Who doesn’t love pasta? I know I do! And the noodles are even better when they’re made with wholesome ingredients. Some of these ideas you might already know about, others you might not. But there’s always room for another recipe in the cupboard, so read on!
1. Go for Whole Grains
You’d be surprised, but there are still many folks that think the only kind of pasta is made with wheat. Perhaps it’s because these other types of noodles are made with “gluten-free” whole grains and are often targeted at a gluten-free market. Yet anyone can benefit from cholesterol-lowering, weight-stabilizing, healthy and hearty whole grains! Choices include brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, potato, corn or a combination of these. Noodles also come in all kinds of fun shapes like penne, fettuccine, elbow and fusili. Another lesser known but healthy alternative is sprouted-grain pasta. Although not gluten-free, this low glycemic pasta is made with sprouted grains and lentils that offer high fiber and a good source of protein.
What to do: simply use like regular pasta. Cook and add your favorite pasta sauce. Serve hot or use in cold pasta salads.
2. Try Plant-based Protein
I get it, you’re tired of the usual floured-fare, but still want to eat something substantial. Consider trying a bean pasta, like one made with only adzuki, mung, soy, or black beans. Bean pastas are a good source of protein and fiber, are low in fat, and cook in just 2-3 minutes. Alternatively, you can just add hot water and let the pasta rehydrate before eating with your favorite pasta sauce.
Suggestion: These noodles taste great when eaten simply with oil and salt. Add melted coconut oil to coat (1-2 tablespoons), add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Simple, but good. Great when paired with veggies on the side or add in some diced veggies to the pasta before adding in the salt and oil. Cold leftovers make a nice light lunch, too.
3. Hail for Soluble Fiber
The root of the konjac plant (also known as konjak, konjaku, konnyaku, gonyak and devil’s tongue) is really low in calories and consists mainly of glucomannan, which is soluble fiber. Since fiber is not only filling, but low carb and fat-free, this pasta is a great choice for those wanting to lose weight or looking for a light-tasting pasta. The noodles don’t have much taste, but will absorb whatever type of sauce you add to them. Easy-peasy to do: rinse noodles well. Blanch in boiling water 1 minute. Drain and add your fave sauce. Done!
Recommendation: Do you feel regular pasta is too “heavy,” but konjac noodles are too “light?” Try this recipe using equal amounts rice vermicelli noodles and glucomannan noodles:
Mock Peanut Noodles
• 1 pkg. konjac noodles
• 1 piece rice vermicelli noodles
• 2-3 Tbsp Mock Peanut Sauce
Rinse konjac noodles and boil for 1 minute. In a separate pot, boil rice pasta for 3-5 minutes. Drain water from both types of pasta. Toss to coat with the mock peanut sauce and serve immediately. Serve with a side of veggies or salad. Serves 2.
Mock Peanut Sauce
• 1/2 cup walnuts
• 1/2 cup pecans
• 1/2 Tbsp liquid coconut oil
• Stevia to taste
• Water for consistency
In a food processor, grind the nuts together. Stop and scrape down the sides as needed. Add in the coconut oil and puree to a smooth consistency. Take 3 Tbsp of this nut butter and add in stevia to taste. Thin the sauce with a bit of water and use to coat noodles. Keep the rest of the nut butter refrigerated and use on toast or crackers, or in other recipes.
Note: You can also make this recipe using just the konjac or rice vermicelli, that is, use 2 pkg konjac noodles OR 2 pieces rice vermicelli noodles.
4. Shirataki on Tofu
You either love or hate tofu. For those who dislike it, it might be because you haven’t learned the secret yet: marinate! Yes, tofu is absolutely tasteless, and yes, the secret is in the sauce! Perhaps this might explain why, despite being on the market for a while, rave reviews about tofu noodles are rarely heard. A shame, because these tofu noodles, also called shirataki noodles, are paired with konjac root (glucomannan, as mentioned in #3 above) and offer another low carb, low calorie pasta option.
What to do: Drain noodles and marinate; overnight is best. Cold tofu pasta makes a light salad lunch, but you can also warm these up as well. Now don’t shirataki on tofu, just try it already!
Suggestion: As with the idea in #3, you can always use an equal amount of tofu noodles and your regular noodles. You can marinate for a few hours or not. Either way, it’ll give your pasta dish a lighter feel.
5. Get in a Little Seaside Inspiration (and Minerals Too)
While it might not be touted everywhere that much of the soil in the USA is deficient in trace elements, it is well-known that many people are lacking in essential minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous. Seaweeds are an easy way to get in these minerals, and kelp noodles are an excellent low calorie, low carb pasta option with the added benefit of iodine. Crunchy in texture and bland in taste, try adding them to soups, in stir-fries or with your favorite pasta sauce (kelp noodle alfredo, anyone?). Kelp noodles don’t have much taste and will pick up whatever flavor you pair with them. You can also try the kelp noodle version with antioxidant-rich green tea, or consider trying sea spaghetti noodles as another mineral-rich pasta option.
Kelp Noodle Tempeh with Goji & Raspberry MCT Oil
• 1 pkg. kelp noodles
• 1/2 block tempeh, boiled 20 minutes and diced
• 2 Tbsp goji berries
• 2 Tbsp each hemp seed and untoasted black sesame seed
• 1 Tbsp sweetener of your choice
• 1-2 Tbsp miso (gluten-free if need be)
• 1/8 – 1/4 cup water, for consistency
• 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil, plus additional for frying
• 1-2 Tbsp raspberry MCT or regular MCT oil
Sauté the tempeh with some coconut oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat to brown it (you can omit this step if you like). Add to the frying pan the miso, water, 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil and sweetener and stir to combine. Add in kelp pasta, berries and seeds, coating with the sauce. Taste test sauce to your liking (add more water and/or sweetener if needed). Stir occasionally; done when sauce has thickened/water has evaporated. Place in bowls and add in MCT oil. Serve immediately. Serves 2.
• The sweetener can be a low glycemic one like coconut sugar or a low calorie one like a stevia blend (e.g. stevia with erythritol).
• MCT oil adds extra calories, but you could also just add in additional coconut oil. The MCT oil with the raspberry flavoring gives this recipe a hint of much appreciated berry!
• Replace hemp and sesame seeds with equal amounts of pumpkin and sunflower seeds
• Replace soy miso with chickpea or adzuki miso
• Replace tempeh with 1/2 cup of your favorite cooked beans
6. Honor thy Squash
Forgive me if you know of this pasta alternative already, but I still meet people who think squash is essentially a pumpkin that you carve at Halloween. Spaghetti squash is so-called because unlike other squashes, the insides look like long spaghetti noodles. What you might not know is that some do eat squash raw, that is, uncooked. To do: peel the skin from the squash, scoop out the strands, toss with your favorite sauce and serve. Do note that raw squash can be hard on digestion for some, so use your judgement wisely. As you probably already know, you can cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, then bake in a covered casserole dish with a bit of water at 400F for 45-60 minutes, or, steam the squash with a bit of water in a pot for 15-30 minutes. Once cooked, scoop out the strands, add in your fave pasta sauce and eat on up. Or try this “no-plates required” recipe:
Cheesy Squash Pasta Bowl
• 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half, seeds removed and cooked
• Shredded mozzarella, cheddar or vegan cheese
• Garnish (optional) a handful of cashew pieces
As soon as your squash is cooked, place an oven mitt on one hand and hold one of the squash halves in place. With your other hand, add cheese to the cavity in the squash. Mix in the cheese with the squash; you’ll see that the “noodles” pull away easily from the sides of the peel. Add a handful of cashew pieces for garnish and repeat with other squash half. Serve immediately in the squash “bowl.” Great as a light meal all on its own or serve with a side of veggies. Serves 2.
7. Dig That No-bake Veggie Pasta
If you’re growing carrots, beets, parsnips and daikon radishes, you might dig that they make excellent pasta noodles. While root veggies are of course pulled and not dug up, I should mention that yams and sweet potato (which do require digging) and zucchini can also be used. All you need is to peel off the outer layer, and a little gadget called a spiralizer will turn these veggies into angel hair noodles. Once accomplished, simply add your pasta sauce, and eat on up. Alternatively, you can lightly steam these noodles for 5 minutes and warm the sauce before serving.
Another idea is to use a cheese slicer, peeler or mandolin to slice zucchini or daikon radishes lengthwise into long strips and use them to replace lasagna noodles instead of the usual floured kind.
Looking for a no-bake recipe?
Easy No-Bake Veggie Lasagna
• 4-6 large zucchini
• 1 bunch kale
• 3-4 Tbsp lemon juice
• 1-2 tsp sea salt
• Your fave tomato sauce
• Shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese or vegan shredded cheese
Remove stems from kale leaves with a knife or tear the leaves from the stems. Blend kale leaves with lemon juice and salt in the food processor. Let marinate to soften, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, peel zucchini. Using a mandolin or peeler, slice zucchini into long strips lengthwise. When you reach the seeds, do the other side (no seeds in the slices; save these bits for another recipe). In a square pan, layer slightly overlapping slices of zucchini to cover the bottom (cut slices to fit pan as needed). You can add a second layer of zucchini “lasagna noodles,” if you like. Spoon tomato sauce over the zucchini noodles. Next, add a layer of marinated kale, then top with a layer of shredded cheese. Cover with a layer of overlapping zucchini slices. Repeat this process a second or third time (sauce, kale, cheese, zucchini slices). Top with a final layer of tomato sauce. Serve or refrigerate before serving. Cut into square pieces and lift out with a spatula.
Variation: Sprinkle nutritional yeast on the top layer of tomato sauce.
Variation: Add in 1/3-1/2 cup nutritional yeast to your tomato sauce to give it a cheesy feel.
Variation: Use spinach instead of kale or use a combination of spinach and kale.
Variation: Use your favorite nut paté instead of the cheese.
For a Baked Zucchini Veggie Lasagna: Yes, you can also bake this recipe! Once you have the zucchini slices, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Grease a square or loaf pan with coconut oil. Now layer the bottom with zucchini slices and follow the directions in the above recipe to put the lasagna together. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes if using a square pan and 45 minutes if using a loaf pan. Enjoy!
8. DIY Homemade Pasta (Secret Ingredient: Love)
Now what would a site like this be without a DIY solution?! Making your pasta is pretty easy, might even be cheaper, and probably much healthier than store-bought versions. Plus, with every roll of the rolling pin, you can add in the secret ingredient: love!
The benefits of making your own pasta are that you can:
• use sprouted-grain flour that you’ve sprouted, dehydrated and ground yourself
• use bean flour that you’ve cooked, dried and ground yourself
• use whole grain flour that you’ve freshly milled
• incorporate greens, veggies and wild edibles to make your own gourmet pasta that you can’t buy in health food stores or supermarkets
Consider adding in cooked chickweed, lamb’s quarter or nettles, or try this recipe to get you started:
Homemade Greeny Beany Pasta
• 1 3/4 – 2 cups garbanzo bean/chickpea flour
• 1 cup parboiled stinging nettle, chickweed or lamb’s quarter – or any combination
• 2 Tbsp ground flax + 6 Tbsp water
Mix the ground flax and water and let sit 5 minutes to gel. Puree the flax gel with the wild greens in a blender, adding in the slightest bit of reserved cooking water as needed.
Measure out 1 3/4 cup of flour and make a well in the center of the dough. Add the green-flax puree to the center of the well and start mixing all together with your hands. Mix the dough thoroughly, adding more flour or a tiny bit of water as needed. Form dough into a smooth ball. Cut in half and cover one half in a tea towel to keep from drying out. With the other half, place on a floured surface or silicone mat, and start rolling the dough. You can add some chickpea flour to your rolling pin as well to keep it from sticking. Roll the dough thinly into a rectangle shape.
You can use a pasta machine or use a sharp knife to cut the dough lengthwise into strips.
Note: How thin or thick you like your pasta is up to you, although here are two suggestions:
If using a rolling pin only: roll out the dough very thinly, about the size of the bottom of a cookie sheet, then roll up the dough into a long log. Use a sharp knife and cut the log into small pieces. Unfurl each piece and rub each piece with flour. Do the same with the other half of dough and use right away or dry for later (see below).
One method for using a pasta machine: roll the dough into a rough rectangle about the size of the bottom of a loaf pan. The dough should be about 2 stacked quarters in thickness. You can cut off the rough edges for a nicer finish. Adjust the pasta machine according to the thickness of the dough and press the dough through. Fold the dough in half and repeat this step five more times at the same thickness. Next, decrease the width of the rollers and pass the dough through the pasta machine. Continue decreasing the width of the rollers each time you pass the dough through until the dough is very thin, another 5-10 times. The dough should now be about the size of the bottom of a cookie sheet. Pass this dough through the machine to make long pasta strips. Remember to repeat with the other half of dough tucked away in the tea towel!
To use your fresh pasta right away: place in boiling water and cook on medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. Drain and toss with your fave pasta sauce.
If keeping for later use: dry the strips on a noodle rack and enjoy another time.
Note: you can use 2 eggs instead of the flax and water. Blend them well in the food processor with the greens.
Do you know what’s the best part about all types of pasta? Good company. So dig in!
Cat Wilson is a holistic health practitioner who loves plants and meditation. When she isn’t working out or writing, you can find her hugging trees and talking to the wild weeds in her garden. Grab a gluten-free recipe or get some help with going vegan or mindfulness at her website or on her YouTube Channel: Cat’s Raw Paw.