A Colorful Alternative to Pasta
Ok, I admit it. I do keep a few basic pastas in my cupboard. I found a fortified brand that isn’t all that bad, and the whole wheat ones can be decent. But they’re still a basic flour pasta. Something many after bariatric surgery either can’t handle or are looking to avoid. For the most part, I consider it sort of indulgence to be eaten on a very occasional basis. So what’s a guy to do when he’s craving a bit of spaghetti? Turn to veges of course!
Sure… you can find “spinach noodles” and such out there, but they’re still flour based. Instead, I’m talking about “noodles” made using whole vegetables, root vegetables and summer squash work great. It’s really easy to do, and has become a rather healthy, as well as colorful alternative to a plate full of pasta for me in recent months.
Essentially, all you need is any long, fairly firm vegetable… well, I suppose you could make shorter noodles with a shorter vegetable to use in place of an egg noodle here, but I think the longer ones help with the whole mental substitution. In the case of sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips, first you peel the skin off… but then really all you do is use your vegetable peeler to create strips from your vegetable of choice.
By adjusting how you do the peeling you can come up with varying widths for your “noodles”, and of course they aren’t going to all be perfect like you get from a boxed pasta, but I like to think that’s part of their charm. And by mixing things up with different vegetables you can get a plate full of color with this – I’m really looking forward to farmer’s market season and trying the purple carrots I saw once.
So far I’ve used combinations of carrots, parsnips, zucchini, yellow summer squash, and sweet potatoes (regular and red garnet). I think egg plant would likely work well too, but haven’t seen any in my local grocer for awhile.
I think the best way to cook these has been by just sauteing them with a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat with a pinch of salt and a bit of chopped garlic. It only takes about 4-5 minutes and they’re good to go. Toss with a bit of grated Parmesan cheese for a very easy side dish.
I did just that a few weeks ago (along with some mushrooms) to go with my catfish dinner one night. But tonight, I was hankering for some spaghetti… your basic red-sauce with meat type of meal. So I got out the vege peeler! And I have to say, it turned out pretty darn good. I browned up a half-pound of ground turkey I had left over from making some pot-stickers, seasoned it with some garlic, oregano and basil then added some store bought sauce that I found that wasn’t too bad when it comes to sodium.
I sauteed some sliced up mushrooms for about 2 minutes before adding in the noodles that I made from carrot, zucchini and sweet potato. I think using all carrot or sweet potato might actually make the overall dish too sweet, so zucchini is a great way to balance that out. Plus, you can get a LOT of noodles from a single zucchini. Once the noodles were done I plated them, poured on some of the meat sauce and sprinkled on some cheese and I was good to go.
I think it turned out great, even if I do say so myself, and really, if you closed your eyes, I think you would be hard pressed to know it’s not… scratch that. It’s not pasta, but you know what, these noodles actually have flavor… not that just bland taste of regular pasta. You can easily get by with less sauce because you’re getting flavor from both the noodles and the sauce rather than trying to flavor up the noodles with a sauce.
So yea, I’ll definitely be doing this again. I may even have to try a “macaroni and cheese” dish with vege noodles sometime soon. I’ll let you know how it turns out! In the mean time, if you’ve tried this or something similar, I’d love to hear what you thought – especially when it comes to feeding kids – could this be a good way to get kids to eat more veges?
Let me know in the comments!
originally published: April, 2011