One of the things we miss most being grain-free is good old spaghetti. Being of Italian origin, this depravation really hits home. Fortunately, I’ve found some frugal, low-carb, nutrient-dense ways of enjoying all of my favorite Italian-themed pasta meals without all of the starchy, carby, low-nutrient pasta!
In the wintertime, my solution is easy: Bake a spaghetti squash, peal out the “innards” and top it with all the Mediterranean goodness I can find. But since I try to eat local and seasonal, I need a summer-version and since zucchini abounds (nearly everyone I know who has a garden is looking to unload a few of the big puppies onto friends, so buddy up with a gardener and I’ll bet you can get one or two for free!), I have found a very enjoyable way to eat spaghetti!
Even though Mark beat me to the punch by posting his version last week, I am not copy-cat blogging because what I am sharing is my own original version (although ours are practically the same, but do check out his post to fill in any gaps!). And just for the record, I started this post a few days before he posted!
To make the noodles:
Figure about a pound of zucchini for 3/4 a pound of noodles. Two medium-large (not the baseball-bat sized) zucchini worked perfectly for our family of four.
1) I use this absolutely amazing little gadget from The Pampered Chef (and no, I don’t sell it, so free advertising for them, although I might have to start….) that is the best $7.50 ever spent:
This peeler effortlessly takes zucchini and beautifully shreds it into delicate, angel hairlike pasta. I like to just peel the zucchini on until I get to the seeds, then I flip it over and shred the opposite side until I hit seeds, and then flip the zuke over 90 degrees and repeat until all the usable flesh has been shredded. I tend not to try to shred the middle part with the seeds as it really doesn’t work well. You could just use a knife to cut the middle if you wanted, I have done that and it works.
2) Once you have pealed your desired amount of pasta, salt it with about 1/2 tsp. of sea salt and let the noodles sit for at least 30 min, more if you have time.
3) After the allotted time, throw your noodles in a tea towel and gently wring them so as to release the water. This is so that your noodles don’t turn to mush.
4) You can actually enjoy the noodles raw after they’ve been salted and drained; this would provide the most “al dente” texture. The noodles also taste great when “flash sauteed” in about 1 Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (scroll down on the page for Chaffin Family Orchards; they’re awesome!) for just about 3-5 minutes in order just to tenderize them without loosing shape or flavor.
5) Serve as a base for traditional meat/marinara sauce, alfredo sauce, or stir-fried meat and veggies.
6) My kids LOVE these, by the way. They are so tender and easy to eat, just like angel-hair pasta.
Total Price for the Noodles: $0.75 (at a local farm stand for 2 zucchini)
Easy, Nourishing Meat Sauce
This simple meat sauce combines mineral-rich bone broth with simply tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. I sometimes add a chopped carrot or two because my vitamix can easily handle it and that just adds to the veggie load. I love this recipe with lots of fresh basil. Add as much or as little grass-fed meat as your budget allows; a little can go a long way, especially if you hide a little sneaky liver or heart in to make it stretch.
1 can of organic tomato paste ($0.50 at Grocery Outlet)
2 cups of homemade chicken stock ($0.50 by my estimation) more to thin, if needed
2-4 cloves of garlic (depending upon your taste) ($0.20)
1/2-1 lb. of organic, free-range beef (depending upon your budget) $2.50/half pound
1 onion, chopped ($0.25)
1-2 TBS Italian Herb Seasonings OR 2 Handfuls of fresh garden Herbs (such as basil, oregano, thyme) (free from my garden)
1) Brown the beef and the onion in a large saute pan.
2) Meanwhile, in a blender (I use my Vitamix and it’s awesome!), blend the tomato paste, chicken stock, garlic, and herbs. Adjust seasonings to taste.
3) Once the meat has browned, add the sauce and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.
4) Serve atop zucchini spaghetti and garnish with a little raw parmesan cheese, if desired.
Total Cost for the Dish: $4.70 (We also included a “free green salad” from the garden, but I could hardly eat much of it as this meal was so filling in and of itself!)
This meal is an optimal nutritional meal as it is mostly plant-based, with good, mineral rich stock and nutrient-dense grass-fed beef included. The herbs add medicinal value and flavor without added calories, and the garlic has a host of benefits as well, including anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. This meal is very filling because of the richness of the nutrients, yet is relatively low in calories. The same meal, served over wheat or rice pasta would clock in 3 times the amount of carbs! Zucchini is also an alkalizing vegetable, which balances out the acid of the tomato paste and the meat. Since grains are also acid-forming, the “traditional” version of this meal would carry a strong acid load.
I hope you’ll try this simple, nourishing recipe and see for yourself that low-carb, nutrient-dense, “paleo” meals are not only affordable, but rich in nutrients that your body needs!
This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet.