“White” foods – pasta, rice and potatoes – get a bad rap. And, with so many people choosing to eat gluten-free, flour itself is another enemy. So, what is a pasta lover to do?
Originally, I wanted to write about no-carb, no-calorie pastas. But after testing them all, I learned they can’t really replace pasta; instead, they are more reminiscent of noodles and would be better suited to Chinese dishes. They are made from tofu, seaweed or a Japanese root vegetable called konjac. If you are on a strict dietary regime, these noodles could work wonders, especially if you add lots of spice to make them more palatable. In the test kitchen, our favourite was the konjac pasta. They are usually shelved with tofu at the supermarket.
Konjac, composed of water and fibre, can be dried and ground into flour and then shaped into a substitute for wheat pasta or rice noodles. If you’re looking for noodles but don’t want the carbs to disrupt your paleo, Atkins, keto or “never-carbs-in-my-diet” meal plans, this is an option, provided your sauce has lots of protein and vegetables to ensure your meal contains adequate nutrients. Flavour it well with spice to enhance the noodles.
So, I have replaced Chinese noodles, but not pasta. Are there other alternatives? Certainly, there are lots of gluten-free products made from rice flour, for example, but they too are a pale imitation of the real thing.
The new darlings are pastas made from black beans or lentils. Having tried the black bean version in the test kitchen with other tasters, I would never ever buy it. Gummy and tasteless, it lacks any benefits except perhaps high protein.
One decent choice is Gabriella’s Kitchen Skinnypasta low-carb pasta. Made from pea protein, with whole wheat flour, it tastes like real pasta. I call it pasta light. Served with a light tomato sauce or with lots of fresh veggies, it is amazingly satisfying.
And don’t overlook spiralizing your vegetables. Zucchini, sweet potatoes and beets do well as a pasta substitute. I would recommend buying a spiralizer and making your own. The reason? Although there are no preservatives listed on the package, my zucchini noodles lasted seven days. Perhaps MAP, modified atmosphere packaging, is used: It adds oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen to the package. I am not sure that could be called a preservative, but it slightly changes the flavour of the vegetables in my opinion.
With a disclaimer to those who are gluten free, having tried all these kinds of noodles, my advice is to eat less pasta, but to enjoy the real stuff when you do.