Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Faux Carb: Veggie Spaghetti

I love pasta. I would eat it every day — and nearly did, for a long time, until my body realized that middle age was approaching and began to protest. A little nutritional experimentation made it clear: If I didn't cut way back on bread and pasta, I'd have to upsize my jeans annually going forward.

Fewer carbs. No problem. Except my kids — like many — love carbs above all else. And there are so many delicious foods that just beg to be served atop a a pillowy pile of linguine, or poured over a bed of rice to soak up a lovely sauce.

Enter faux carbs, like Zucchini Pasta or this Veggie Spaghetti, which swaps in long strips of zucchini and carrot to replace pasta threads.

The trick to making it satisfying? Don't pretend it's pasta!

Enjoy it for what it is: a tasty vegetable dish, and a delicious delivery vehicle for what you love with your pasta. Stir in tomato sauce and top with grated Parmesan and great meatballs, for example, and you have a lighter take on a family favorite. Mix in a bit of pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and cooked chicken strips and you have a deliciously comforting — and healthy — meal.

I especially savor a purely vegetarian preparation: It's surprisingly filling. If you can get your hands on good-looking basil this time of year, it will have your heart singing songs of spring.

Eating more faux carbs has my family eating more vegetables, obviously. And when I do sit down to a plate of perfect pasta, I savor every single bite.

Veggie Spaghetti

Vary the vegetables depending on your taste and what's available. I often make a variation of this with just zucchini, which slices up in a flash with a mandoline and is especially satisfying dressed in a simple sauce and served with turkey meatballs or chicken sausage. This is also delicious with pesto or your favorite tomato sauce.

1 1/2 pounds zucchini
1/2 pound carrots
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
freshly chopped herbs such as basil, oregano, or mint
Parmesan cheese
chopped black olives (optional)

Peel carrots and wash zucchini well. Cut into long, thin spaghetti-like threads — a mandoline is easiest, but you can do it with a knife.

In large skillet, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Add halved cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly charred. Remove tomatoes from pan and set aside.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat, then add minced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so. Stir in carrots, add a spoonful of water, cover, and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini, another splash of water if it looks dry, cover, and cook for 3 minutes more.

Uncover skillet and cook, stirring, another 2 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are done to your liking. Stir in tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Serve garnished with fresh herbs, Parmesan cheese, and olives, if using.

Kid-friendly tip: Stir in something your child knows and loves — pesto, perhaps — to boost the odds she'll try it. You can set out tomatoes, olives, cheese, chicken strips, and other toppings in small bowls and let her choose what to add to her plate.

1 comment:

Myrna said...

This is a welcome addition to my vegetarian cuisine. Thank you!


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