Grey, rainy Spring days always make me want to bundle up and spend the day in bed with some puppies. Also, they make me crave comfort food. I don’t know about you, but one of my most comforting of comfort foods is pasta of all different sorts. All kinds of sauces, all kinds of noodles, and tons of cheese! In keeping with our series about how to health-up your favourite comfort foods, up next is:
Eating Better: Pasta Edition!
I know, I know, if you want to eat better, limit your starchy carbs, right? Well, for the most part, yes, but it can be hard to give up breads and pastas altogether. Today’s recipes aim to give you a few different options to keep the yumminess level high, but the nutritional level high as well.
Oftentimes, the challenge with choosing pasta as your comfort food is that you’re way over-loading on the starchy carbs. You’re getting carbs from the noodles, and your side-dish is often bread (another starchy carbs). So, what sort of options are there for making noodles and bread healthier?
Noodles are easy to substitute – you can use veggie noodles like spaghetti squash, zucchini (make sure your zucchini noodles are well-dried), egg noodles, soba noodles, quinoa, rice noodles, or whole-grain noodles. Here are some awesome tips on making your veggies into noodles.
If all you’re having for dinner is pasta (and you’re not subbing in veggie noodles), you want to make sure that your pasta dish contains some veggies and protein to better balance the meal. You can toss the extra vegetables in with the sauce, or, as this next recipe displays, you can blend the veggies right into the sauce!
Cauliflower Fettuccine Alfredo (4 servings)
Ingredients: 4 servings noodles of choice, 2 small heads cauliflower (or 1 large), 3 cups vegetable broth, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 tbsp. EVOO, 1/8 C cream, pinch salt, pepper, nutmeg, drizzle EVOO or coconut oil.
Add-ins: Baked chicken breast, sautéed shrimp, grilled veggies like onions, peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, etc.
Directions: Chop the cauliflower and boil in the vegetable broth. Simmer until the cauliflower is soft (about 15 minutes or more). While the cauliflower is boiling, sauté the garlic in EVOO or coconut oil in a large skillet, also put a large pot of water on to boil. Cook your noodles according to the package (spaghetti squash needs to be baked prior to being used as noodles, and you can lightly boil the zucchini noodles if you want). Make sure to set aside some of the water that you use to boil the pasta in.
Once the cauliflower is soft, transfer it along with 2 C of broth to a blender, add the sautéed garlic and spices and blend until very smooth (about 5 minutes). Once the mixture is pretty smooth, gradually blend the tbsp. of EVOO into the sauce. Keep pureeing until the whole thing is smooth, then transfer back to the skillet. With skillet on low heat, add the cream to the sauce and add the starchy water to keep the sauce creamy. Combine the noodles as soon as they’re ready. Serve right away topped with your add-ins.
The sauce tends to dry out as the pasta cools so if you’re keeping leftovers, add some extra liquid in.
Mains are under control, what about our side dish?
Nothing goes better with pasta than garlic bread, right? So, how can you make bread a bit better for you?
If you’re having a sandwich, burger or wrap, bread substitutions are easy – just use a lettuce leaf. For bready side-dishes, you’ve got lots of options too. Why not try a mushroom cap, grilled eggplant or zucchini slice? If you don’t want to use a grilled veggie for your alternative-bread, you could try pita slices instead of normal white or whole wheat.
Instead of drenching WonderBread in butter and topping with cheese, you can definitely make something that’s just as tasty but a little bit lighter.
Ingredients: Bread alternative (mushroom cap, eggplant or zucchini slice, pita triangle), EVOO, minced garlic, black pepper, parmesan cheese
Directions: Preheat oven 375-400 degrees. Slice your veggies or pita, and mince your garlic. Brush a cookie sheet with EVOO (or coconut oil), or line the sheet with parchment paper. Brush EVOO onto the veggie slices, top with minced garlic and bake for 10 or so minutes. Flip the veggie slices, add fresh-cracked black pepper and parmesan cheese and bake for another 10ish minutes until the slices are browned and a little crispy.
Want to try out this recipe? Let us know how it goes! Or let us know which of your favourite comfort foods you’d like to see us tackle next! We’d love to hear from you!