Borrowed From Raw – Low Carb, Low Cal Spaghetti Alternative (and versions that didn’t make the cut!)
As I recently wrote, I love raw foods because of all the ridiculously beautiful, creative, and delicious ways that vegetables are used. Today, I borrowed an idea from raw pasta to make a really quick, low-cal, low-carb pasta for lunch:
This is way easier than it looks! Peel the skin off either a squash or a zucchini with a vegetable peeler (discard that peel). Then, keep peeling! You’ll get these nice long noodle-like pieces, until you hit the core – which gets more difficult to peel. Once the core starts breaking, I just chop it into pieces and toss it in. Here’s what the ‘noodles’ look like:
No need to cook the squash – it’s the perfect texture as-is. Then just top with whatever sauce you want – I used an all-time favorite, Ragu (Heart Healthy Tomato & Basil, with no sugar added). Voila! 76 calories and 14 carbs for the whole thing (verses 260 calories, 56 carbs if you used spaghetti instead of squash). I’m a major pasta lover, and the hack is truly satisfying to me. The only thing I’d change would be to make a bigger bowl of it.
I’ve tried this with both squash and zucchini – both are totally yum! I’ve been on search for a great pasta alternative for a while now, and this is my favorite by far. The other alternatives I’ve tried are:
- Dreamfields pasta. It’s some sort of processed concoction engineered so that the body can’t process the majority of the carbs in it. It’s okay, but I don’t understand what it actually is, and that kind of creeps me out.
- Shiritaki noodles. These are used in Asian dishes, and come from the Konjac plant, grown in China & Japan. They come in two forms – a pure Konjac version (0 cals/serving), and a version fortified with tofu (20 cals/serving). Apparently we can’t process the Knojac, so that’s why they’re so low-cal. I experimented with these in a few dishes – while they’re great in Asian dishes, something about preparing them for Italian dishes just didn’t seem right. They tasted okay, but it wasn’t a satisfying spaghetti alternative (for me). YMMV and all that. If you do try it, I recommend buying the tofu version (found at Whole Foods and asian markets), and following the washing instructions to a tee, since they do have quite an ‘authentic’ smell right out of the bag.
- Green cabbage. I chopped it in spaghetti-like strips. It tastes fine, but it’s just not pasta-like. At all. The cabbage taste is too strong, and the texture is crunchy. It tastes fine, but it’s more like a salad than spaghetti.
- Spaghetti squash. Again, while it tastes great (and does resemble pasta!), I think this squash on its own has too much flavor to work well as a pasta alternative. It makes a great dish in its own right, but the vegetable is just too sweet to be a great, satisfying carrier for my beloved Ragu sauce.
Raw zucchini or squash, on the other hand, totally rocks. You can twirl it on your fork, just like pasta. It doesn’t taste sweet, or unnatural – just GOOD. And if you mixed the squash and zucchini, and only used the nicer curls, it would make a gorgeous dish to rival any wheat pasta!
I eat my zucchini-spaghetti cold – raw veggies, with cold pasta sauce. I’ve always liked cold spaghetti – I’m weird like that. If you prefer yours hot, I recommend leaving the veggies raw (so they don’t get mushy), and heating the sauce separately.
Update (12/13/11): Today I tried a third version with carrots (carroghetti!). Surprisingly, I think this is my favorite – and the prettiest – so far! Hop on over here to check it out.
Have veggie hacks of your own? I’d love to hear your ideas below!
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