You don’t have to be a dietician to know that eating a ton of pasta isn’t the healthiest move you can make. It’s typically loaded with refined and bleached flour, and pretty low on anything resembling a vitamin, mineral, or protein. It sure is tasty, but too much of the good stuff, and you’ll probably pack on a few pounds. (Or will it?)
But what if I told you there is a way you can enjoy your favorite pasta dishes without piling on the carbs. Try these 6 delicious pasta alternatives when you’re really craving Italian — for the third time this week.
1. Pasta with added veggies
If you want to start stepping away from traditional pasta, pasta with added veggies can be your first baby step. It’s typically a traditional pasta recipe, but it has dehydrated veggie paste — such as spinach, tomatoes, or mushrooms — mixed right in. It’s an easy way to give your body a few extra vitamins and minerals via veggies. Plus you can barely taste any difference at all, and you can cook it exactly as you would any basic pasta.
Zoodles twirled onto the scene big time a few years ago, and they’re still popular as ever. You can make them using a spiralizer, or even just by cutting long skinny strands of zucchini. A spiralizer also works with other veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, or beets. The resulting noodles can be eaten raw with your choice of topping — cold pesto anyone? — or lightly sauté them with your favorite tomato or Alfredo sauce for a super healthy pasta substitute. The creativity possibilities are endless.
3. Bean and lentil pasta
Bean and lentil pastas have been popular in the vegan community for years because they’re an easy way to sneak in some bonus protein. If you’re worried about the taste, don’t be! The difference in minor, plus, a delicious sauce masks nearly any remaining flavors.
4. Spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash got it name for a good reason. Once cooked, you can use a fork to flake away a highly nutritious stringy vegetable pasta substitute. To cook a spaghetti squash, cut it in half and place on a foil-covered baking sheet. Bake for 15-30 minutes at 425ºF. It will definitely have a squash-like flavor, so be sure to season liberally if you want to mask the taste.
5. Chickpea pasta
Chickpea pasta has fewer carbs and much more protein than traditional pasta. In fact, it can have as much protein as a steak! It’s another secret weapon of the plant-based community. It has a slightly chewy texture, but you can cook it a bit longer to soften it up. It makes a great pasta sub for hearty dishes like mac and cheese.
6. Shirataki Noodles
Shirataki noodles are the noodles of your dreams. They’re made of glucomannan flour, water, and lime water. Because they’re basically water (97%), they barely contain any carbohydrates. To cook, just remove from the watery package they come in and warm in a skillet. No need to add butter or oil. They’ll be ready to eat in just a few minutes. You can use them any way you like, but they taste best in Asian dishes like stir-fries or with some seasoned roasted vegetables.