Noodles are one of our all-time favorite comfort foods. (I personally love a big bowl of mac ‘n cheese on a dreary afternoon, or a good healthy pasta recipe.) These days, though, you may be looking into pasta substitutes. Perhaps you’re in need of a low carb pasta alternative, are newly gluten intolerant, or simply want some more variety in your diet.
Vegetables can be a great sub for pasta. They’re chock full of antioxidants, vitamins, and all that good stuff, plus plenty of fiber. But before you go wild with the spiralizer, consider the structure and flavor of each type of veg. Hearty choices like eggplant and even beets can stand up to heavier sauces and longer cooking times. Save delicate veg that naturally contains a lot of water (looking at you, zucchini!) for lighter preparations.
You can also consider using other pantry items to replace your beloved pasta. Grains and seeds like farro and quinoa (bonus: it’s gluten free!) typically contain more fiber than regular pasta and are worth putting into the rotation.
What are the best pasta alternatives?
Zucchini and cucumbers (yes, cucumbers!)
Spiralize, then treat like angel hair: Cook until barely tender, 1 to 2 minutes, then drain. Try with sesame and chiles, lemon, butter, and herbs or in “pasta” salads.
You can also shave zucchini or cukes into skinny planks, sprinkle with salt to draw out some of the moisture, let sit for about 10 minutes then pat dry. Then roll up around sautéed mushrooms, cheese, or ground cooked chicken. (If the planks seem too stiff to roll without breaking, try microwaving for 20 to 30 seconds first.)
Squash and sweet potatoes
Spaghetti squash is an obvious choice because once cooked, its flesh is easily separated into strands that look and act (almost) like you know what. Its somewhat neutral flavor is a good foil for many different types of sauces. Don’t forget to check out our other spaghetti squash recipes!
Other starchy vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes also make great subs for spaghetti. (Try doing half pasta and half vegetable if you don’t want to fully commit). You could also roughly chop them then pulse in the food processor until pea-sized. Simmer with a cheesy sauce or toss with sautéed garlic and spinach.
Eggplant isn’t just for eggplant recipes — it’s also perfect for using in lasagna and layering into baked casseroles. Thinly slice into planks with a mandoline then pan-sear until softened. You could also try salting the slices to dry out the moisture, then pat dry and layer in raw. (Our test kitchen is partial to this Benriner mandoline).
Roasted or steamed then thinly shaved with mandoline, beets make beautiful “ravioli” layered with goat cheese or mozzarella and drizzled with herbed olive oil.
Grains (e.g., farro, quinoa, etc)
In general, cook them per package directions, then use as you would macaroni — think tomatoes and ground beef — or try instead of orzo, say, with mushrooms and caramelized onions.
Both farro, especially the quick-cooking type, and barley would be terrific in recipes like minestrone soup. Or try either as a sub in your favorite macaroni and cheese recipes.
Quinoa, (and its relative, millet) is actually a seed with a slightly vegetal flavor. It’s high in protein yet surprisingly not heavy. Tossed with broccoli and cheese, it’s as comforting and delicious as can be. Even for something that’s not pasta!