Italy is a great place to celebrate the holidays, but you can enjoy their traditions…
Pasta is always a crowd-pleaser, with various options for flavors and add-ins. However, even Italians are looking for alternatives to their traditional pasta dishes. People often choose to swap out traditional noodles with alternative noodles. Alternative noodles can be made out of beans, vegetables, or other plant based materials. The noodles are usually more fresh, as well as healthy. If you’re looking to try out some new pasta varieties without losing out on the taste of delicious, authentic Italian cuisine, then check out these four great options.
Couscous (pronounced koo-skoos) is a type of tiny pasta that more Italians are now incorporating into their diet. Originally from North Africa, couscous is spreading due to its health benefits. Couscous is low in fat, high in fiber, and contains protein, nutrients, and minerals. It has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor, and yet the taste still remains fairly neutral. Many people compare it to Quinoa due to its size and appearance. There are also three varieties that you can try: Israeli, Moroccan, and Lebanese. Each has slightly different sizes and tastes. Couscous is very versatile and can be a great substitute for any traditional pasta dish, and can be served easily with vegetables such as broccoli. If you’re focusing on a healthier diet but love Italian pasta, this is a great option.
If the name didn’t give it away, this dish is Zucchini made into noodles. The vegetable is very nutrient dense and includes antioxidants, which have been shown to boost overall health. You can make zoodles at home with a spiralizer, Julienne peeler, or a mandoline. After creating the noodle shapes, you can eat them raw by simply stirring in your ingredients and serving, or you can salt them and let them sit for about 20 minutes to draw out moisture. You can also heat them up to crisp the noodles up a bit. Italians are turning to this dish since it tastes neutral, which allows the flavors of sauces and other toppings to shine. Zoodles pair especially well with red sauces and more flavorful options to contrast the plain noodles. Since it’s a healthy alternative to traditional noodles, you might be able to get away with a light dessert after dinner.
Seaweed pasta might sound intimidating, as it is very unique and not as well known as other alternative noodles. However, seaweed pastas offer virtually flavorless options, so even if you aren’t a fan of seafood, it’s still worth trying this healthy alternative. Mainly made from kelp, the most popular variety of these noodles are actually transparent, rather than the greenish brown you might have been imagining. Kelp noodles originate from Korea, but Italians are embracing their coastal locations and using the abundance of seaweed there to create gluten-free noodles. They are also low calorie, fat free, sugar free, and vitamin rich. Seaweed pasta can be eaten hot or cold, and generally it is more crispy and al-dente tasting. Try pairing it with sun dried tomatoes or fish, such as salmon, and let the noodles absorb whatever flavor you desire.
This type of noodle may be one you haven’t heard of before. You don’t have to stray too far from your beloved traditional pastas to experience a new noodle. Sourdough is actually easier to digest and is more healthy than traditional refined noodles. Nutritionists and health experts actually agree that it is healthier than whole grain pastas since it is high in iron, healthy carbs, protein, and fiber. The traditional sourdough tang is present in these noodles, lending itself to fun new pasta creations. Try sourdough pasta with garlic and fresh herbs to make a unique, but still very Italian dish, or use any other favorite sauce. These noodles pair well with garlic, tomato sauce, alfredo sauce, or pesto, and are sure to be a hit no matter how you choose to prepare it.
Enjoy the new possibilities
Whether you’re entertaining or just putting dinner on the table for your loved ones, these noodle alternatives are sure to switch up your usual pasta routine. Finding the right twist on an Italian classic can be a fun way to create new traditions for your family’s dinnertime.
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