dishes we once loved without the complications mentioned above? PASTA SWAPS!
There are so many ways you can sub in nutritious foods for some or all of the pasta in a recipe to make it healthier and still tasty! Here are a few that I use all the time…some of which may surprise you!
1. Zucchini/Eggplant Lasagna: Just thinly slice zucchini and eggplant lengthwise using a mandolin slicer and you can use these in place of lasagna noodles. Tip: after slicing the vegetables, lay them out on a couple of cookie sheets, sprinkle with salt and let them sit for about an hour to draw out excess moisture. This will prevent your lasagna from turning to mush. Just rinse them off and they are ready to use! A delicious vegan substitute for ricotta cheese can be found here: Dairy Free Soy Free Ricotta Cheese.
2. Raw Summer Squash Ravioli: All you have to do is thinly slice the summer squash into circles. Then, top one slice with whatever sort of filling you want (aforementioned DF SF ricotta, basil or sun-dried tomato pesto, mashed beans, etc) and top with another slice. You can top with sauce if you’d like and Voila! You’ve got yummy ravioli!
3. Spaghetti Squash: I’m sure many of you have had or heard of spaghetti squash, and that is because it is a WONDERFUL pasta swap! Just slice in half, scoop out seeds, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until soft. Then you can top it with: nutritional yeast, pesto, marinara sauce, or fresh herbs. You can also try one of my favorites and that is ginger, garam masala, lemon juice, and agave syrup. YUM!
4. Onions: I know what you’re thinking… ONIONS?!?!?! Yes, onions. Get out that mandolin slicer again, cut your onion in half lengthwise and slice on a low setting to make really thin slices of onion. Heat a little vegetable broth or stock in a sauté pan and add in your onions (you can add garlic too). Cook until the onions are soft, adding more broth if needed. Seriously… these turn out just like angel hair pasta and taste great with olive oil, salt and pepper or sauce on top.
5. Cauliflower Mac-N-“Cheese”: This one is simple: swap half of the elbow macaroni you would use for the same amount of steamed cauliflower. For the cheese sauce, I like to combine unflavored almond milk, nutritional yeast, Earth Balance, flour, Dijon mustard and some garlic in a sauce pan on medium heat until slightly thickened (you can add agar agar or flour if it is too thin).
6. Broccoli Slaw: In the produce section of your supermarket, you can find broccoli slaw right next to the coleslaw. This ingredient is wonderful to work with because it is high in vitamins A and C, loaded with fiber, and can be delicious raw or cooked. If swapping for pasta, cook it in vegetable broth or water until tender. It can then be used in a stir-fry, pasta salad, or topped with whatever type of sauce your heart desires!
If you know you won’t be satisfied to swap out all the pasta in the dish, at least try swapping part of it for one of the nutritious alternatives above. Just follow the following tips:
Be conscious of how much pasta you serve yourself-remember it is usually high in calories
Serve it as a side dish and give something else the star role in the meal
Add a ton of vegetables!
Only eat it on occasion, but enjoy every bite!
Have you tried any of these pasta subs? What’s your favorite “pasta” and sauce/veggie combo?
Also by Joy: Santosha- How to Accept the Turbulence of Life
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling