Pasta is so versatile and exists in nearly every culture in some form. It is is also handy so you can make a quick meal with very few additional ingredients. For all of these reasons pasta is a favorite among many of us. Of course when you go grain-free you have to give it all up, right? Well, not exactly.
You can still create your favorite dishes and make quick meals, you just have to get a little more creative and find a few grain-free options to put in place of the starch-heavy pasta or noodles. I have three grain-free pasta substitutes that I would like to share with you today. They all fill a different “pasta whole” due to their different textures and flavors, but all are delicious in their own right.
1. Spaghetti Squash
This yellow winter squash is an amazingly delicious substitute for spaghetti. When cut in half, roasted, and scraped with a fork it creates long, thin spaghetti-like strands. It has a fairly mellow flavor, even when eaten plain. The flavor and texture of spaghetti squash plays well with Bolognese, marinara, and other tomato sauces. It also holds up well to cream sauces such as alfredo or carbonara.
Where to Find: Spaghetti squash is in season at the same time as other winter squashes – early fall. I have seen them all over farmer’s markets, near the other squashes and potatoes at the grocery store, and most recently grown in our own garden.
To prepare: Cut squash in half length-wise and scoop seeds and pulp out with a spoon. Place squash halves on a sheet pan and roast in 400 degree oven until easily pierced with a knife or fork, ~ 1 – 1 ½ hours. Scrape flesh with a fork to form spaghetti strands and serve with your favorite sauce.
2. Kelp Noodles.
These little noodles came to my attention because of their seaweed content. Having struggled to maintain normal thyroid functioning, I have learned the importance of iodine in the diet. Seaweed is the most dense source of iodine, and was traditionally consumed by many cultures. These noodles are also a raw food and work particularly well when rinsed and added to an Asian noodle salad. They do remind me a little bit of cooked ramen noodles and as such are delicious in stir fries and brothy Asian soups.
Where to Find: I have heard from others on the West coast that kelp noodles are stocked at some health food stores. I was not able to find it here in the mid-west, but you can order them online.
To prepare: Remove from package, rinse, and add to recipe. No cooking is required and can be eaten as a raw food.
3. Vegetable Ribbons
Using a vegetable peeler you can easily create a colorful collection of vegetable ribbons to use in place of pasta. Zucchini, carrots, parsnips, yellow summer squash, and cabbage can all be “peeled” or sliced to create a pasta-like mouth feel.
To prepare: For zucchini, carrots, parsnips, and yellow summer squash: simply wash and peel in long strands creating ribbons. Steam or roast until desired tenderness. Cabbage also works well when cut into thin strands and fried in a bit of coconut or olive oil until it begins to wilt. Add tomatoes, onions, garlic, and grass-fed beef and you have a warming, vegetable-based bowl of “spaghetti”. Really, you don’t even taste the cabbage.
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