Today more than ever, people are aware of the carbohydrates in their diet. The extremely low-carb keto diet is the hottest weight loss plan in the country. Meanwhile, the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes doubles every year. Both circumstances cause many people to want to restrict their carbohydrate intake. Since pasta and noodles are made almost entirely of carbohydrates, this makes for an awful lot of deprived pasta lovers. Luckily, creative cooks have devised inventive recipes for pasta noodles with very few carbs, and they’re simple enough for the average home cook to make.
Low Carb Pasta Recipe
Carb-cutting diners who are missing the flavor of a good pasta dish can finally enjoy what they’ve been missing with this recipe. These low-carb noodles taste like a combination of regular pasta and egg noodles, which makes them close enough in taste to fill in for any traditional pasta dish. They work well as a noodle in countless soup recipes, and they’re just as tasty in fettuccine alfredo, macaroni and cheese, or spaghetti and meatballs.
Traditional pasta recipes require a workout: kneading dough and stretching or rolling it into a thin noodle sheet. With this recipe, there’s no hard work, and you’ve finished in about half the time. Best of all, compared to about 42 grams of carbs in a 1-cup serving of regular pasta, these noodles have virtually zero carbs! (Actually, there’s a fraction of a carb in each serving, but you’d have to eat a bucket full before it added up to 1 carb.)
Creative cooks might feel a bit stifled by this recipe, as it won’t work if you make any substitutions to the basic instructions. The taste and texture rely completely on the original ingredients and the way the recipe is constructed. Your creativity can come later when you are completely confident in inventing an entirely new collection of low carb pasta dishes.
Place 1 ounce of room-temperature full-fat cream cheese, two room-temperature eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon of wheat gluten in the cup of a blender. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and garlic powder or onion powder to taste. Blend the ingredients together on “high” until the result is a liquid about the consistency of cream. This can take 30 seconds to a minute. Line a heavy baking sheet with a silicone mat and pour the liquid onto the mat. Smooth the liquid over the mat into a rectangular shape, keeping the thickness thin and consistent. Bake in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven for 5 minutes. Do not overbake!
The noodles will be set and ready, but not at all browned. Remove the pan from the oven and pull the silicone mat from the pan. Allow the noodles to cool for about 5 minutes. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut the noodle sheet into strips as wide as you like. When you pick up these low carb noodles, they’ll have the consistency of cooked pasta. When you’re ready to eat them, cook them in sauce or broth for a minute or two, just long to warm the noodles and allow them to firm up and take on a bit of the flavor of the dish you’re making. This recipe makes two average servings or one very generous one, although at just over 100 calories per serving, you may want to indulge.
Other Low Carb Pasta Substitutes
If you aren’t adventurous enough to attempt to create your own low carb noodles, modern cooks have come up with a wide variety of substitutes that fill that pasta craving without significantly increasing the daily carb count. These recipes mostly consist of using some sort of vegetable instead of the actual pasta noodles, but some are surprisingly tasty and very creative. When you’re suffering from a severe noodle craving, one of these will fit the bill.
Spaghetti squash has been touted as a pasta substitute for decades because of its very minimal calorie count. And, if you’re following a low-carb diet, the entire squash has only approximately 30 grams of carbs. This favorite of dieters can form a base for any number of imaginative pasta-like dishes. The success of the dish is based on the unique type of strands that form inside the spaghetti squash after it’s cooked.
Use a very sharp knife (the squash is notoriously hard to cut) to slice a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds; then rub all the cut surfaces with olive oil. Place the halves cut-side down on a baking sheet and put into a 400F oven for about 40 minutes, or until a fork pierces the skin easily. Remove the squash from the pan and scrape the insides with a fork. Great clumps of spaghetti-like strands will come from inside the shell, as the entire squash meat is made up of these fibers. Use spaghetti squash strands in any recipe you’d use regular spaghetti, or make nests of it as the base for any number of creative recipes.
To make the squash easier to slice, use a sharp knife to pierce the squash skin in a dotted line along where you plan to slice it in half. Heat it in the microwave for 5‒6 minutes; cool slightly before slicing.
Zoodles and Other Oodles
Zucchini noodles, or zoodles, are the hottest vegetable trend in recent years. Spurred on by the keto crowd, these noodles are created by using a tool called a spiralizer. Vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and others with a firm texture can be turned into lacy spiral strings to use instead of pasta in traditional dishes.
Low-carb dieters may want to avoid sweet potatoes; their carb count is higher than zucchini.
When choosing a vegetable to spiralize, follow a few simple guidelines. Avoid hollow vegetables or those with seeds or a tough core. Choose individual pieces at least 2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches across for the best appearance. Never use soft or squishy vegetables. No spiralizing tomatoes! Once you’ve chosen your vegetable, cut it to the correct size; peel it if desired, and use the spiralizing tool to easily create piles of vegetable strings. The results are a tasty base for almost any pasta sauce or recipe.
For dishes that require long cooking like lasagna, nothing stands in for pasta sheets like eggplant. This ingredient is already a proven winner in Italian cooking in the classic dish Eggplant Parmesan, so you know it goes perfectly with marinara and cheese flavors. When cooked correctly, this hearty vegetable creates creamy layers that seem meant to go together with all the other lasagna ingredients. The secret is in the prep work before you assemble your lasagna.
Cut off the top of the eggplant; then slice it thinly either vertically or horizontally into slices about ¼-inch thick. Some people like to peel the eggplant, but the skin is tender and almost flavorless when cooked, so it’s not necessary. Sprinkle the slices with salt on both sides; then lay them on paper towels. A lot of the moisture will leak out of the slices. After about half an hour, wipe the salt and moisture from the slices and brown them in an ungreased frying pan. Cook the slices on both sides until you see bits of browning on the surface. Allow the slices to cool; then use them instead of lasagna noodles in your favorite recipe.
Victoria Bailey owned and managed restaurants for 25 years, from an award-winning gourmet bistro to a pre-hipster artisan coffee house. She's constantly following food and wine trends and has even created her own private coffee bean blend. Bailey's work has been published in a number of industry magazines, and she literally wrote the book (well, one of them) on opening a neighborhood pizza restaurant.