Weekday Pasta

26 Jun

I’m the first to admit that I have a bit of a love affair with Italian food (Who doesn’t? It’s amazeballs). I  can’t think of many foods more more comforting than a big, steaming hot bowl of noodles covered in whatever does it for you. As long as the sauce is made of high quality ingredients I’m in like Flynn.

Last year I took my 3rd trip to Italy and as per the first 2 visits, I found myself in what I like to call Fat Kid Heaven. The hubs and I tried to walk a line – we didn’t want to pig out the entire time we were there but we didn’t want to miss out on the local experience – and food is very much a part of that. Luckily the Italians don’t eat quite like you might imagine. Light chicken and fish dinners, fresh crunchy salads, sweet ripe tomatoes, and white beans simmered in sage were absolutely delicious and straight from farm to table. That didn’t mean we didn’t try a handful of pastas, Italian meats (gasp!),  bread (double gasp!),  panne cottas and Mozarellas. Oh, we did, and we tried them all. We didn’t feel the least bit guilty because most of our meals were fresh, lean, we were walking ungodly distances each day. When we ordered a pasta we’d split it between the two of us and eat it along with a salad.

Spring peas with flash fried basil and tomato linguine ordered in one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve ever been to (Bucca Mario), in Florence last summer. Not an excellent photo but it was absolutely delish.   italy1

Mostly we split things like caprese salads, chicken, and other fresh stuff. italy2

But when in Rome  Florence, you gotta try things like this at least a handful of times. Worth every calorie.  italy3 italy4

I don’t eat a ton of meat, and  very rarely do I eat processed meat, but apparently when I do I look just thoroughly delighted about it.

The bottom line is A. I’m cheesy, and B. pasta totally rocks and I whole-hardheartedly encourage indulging in it every once in a while. But yeah….noodles are pretty caloric and starchy to eat on the regular. I’ll spare you the tales of pasta woe (plus you’re reading a health blog – I’m confident that Mr Atkins already  burned “Pasta is baaaad, mmmkay?”  into each of your brains in the early 2000’s. Ya know, before he died of a heart attack or whatever).  But look, here’s the bright side! There are some solid options when it comes to keeping Italian both a low calorie and  nutritionally dense meal – and I swear on my food-loving life that some of them are just as good. I call them my Weekday Pastas.  Here are 3 of my favorites:

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash is the OG pasta alternative. When I was 20 and on some silly low carb diet, I used to get bored of eating huge sausages dipped in mustard for dinner with a side of sugar free Jello. In my frustration I stumbled upon spaghetti squash combing the discussion boards for “Atkins friendly,” I’m sure.  While I certainly eat carbs today, this is an easy swap out from white flour pasta. It’s easy to make and has nutritional value, as well as  a perfect vehicle for sauces and proteins.

To cook, just get in there and cut it in half (lengthwise) and scrape out the seeds and pulp. Bake rind side up for 30-40 minutes at 375, or microwave for about 6-8 minutes. Let it stand for a few minutes or you will burn yourself, and then scrape the flesh (ew) with a fork, creating long spaghetti-like strands.



After. Pretty !  

Spaghetti Squash

Shirtaki/Yam Noodles

Shiritaki is pretty awesome in that it has around 40 calories a bag. For those of you concerned with processed soy (I am one of those someones), there is a yam noodle version of this as well. The secret to these guys is to rinse the crap out of them. Put them in a colander and rinse away until the smell is gone. You’ll know what smell I’m talking about, but don’t be deterred by it. These puppies are totally versatile and SO, so easy. Just heat however you like, add your toppings, and serve. You won’t miss the real deal. Promise.

They come in this nasty little bag. I buy mine at Whole Foods or the Japanese market.


But rise, cook, and pair with your faves.  Shiritaki noodles are totally versatile. Don’t be tricked by their Asianness, these guys go just as well with homemade tomato sauce and turkey meatballs as they do with ramen and green onion. 


Zucchini Ribbon “Pasta” 

I’m especially excited about this because it’s summer now and zucchini is in season. I get a little cray when it comes to summer foods and zucchini is definitely one of my favorites! I also like this because unlike the Shiritaki noods, it packs a nutrient punch on its own. I love doing this one simply with just olive oil, lemon, white beans, fresh Parmesan and some red pepper flakes.

To make just slice off ends of zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Slice it lengthwise with a mandoline, into very thin (about 1/8-inch) slices, trying to keep some skin on each piece for color. . Reserve zucchini ribbons in a large bowl. Boil in water or vegetable broth for about 3 minutes, or steam until you’re happy the texture.
Your zucs should look like this before cooking. They kind of look like small snakes in this photo.

And this afterward. 


I promise you, the next time you’re craving something noodle-y but it’s not a special occasion or you just don’t want the pasta, try swapping these bad boys out in it’s place. You won’t think you’re missing a thing and your skinny jeans will thank you.

Ciao bellas!




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