This post was written by Chef Ward Alper, The Decadent Diabetic.
Dear Pasta Lovers,
Like pizza, pasta was one of the most asked for items to get back into a low carbohydrate diabetic-compatible diet.
There is a pasta product out in the marketplace that claims to have only 5g of digestible carbohydrates per portion. I can’t figure it out. Total carbs per serving is 41g and fiber is 6g. Net carbs to me is 35g. I don’t know where the rest of the grams of carbohydrate have gone. I asked a couple of dietitians and nutritionists about it, and they too are stumped. I called the company and they would not give out any information on the missing carbohydrates. I stopped using the product. I think we should make magic in the kitchen, but the numbers have to add up.
There is also black bean spaghetti available online. It has very few (4g) net carbs. It was just suggested to me by a gluten-free friend. I have not yet tried this product. I am told it is a good neutral flavor with some of the property of regular pasta. I will tell you more after I try it a few times.
Anyone eating a low carb diet will miss pasta. The question I have for you is: “What is it about the pasta you miss?” Is it the balance of sharp sauce and the neutral pasta, or the softness going down? For me it is the “bowl of pasta” concept. I don’t want just a small handful.
If you keep an open mind and you can get very close and enjoy the flavors and the sense of pasta.
I was introduced to spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta. I made it with my favorite red sauce and meatballs (remember when you were a kid?). I HATED IT!!! The flavor was off; the texture was off. It did not work for me. I did not care that is sorta kinda looked like ”skettie.” It was not “skettie.” But there was something about it that challenged me to continue on. I really missed pasta. My next attempt was a very old and very simple version with oil & garlic (aglio e olio). Much to my surprise and delight, it was delicious. Next stop was pesto sauce. Another hit. From there I went to a chicken and mushroom dish with Italian cheeses and the spaghetti squash. Wondrous! Next was a “pasta” with shrimp scampi casserole. Also amazing. But there was that nagging tomato thing. I next tried sun dried tomatoes, garlic, and shallot in olive oil. Absolutely great! So why didn’t the spaghetti and meatball thing work? My answer is I HAVEN’T A CLUE. Some things in life you just have to accept. Now I have added meatballs to this combination, and it does work. It is not what I remember from childhood, but it is very good. It is a little closer when I use roasted tomatoes. I think it is the sweetness of a spaghetti sauce that does not work.
With pasta and spaghetti squash, it is all about how you look at it. With the one exception, all of the preparations have worked out great. Pasta was used to stretch the dollar. We just got to love the soft texture of it. Spaghetti squash does not have the same texture but does have the same sense on the palate. It also does not take salt in the same way (maybe not a bad thing).
The ultimate test for me was “Mac & Cheese.” You remember that wonderful food from when you were a kid or when you were broke and that blue box was a filling cheap dinner? Below is my recipe for that dish. It takes longer to make than the blue box, but it is worth it. I think, like me, you will find it delicious and comforting as in days gone by. The trick is to keep an open mind and after you try it, make it your own by adding those things you would add to any “Mac & Cheese”.
Enjoy, be healthy, be happy, be DECADENT!
It is ALMOST “Mac & Cheese”
Serving Size: About 1 cup
Net Carbohydrates: 12g
We all tend to miss the comfort foods of our childhood. The question I asked was whether it was really the “mac” part of this dish we missed, or the gooey, creamy, cheesy part of the dish. One spoonful of this recipe answered that question for me, and I hope for you, too.
Note: Part of the trick with this dish is to fix it with those things you remember having years ago. Hot dogs, ham, sausage, or even tuna all work if that is how you remember “Mac & Cheese.” If you remember it solo, go solo!
I use the eggs to thicken the sauce instead of flour. This both cuts down the carbohydrate count and makes the recipe gluten free (if you use gluten free cheese)
3 cups cooked, shredded, spaghetti squash
½ cup milk (whole works best but 1% is ok) combined with:
½ tsp. mustard (yellow or Dijon)
2 eggs beaten with:
2 Tbsp. sour cream
8 ounces freshly grated cheese –Reserve a small amount to top the casserole
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. butter
1- medium shallot chopped (or 2 scallions white parts only, chopped)
1 clove minced (or grated) garlic
How I prepare this recipe:
Pre heat oven to 350.
Step 1- Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the shallot or scallion. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it softens.
Step 2-Slowly add the milk mixture.
Step 3- Add the grated cheeses and stir until incorporated into the sauce. Remove from the heat.
Step 4- VERY slowly add small amounts of the cheese sauce to the egg mixture.
Step 5- Pour over the spaghetti squash and stir to combine completely.
Step 6- Pour into a buttered casserole dish (8”x 8” works for me).
Step 7-Top with the reserved cheese.
Step 8- Bake for 40-45 minutes until the casserole is browned and bubbling.