~ by Janet Helm, MS, RD
The National Restaurant Association, which surveyed 1,300 chefs for its 2014 trend report, says non-wheat noodles from grains like quinoa, buckwheat and rice will be big this year. Gluten-free cuisine (#5 on the list) is helping to fuel this trend, along with devoted Paleo followers and low-carb dieters who shun refined grains like pasta.
There’s also the growing popularity of Asian cuisine, which has helped put soba noodles on the map -- along with other gluten-free noodles made from rice, acorn, mung beans (cellophane or glass noodles), kelp, sweet potato and other ingredients. For more on Asian noodles, check out NPR’s Kitchen Window: ‘No wheat’ doesn't mean ‘no noodles.'
But besides these non-wheat, grain-based noodles, there’s a related trend brewing -- and that’s vegetable pasta imposters. It’s amazing how you can get vegetables to take on noodle-like qualities. It’s easier than ever with handy spiral cutters to transform zucchini, cucumber, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets and other vegetables into pasta stand-ins.
You’ll find lots of creative vegetable pasta imposters on Healthy Aperture, including this noodle creation made with butternut squash.
Butternut Squash Noodles with Brown Butter and Kale by Snixy Kitchen
Zucchini and cucumber are also easily converted into noodles, as you can see from these pasta imposters from Healthy Aperture bloggers.
Cucumber Mint Noodles with Ginger Dressing by Tales of the Kitchen
Mexican Zoodles (Zucchini Noodles) and Jalapeno Popper Turkey Meatballs by Food Faith Fitness
One Healthy Aperture blogger has built an innovative site that solely focuses on using a spiral cutter or spiralizer. Ali Maffucci is the blogger behind Inspiralized, which features some incredible veggie noodle dishes made with her spiralizer. Turns out, this tool is famous in the raw and vegan world, where it’s common to swap a pile of spiralized raw vegetables for a bowl of cooked pasta.
Take a look at two of Ali’s spiralized creations:
Winter Caprese Beet Noodle Pasta by Inspiralized
Kohlrabi and Green Apple Noodle Salad by Inspiralized
Beyond produce that’s cut to resemble pasta, there’s one vegetable that has the ability to take on a noodle-like consistency on its own -- and that’s spaghetti squash. This long, yellow gourd has been blowing up on blogs and Pinterest. All of a sudden it seems everyone is cooking spaghetti squash. A search on Healthy Aperture alone resulted in over 70 different recipes for spaghetti squash -- topped with marinara or pesto sauce, combined with meatballs, made into a casserole, turned into a salad, stuffed inside the gourd, molded into patties and transformed into Thai-inspired noodle dishes, like the Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai featured above by Shared Appetite. Here are a few more:
Spaghetti Squash with Garlicky Kale Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes by Oh My Veggies
Spaghetti Squash, Pomegranate and Goat Cheese Salad by The Healthy Foodie
Margherita Baked Spaghetti Squash Boats by GI365
If you've been intimidated by this unique member of the squash family and haven't brought one home from the grocery store or farmer's market, The Roasted Root provides a good description on how to roast spaghetti squash:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Chop the tip and the tail off of the spaghetti squash, cut it in half length-wise, and scoop the seeds out of each half.
- Rub about a tablespoon of olive oil over the flesh of each half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet.
- Roast the squash for 45 to 50 minutes or until the flesh is tender.
- When the squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to gently scrape the flesh, releasing spaghetti-like strands. Do this until both halves of the spaghetti squash are scraped clean and place the “spaghetti” into a large serving bowl.
- Note that some water will seep out of the “spaghetti” – in order to drain the water, allow the spaghetti to sit in a bowl (or fine colander) and use a slotted spoon to scoop it on plates.
- Serve spaghetti squash with your favorite sauce and parmesan cheese.
Sometimes nothing compares to a freshly made bowl of pasta -- I especially like whole-wheat penne Arrabiata with roasted eggplant and fresh mozzarella. But if you find yourself eating pasta less frequently, check out spaghetti squash (a bargain at only 40 calories per cup), or try making noodles out of different vegetables. It's an on-trend way to move vegetables to the center of the plate.