Chef Bryan’s Bistro: Healthy but Delicious Alternative

I love pasta as much as the next person, believe me Erika and I have had our share of weeks where it’ll be Thursday and we’ve already had pasta for three nights.  Seriously, we all know how delicious and versatile it can be.  Every cookbook we own seems to have a pasta section all by itself that just rotates different combinations of pasta types with a vegetable, a cheese, and some sort of protein.  Don’t get me wrong, most of the time it’s fantastic, but I think we all understand what too much pasta can do to our diets and our bodies.  I mean, I can only do so many crunches trying to work off my pasta ponch.

So how about a simple and healthy alternative!?  Here’s a quick little recipe (more of a guideline or tip then a full recipe) that can serve as an awesome replacement for the standard pasta dish.  It’s zoodles with tomato sauce and tofu.  Just in case you’re not familiar with zoodles, they’re just “noodles” made out of zucchini.  They are a fantastic and much less filling way to eat pasta meals without shoveling in the linguine.

First, there are a few ways to make your zoodles, you can use a spiralizer which would get you a more similar look and feel to real noodles, or (as we typically do it) you can use a vegetable peeler create thin slices of zucchini which will become pliable once cooked.  Next, you just throw your zoodles in a pan with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook it for about 10-15 minutes on medium-high depending on how many zoodles you made.  Usually it takes about 6-7 zucchinis for us to make zoodles for the two of us and one leftover meal.  So if you’re cooking for a family of four or five then I’d suggest 10-12 zucchini just to be safe.

Once you have the zoodles, just add whatever toppings you want or would typically add to pasta.  You could have zoodles alfredo, or zoodles spaghetti and meatballs!  But for our recipe, we’re going to come a little out of left field.  Just use a standard tomato sauce (either homemade or store bought, but homemade is better!) and add in some cubed tofu.  Tofu may seem like an odd choice for those of us who typically think of it only paired with soy sauce or in some sort of Asian cuisine.  But the beautiful thing about tofu is that it is as versatile as pasta in that it can be paired with just about anything.  In fact it tends to take on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with.  I like to think of Tofu as the cave on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back.  When Luke asks what’s in the cave Yoda responds, “Only what you take with you.”  That’s exactly what tofu is like.  If someone asks me what tofu tastes like, all I have to say is, “Only what you cook with it.”

Ok, back to the recipe, if you’re making this all fresh for a meal, there is really no need to heat the tofu, just put the zoodles and tofu in a bowl and top with a healthy amount of sauce.  The heat from the zoodles and sauce will warm the tofu so it is at the right temp when eating.  If you are looking for that additional pop of flavor, feel free to take the same liberties with this recipe as you would with any Italian pasta dish.  More basil and more parmesan never hurt anyone!

Again, keep in mind that this is only one recipe that zoodles work well with.  But really, you could sub zoodles into almost any pasta dish and have it work!  Ok, so maybe lasagna with zoodles would be a stretch, but I’m sure I could make that work too! So whether you’re trying to cut down on your carbs or if you just can’t stand to have pasta for thr fourth night in a row, don’t be afraid to consider zoodles as a simple and healthy alternative to the same old pasta dishes from your cookbook!

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