If you’ve ventured into the world of Paleo or even gluten-free, you know it gets difficult to find pasta to eat. I’ve been at this gluten-free game for over 30 years and the Paleo game for 2½ years, so I like to consider myself experienced. You can’t imagine how hard it is being full-blooded Italian and not being to A) eat regular pasta, and B) choosing not to eat any kind of grain-infested pasta, period. But it’s a choice I have made for my family and continue to stick by it. That’s not to say I don’t eat gluten-free pasta every once in a blue moon, but I don’t care for the bloating it causes me, so I continue to find and make grain-free versions.
I have cooked more in the past 2½ years than I ever have and feel like I have a few things figured out. What I like about Paleo is the challenge it brings in finding substitutes for things that are considered a no-no. So when pasta comes up, I’m pretty sure I have found 5 or 6 different alternatives to the grain-filled kind…that even a toddler will like. Ya’ll know the way Emma eats, and while she’s had pasta in the past, she definitely embraces everything I put on her plate (Sophia now, too)!
Let’s see our options:
#1) Spaghetti Squash
The first pasta substitute I discovered was Spaghetti Squash. When I was working (before getting laid off when Emma was 6 months old), my boss was always talking about spaghetti squash, and I acted like I knew what she was talking about, but in reality I was clueless. So, if you were like me and still have no clue what I’m talking about, check these bad boys out. It’s fascinating that once you roast the squash and it becomes soft, you can literally take a fork to it and scrape it into spaghetti! Top it or toss it with pasta sauce and meatballs, pesto, breakfast cups, shrimp scampi, or bake it into a gratin…the possibilities are endless.
Note on cooking all squash: You can cut them in half and cook or take the easy way and cook it whole. Turn oven to 400°F. Place washed squash on oven rack and roast for 45 minutes-1 hour. The squash is done when you can pierce the skin with a fork and it slides easily into the flesh. Once it cools, cut it half and scoop out the seeds. It really is that easy! I’ve done it with butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins.
#2) Zoodles (Zucchini Noodles)
You’re probably wondering what in the world are zoodles. Zoodles are simply zucchini noodles that have been put through a mandoline slicer or spiralizer, then cooked and topped with sauce and the likes. They have gained enormous popularity from the Inspiralized blog written by Ali Maffucci. She doesn’t know it yet, but we are virtual BFFs. We are both Italian, my family is from upstate New York and she lives in New Jersey (close to my favorite city, New York City), and the girl can cook. I’m still working on the cooking part…as in coming up with my own recipes, but since having my spiralizer, I am on my way to inventing new dishes.
#3) Green Bean Noodles
I have a lady from my Meals on Wheels route to thank for finding these noodles. I’ve been volunteering for over two years and we have built a nice relationship together, so whenever we deliver her meal, all three of us girls go inside and visit. One time we were talking and she asked if I knew about these green been noodles that her ‘daughter’ had found. She already knew I was gluten free, paleo, and a clean-eater, so she guessed I was into alternative foods. This is the lady that said, ‘You’re organic, aren’t you?’ when she I told her I had Sophia at home. The place to find these noodles is in the Asian section at Kroger (for $3.19).
I’m sure you could probably find them at an actual Asian market, just like these noodles:
#4) Sweet Potato Noodles
The funny thing about these noodles is that they are gray in color, so I’m not sure how they are made from sweet potatoes, but none the less, it’s a great alternative to grain pasta and helps get an extra serving of veggies in. I have a friend from my celiac support group to thank for finding these. We had a girl’s night at a friend’s house and it was sushi night. I arrived after all the food had been prepared, but let’s just say there were 5 very happy gluten-free girls who don’t often get to eat sushi (because of the soy sauce). The friend frequents the Asian markets and told me that’s where I needed to go to pick them up.
#5) Other Veggie Noodles
Once you have your hands on a spiralizer, you instantly become hooked! All of a sudden you rifling through your fridge to see what all can be spiralized. I got the brilliant idea one day to spiralize my leftover broccoli stems instead of shredding them for broccoli slaw (did you know that’s what it’s made from?). One morning I made carrot, broccoli stem, and yellow squash ‘pasta’, tossed them into a pan with some oil and cracked several eggs to make a yummy breakfast. I also added some ground meat I had already cooked and voilà, we had three veggies for our first meal of the day! Seriously, Emma devoured the bowl and asked for more and it broke my heart to tell her that was all I had.
#6) Cappello’s Almond Flour Pasta
I was browsing through my Paleo Magazine when I saw the two page ad for this pasta. I couldn’t believe almond flour pasta existed, so I decided I had to try it out and of course blog about it. If you read my post, you know it was A) pricey, and B) a bit mushy. I left them for last because of those factors, along with the mention of xanthan gum being an ingredient. Someone left a comment on that post stating xanthan gum is derived from corn, making it NOT grain-free. Upon further research, I learned that xanthan gum can be derived from corn, wheat, dairy, or soy. Womp womp…insert sad face here. But that’s okay, hopefully the other options will make up for the fact that it would have to be ordered and might not be in your budget.
There ya have it. No excuses for trying to come up with substitutes for grain pasta for yourself and your kids. These ideas are a great way to increase your veggie intake while decreasing your carb load. Give them a try and let me know if you have any other suggestions.
Have you tried any of these? Are you addicted to your Spiralizer or are you clueless how to go about turning your veggies into healthy pasta?