Healthy Italian Twist
Who doesn’t like pasta? Am I right, there is nothing better that a bowl of spaghetti topped with delicious tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, maybe with a few meatballs too. I always loved having pasta but felt gross and not happy after eating some. I was so happy to find out it was the gluten that was making me feel this way, but when I first cut out gluten from my diet the one question that was always in the back of my mind was how will I ever eat pasta again?
I have tried many gluten free brands of pasta, some were good, others not so much. I do find that gluten free pasta is mushier then regular wheat pasta, and that is not something I want to eat. Another problem with gluten free pasta is the price, most brands are still fairly expensive so it is not something I would buy on a regular basis, I usually buy a few packages of spaghetti or rotini when it is on sale, as it is nice to have on hand. Another alternative which I have been using more often is spaghetti squash.
Spaghetti squash is certainly not a newcomer but it has become more popular with gluten free diets and paleo diets being the things to follow. I like spaghetti squash as it is easy to prepare and really does imitate spaghetti. As it has no overwhelming taste it can be used in any pasta recipe and although it has a starchier texture would probably please the pickiest of eaters.
Its all very well to have a healthy alternative to pasta but it really needs something else to complete the meal. You can easily whip up a simple tomato sauce or use a jar that is hidden away in the cupboards but why not take a bit more time and instead bring your sauce to another level with a creamy roasted pepper sauce, which incidentally happens to be vegan too. You can’t go wrong with this sauce, the balance of smoky peppers and creaminess is definitely a crowd pleaser. You can usually buy a jar of roaster pepper, which is exactly what I did this time, or pop a few red peppers in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the skin of the peppers begins to char and blister. Then all you have to do is take them, let them cool down, I recommend covering them with cling wrap to help sweat the skin off, and once cooled peel the skin off and you will have some roasted peppers ready to be used in any recipe you like.
Just like using sauce to enhance the flavour of the pasta you may want to add protein to your meal, so might I suggest my yummy kale and cilantro meatballs. I used ground beef for my recipe, but any form of ground meat, or a meat alternative such as lentils will also work with this recipe. It is also a nice way to add some more vegetables without sacrificing taste. This dish is a great because it involves tons of vegetables cleverly hidden, without skimping on the taste and is sure to be a go-to meal on any night of the week.
I used baby spaghetti squash, but regular sized ones also work perfectly. To cook turn oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash length wise and scoop out seeds. Coat skin and inside with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place downward onto baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a fork easily punctures the skin. Either serve meatballs and sauce in the shell or scrape out the flesh onto a plate, try to serve immediately as it does tend to cool quickly.
Kale and Cilantro Meatballs
Makes: around 20 Cook time: 30 minutes Total time: 40 minutes
1 pound beef ( or any ground meat you prefer)
2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tsp cumin
1 egg ( or replacement)
salt and pepper
1. Turn oven to 400 degrees ( if cooking with squash put in at the same time)
2. Oil a baking sheet.
3. Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix to combine, using your hands is the best way.
4. Form balls that are about the size of a walnut.
5. Evenly spread on the baking sheet.
6. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove and serve immediately. If there are any left over just transfer to a container and store in refrigerator for the next day or freeze for as long as month, but chances are you won’t have leftovers.
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Makes: about 4 cups Cook time: 60 minutes Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
2-3 Red peppers, whole but seeds and stem removed or 1 jar of ready made peppers
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Onion, chopped
2-3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Cup dairy free milk ( I used half coconut milk and half soy milk)
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tsp dried basil or handful of chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp vegan cream cheese (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place peppers in oven on baking tray. Keep an eye on the peppers, they should be ready in 30 minutes. Remove, place cling wrap over them and let cool down. Once cool, peel skin off and slice up.
2. While peppers are roasting, combine onions, garlic and oil in a pot and cook on medium-high heat until translucent.
3. Transfer the onions and garlic to a blender along with all the other ingredients (except for the cream cheese if you use it). Blend until smooth.
4. Pour blended mix back into pot, wait until it just begins to bubble and then set heat to simmer. Drop in the cream cheese (optional) and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and let cook until it is ready to be served.
4. If there is any leftover sauce left, take off heat and wait until it has cooled down before transferring to a heat proof container and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for a week, or if you wish you can also freeze it for up to 2-3 months.