HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


What works as faux pasta?

  • t

What's a diabetic pasta lover to do? I'll settle for a really good vehicle for good sauce, but I can't do spaghetti squash every night.

I've heard of using bean sprouts, but aren't they a tad on the crunchy side?

I've heard about sliced boiled cabbage, but won't that stink up the house?

Zucchini? Similar to squash, I guess.

Other ideas? ... Can cauliflower be made to work? Are any of the low-carb pastas low-carb enough and not-so-horrible enough to be worth it?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Buckwheat pasta noodles? They make them in Italy and for diabetics buckwheat is supposed to be good from what I read. Similar to japanese soba, but an authentic italian article.

    2 Replies
    1. re: summertime

      Also, farro pasta - not easy to find, but also is supposed to be better for diabetics. Also genuine italian, not a "zucchini pasta" substitute.

      1. re: summertime

        The Japanese make very low-carb and low-calorie noodles out of yam flour called konnyaku and shirataki.I don't care for the konnyaku noodles; they are rubbery. If you can track down some "tofu shirataki" you might try those. (I get them at my local Mitsuwa market, in the refrigerator case next to the tofu.) I don't know why but they have a more pleasant texture and don't have a sort of weird taste that the other ones have. You should freshen them up by rinsing, parboiling and rinsing again.

        I don't use these noodles in Italian preparations because I can eat pasta, but I use them in traditional Asian recipes like soup and stir-fries or with rice sprinkles. Some people like them in Italian preparations though.

    2. The only low-carb pasta I have found worth eating is Dreamfield's. The jury is out on it, some people have found immediate blood sugar spikes and others not, each has to test for themselves. It does not bother me. It is full of gums and thickeners and will never get really soft. Truly al dente all of the time even after being in a salad or where other pastas get flabby.

      1. Eat real pasta and take insulin. It works wonders.

        IDDM for 35 years

        7 Replies
        1. re: Liz

          Not all of us are insulin dependant diabetics. Some of us are able to control our disease with careful diet and oral meds. Of course if you are type 1, you have no choice, and I would eat and adjust meds. For a type 2, it's a different story, and insulin dependance is not what you want. Having said that, regular pasta, eaten in a normal portion size, should have no detrimental effects if you are under reasonable control (and don't have a sensitivity to it). If you, like me, have issues with determining a normal portion size, get out the measuring cup. A normal serving is about 1 cup of cooked noodles. I just do the opposite of what normal people do - I put the sauce on the bottom and use the pasta as a topping :-) Makes me feel like I am getting more.

          There is a japanese noodle that is made from squash that is low carb and all that - but I can't recall the name of it. Maybe someone knows?

          1. re: Cyndy

            Thanks, Liz. I was going to let that lie, but you said what I would have said on the insulin topic. I am Type 2, and on top of that I know a Type 1 (adult onset, oddly enough) who takes insulin and then eats huge bowls of Cocoa Pebbles. Somehow that seems wrong.

            And the part that I left out was that I have been doing quite well sugar-wise (6.0 or slightly less on the hemoglobin scale) with a diet way too rich in pastas but that I've recently gotten the urge to dramatically increase my vegetable intake and I've been quite happy eating spaghetti squash, cauliflower, beets and eggplant in various recipes for my dinner entree.

            I like what all that is doing for my waistline, and I just wanted to add some variety to my yen for tomato sauce plus [blank] for dinner. I probably shouldn't have bothered asking about low-carb noodles, as those would have caloric impact similar to that of regular pasta.

            1. re: Cyndy

              Thanks, Cyndy, I meant, of course. Thanks, Liz, too, though -- all input is welcome :-).

              1. re: TheFraggleGourmet

                FraggleGourmet and Cyndy,

                I wrote what I did because I find too many diabetics (and yes, type 2s are in the vast majority) settle with the idea that they can control their disease by taking oral meds and essentially eliminating carbohydrates from their diet. I don't think this is healthy or wise. It is reverting to the starvation diet used for type 1s in the 1920s before insulin was discovered.

                If your medication is appropriate you should be able to eat a normal diet and keep your blood sugar where you want it to be most of the time.

                FraggleGourmet's original post suggested that this wasn't the case, hence my suggestion that his medication might not be appropriate.

                Now that I know he posted because he wants to increase his intake of vegetables, I will suggest the usuals, such as grated zucchini, baked eggplant slices, chicken tenders, veal scallopini, roasted porcini mushrooms, and the like.

                Reminder: I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV.

                1. re: Liz

                  Liz, you are completely wrong on the science. You should do some research on the ketogenic diet. I suggest reading the books "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living" by Dr. Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek, and the "Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution" book. To put gasoline (carbs) on the flame of diabetes is completely illogical. Yes, MANY people with type 2 DM can put their diabetes into remission, come off their cholesterol lowering and blood pressure drugs, lose weight, and decrease their inflammation. You have absolutely no science that a properly formulated high fat, moderate protein, and low carb diet is in any way harmful or unsafe. Do your research. Starvation and nutritional ketosis are two completely different states.

                  1. re: jerrgreen

                    You are arguing with people that posted 9 yrs ago. They are not even current members. Notice that their names are not bolded blue? Lol

                  2. re: Liz

                    I think the goal is not have to take so many medications.

            2. Let's get back to the cabbage as a pasta substitute. If you slice the large leaves in 1/2" wide strips and saute the cabbage in olive oil with some garlic, you could create a faux pasta meal. Saute the cabbage until it is limp and some of it starts to caramelize. Then add the tomato condiment.

              If your tomato condiment does not contain any other ingredients, then saute sliced onion and chopped green bell peppers with the cabbage.

              We've never had sauteed cabbage stink up the house. But we've never had to use a substitute for pasta either.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ChiliDude

                I should note here a favorite tweak of a classic Marcella Hazan recipe: Her recipe is for smothered cabbage in the Venetian style. I found the leftovers blend magnificently with linguine fini. So you can use a small portion of linguine fini (1-2 oz dry) and amplify with as much cavolo sofegao as you like!

                Finely shred a couple of pounds of green or white or savoy cabbage. In a heavy pot (with a cover), saute a finely chopped onion over medium heat in a quarter cup of olive oil until the onion starts to color, then add a clove or two of chopped/minced garlic. Then add the cabbage and toss around. When it's good and coated, add salt and black pepper and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Mix well, and turn the heat down to low and cover. Stir occasionally over the next 90 minutes, and add a tablespoon or two of water if it gets too dry.

                Leftover, it marries fabulously with thin linguine and either a garlic/oil sauce or butter/parmesan sauce.

                1. re: ChiliDude

                  Steaming shredded cabbage till just tender will not make the house smell. Cabbage has an undeserved bad reputation because people overcook it and THAT"S when it stinks.

                2. The trick with zucchini is to slice it on the thin julienne blade on a mandoline-- we use our $25 japanese v slicer-- and to cook it until only barely tender in a blazing hot saute pan large enough to toss the zucchini in constantly. You only toss the zucchini long enough for it to start to bend a little easier in the heat, no more than 5 minutes, but depending on how hot your stove gets. If it's started to turn transclucent, you've overdone it. It's really only good with red sauces, but we eat zucchini with sausages and vodka sauce several times a month. It's also good with puttanesca.

                  You can also saute thinly sliced onions with the zucchini for a bit of textural and flavor contrast.

                  We find spaghetti squash to be pretty dull, except in a carbonara-esque fashion-- bake the squash, cook 1/3 lb. bacon in a saute pan with chopped onion until the onion caramelizes and the bacon is crispy. Add the pulled apart squash to the saute pan, toss, add salt (as needed) and black pepper, and then serve with a generous grating of a strong-flavored goat, sheep, or cow's milk cheese. We like parmesan, manchego, or grana padano.

                  Thinly sliced savoy cabbage is good as a noodle substitute in pad thai-- just add it the last 5 minutes, with the chicken/shrimp, and it does not stink up the house. It's the boiling, not the sauteeing, that releases the sulfur compounds. I've never tried to use cabbage in italian dishes.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: emdb

                    I second the zucchini prep. I fortunately can eat regular pasta, but love zucchini prepared this way. I have also seen carrot and asparagus "ribbons" as a pasta substitute.

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Julienned zucchini works extremely well -- you're right. It has the perfect sorta-slimy pasta consistency.

                  2. How about bean curd noodles? No idea what their carb content is, but I would assume less than pasta. It's sold fresh in the asian grocery store and looks like thin curly noodles.

                    1. Another vote for shirataki (and not konnyaku) noodles. I find that I have to cut them up a little bit to better separate them and integrate the sauce, but I love them stir-fried together with grilled garlic-salted egglplant, caramelized onions, wild mushrooms, salsa or tomatoes, white balsamic vinegar, a dash of soy sauce, and a little butter (I know odd combos, but I cook by taste and add as I go to counterbalance tastes :) ). Great with precooked chopped chicken added in.

                      1. I love putting my favorite sauces on chicken cutlets - obviously it's nothing like having pasta, but it's a great vehicle for the sauce. I've done this with pesto and various tomato based sauces. Wonderful with mozzarella melted on top.

                        1. I've had good luck making lasagna using thinly sliced eggplant (oil lightly and broil) in place of the noodles.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: doctor_mama

                            I'd forgotten about that one - I also use grilled portobellos and zucchini slices, in addition to the Eggplant, with layers of bolognese sauce and mozzarella, plus grated parm on top.

                          2. I haven't read through all the replies and don't know if this was mentioned, but spaghetti squash is an excellent substitute for pasta. Use your favorite pasta sauce, meatballs, Shrimp Creole, or anything you can think of over it.

                            1. You mentioned zucchini. I've used a mandoline, but you could use a vegetable peeler if you don't have one, to make very thin ribbons of zucchini and yellow squash. Then boil just enough to make them kind of soft and pliant. Good with browned butter and probably good with a nice tomato sauce, too.

                              1. Here's a website that lists just a few of the various types of Asian noodles out there:



                                The shirataki and mung bean and various types of tofu noodles in particular will have less of the rapidly digestible starch found in the usual wheat noodles

                                1. i like konnyaku as well as shirataki (the ones madeof tofu rather than the konnyaku ones) BUT i must say that they are a poor sub for italian-style pastas. This is only because they are too slick texture-aly to hold or grip the sauce. They are extremely slippery noodles and so in mouthfeel you may feel like you are eating pasta, the sauce will just slide right off the noodle. these noodles do work well (as was mentioned above) in stirfries and soups, etc, but not so well in the italian style, where noodles of differing shapes, sizes, etc are used to hold and bring the sauce into your mouth.

                                  1. Not bean sprouts I think. But cauliflower, brocoli, and string beans are all good. Even canned french cut string beans work well because the veg. in question needs to be cooked tender to be a good vehicle for pasta sauce. But you are on the right track. A good meaty bolognese tomato sauce, parmesan and maybe even some grated jack cheese mixed in is, I think, really delicious with those cooked vegetables. Del Monte makes canned sliced zuchini squash in Italian tomato sauce that is actaully pretty good all by itself or you could easily make a tasty quick meal combining it with crumbled hamburger and parmesan. And don't forget cooked, sliced mushrooms.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: niki rothman

                                      I would buy one of those kitchen tools (i forget the name sorry) that you turn with a handle and it creates long strands or "ribbons" out of vegetables. You can make carrot noodles, or any other kind of round or elongated vegetable noodle

                                      oh and it should be relatively firm, the veggies that is

                                      I don't know why I replied to the above poster, sorry!

                                      1. re: bitsubeats

                                        Where could I buy one of these machines? I've never seen one, but it sounds really cool!

                                        1. re: niki rothman

                                          let me see if I can find a picture, I'm sure it's cheap because it doesn't require electricity

                                          here is a link, I just typed in "spiral slicer" and it worked

                                    2. I am pre-type 2 and am watching my carbs closely. I have switched to whole wheat pasta and enjoy it. Now the supermarkets, as well as the health food stores, carry it.

                                      1. I try to eat barley instead of pasta, I find it to be just as good of a vehicle for tomato-based sauces. Just be careful not to overcook it. Of course, it's not really "noodley" but if you just want something to put the sauce on it is really good.

                                        1. Since I'm allergic to gluten, I've been searching for good alternative to real wheat pasta as well...I miss it. A lot. Especially if it's the main vehicle for the great sauces out there.

                                          The zucchini idea is great, I second using a mandoline. A local Italian place makes "pasta" with julienned zucchini, carrots and cabbage. If you get the texture right, it tastes great with stronger pasta sauces.

                                          I also use Asian yam noodles and bean thread noodles, but they would be weird with Italian sauces. I was told Eden makes 100% buckwheat soba, but the strong taste may not work with Italian sauces either.

                                          The closest to wheat I've found is the quinoa/corn pasta from Ancient Grains, available at Whole Foods. I've made tuna noodle casserole and spaghetti carbonara with it (see pictures on my blog). You can't overcook it or it turns to mush, but it's a pretty good substitute for wheat pasta. Of course if you're counting carbs, then this may just as bad and you might as well eat the good stuff. :)


                                          1. Barilla makes a product called pasta plus or something similar (its in a yellow box) I don't know that this is suitable as a replacement for a diabetic but it may be. It is made with lentils and other stuff (sorry I don't have any left in the pantry and its the only ing. from the box that I remember) and comes in all the standard pasta shapes.

                                            1. noone has mentioned cauliflower: boil until tender, and saute w/onions and some chicken broth. season w/s+p. it's actually very good, you can add real parmigiano and chopped parsley also.
                                              fried or baked white fish goes well with tomato sauce.
                                              lean pork chops.
                                              greens like escarole, broccoli rabe, kale(buy the frozen kind, it cooks quickly)
                                              canellini beans.
                                              of course eggplant and zucchini, but i hate julienned zucchini (it =water). instead cube or slice lengthwise as you would eggplant, and roast it at low temp (or fry, whatever.)
                                              roasted peppers (at high temp until blackened, then peel.
                                              lentils, quinoa, cubes of pumpkin.
                                              i think almost anything goes well with tomato sauce. except maybe rice.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: fara

                                                I evidently can't read.

                                                Zombie Thread.


                                              2. I have used thinly sliced zuchini in place of lasagna noodles and the whole family really loved it!. But I did several prep steps to make them work:
                                                1. Split in half and remove seeds
                                                2. Slice long ways, thinly 1/8th inch thick or less, to replicate lasagna noodle shape
                                                3. Put on drain rack or several layers of paper or cotton towels
                                                4. Sprinkle with salt and allow to sit so that salt draws water out of zuchini - about 1/2 hour
                                                5. Rinse off extra salt & blot dry

                                                Use as you would lasagna noodles but be aware that your dishes may still have extra water. You might add the step of sauteeing your slices in a dry non-stick skillet to help drive out even more water or just make sure that other wet ingredients like your sauce, ricotta cheese, etc. are "dry" well drained or reduced to eliminate excess moisture.

                                                I've had stomach surgery and can only do teeny bits pasta, carbs or bread for several reasons. That said, the Barilla Pasta plus is much higher in protein and lower in carbs while still tasting like normal pasta. We can only get the spaghetti and a few of the shapes here. But it is a good option. I'm looking for a really good egg noodle replacement what will work in a low-fat, low carb, turkey stroganoff recipe.

                                                I did see an idea on the Prevention website about using portobello mushrooms as a pizza crust base instead of bread. That seemed pretty brilliant since I love mushrooms and used to love pizza but now can't tolerate the bread crust. I may give that a try this weekend.

                                                1. Have you checked the quinoa pasta? Quinoa has a low glycemic index but the pasta is mostly corn...

                                                  1. try using blanched onion rings as a noodle sub. I've make faux pasta carbonara with this. spiral cut your onions with a spiral slicer (or just slice and break rings) and blanch for a few seconds. drain and use as usual.

                                                    1. I'm type 2 and I'm gonna go in a different direction - portion size. If pasta isn't spiking your blood sugar in moderate amounts (1 cup), then eat it. But to make it feel like the portions of pasta you are used to, use filler in your sauce and make your pasta al forno style. Then you get a serving size that feels like more than one cup. Here's my strategy. For your sauce, use about a pound really good tasting meat - shredded braised pork, ground lamb, ground veal. First sautee finely chopped onions and shredded zuchinni, shredded carrots, or shredded parsnips (think two or three cups worth) until soft. Add your meat and sautee some more (don't need to cook it through). Add 1/2 cup of red wine to deglaze and then add 2 cans of pureed tomatoes. Salt and pepper and then simmer for at least 20 minutes. Then you measure about 4 servings of pasta (4 cups after cooking). My recommendation is "short pasta" like fusilli, penne, or rigatoni. I can never measure long pasta to make sure I have the right portion. Once the pasta is cooked to a little BEFORE al dente, toss in the sauce, pour it into an 8x8 baking dish, cover with parm and/or mozarella and bake for 20 minutes. Serve yourself 1/4 of the baking dish which is 1 cup of cooked pasta. It LOOKS like a lot of pasta because the pasta is there but with shredded vegetables as filler.

                                                      If you are looking to do something that's fresher and more spring/summer, think about making ravioli with won ton skins. They are usually 3 grams of carbs per skin so you end up making 15 ravioli for a serving of 45 grams of carbs. Fill with ricotta cheese and sauteed spinach with some parm. Top with chopped tomatoes (great right now!), basil chiffonade, and cold pressed EVOO.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                                        Just wanted to mention that you can use a kitchen scale to weigh any type of pasta.

                                                      2. Is corn any better for you? Polenta makes a stellar sauce vehicle.

                                                        1. Since you can eat it in moderation I suggest occasionally making homemade ravioli with phyllo dough (won ton wrappers) from your grocery store. So easy. And I think Phyllo dough has fewer carbs than a traditional pasta.
                                                          Lay your won ton wrappers on a dry surface. brush the edges with water, then spoon your filling onto each. Top each with another wrapper and press to seal. Drop them into simmering water for about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drizzle with a herb infused oil and Parmesan cheese or a marinara sauce and cheese.
                                                          You can also use the wrappers for mini lasagnas.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: DishDelish

                                                            i know this is a zombie thread, but jiminy, phyllo dough and won ton skins are not at all the same thing.

                                                          2. Spaghetti Squash is wonderful stuff, and fits the bill. We just microwave the whole thing, cut in half with cut side wrapped in plastic.

                                                            Mung bean threads "cellophane noodles" are indeed quite low in the kinda carbs you're avoiding. I have a friend who's on a strict diet and he's thrilled that the mung bean threads can give him his pasta "fix." They are, however, rather peculiar to look at. The classic Chinese dish with cellophane noodles is "Ants Climbing the Tree." The noodles are sauced with a clear sauce of minced pork and garlic with leeks.

                                                            1. Found this today while searching for other ideas. I am having guests over this weekend to try it out.


                                                              1. Use an old fashion style vegetable peeler and peel away at some carrots lengthwise. Boil till they are as a tender as you like them and you have something like fettuccini.

                                                                1. Instead of thinking shape, maybe try thinking flavor combos. If I was in the mood for Alfredo but I didn't want the carbs, I might serve Alfredo sauce over grilled asparagus. Tomatoes and cauliflower go great together. Tomatoes and lentils too. A crab-stuffed avocado with your favorite tomato sauce and a little fresh basil? Pesto and salmon is a no-brainer, obviously. Just spit-balling here, but it seems to me with pasta it's usually more about the sauce anyway (who eats a plate of unsauced noodles?), so I'd be thinking about what veggies or proteins my favorite sauces would go well with. I've tried a bunch of noodle substitutes and most of them are pretty disappointing. One I do love is zucchini. I shred a pile of zucchini "noodles" with the noodle-sized blade on my Benriner. Zucchini has enough heft and bite that it never leaves me longing for the real thing.

                                                                  1. Get thee over to the special diets board. Thin ribbons of zucchini and thin slices of eggplant (esp. in lasagna) are your friends, but there are MANY ideas over in Special Diets...lots of folks who are diabetic/doing low carb and who LOVE their food.

                                                                    1. Can you have brown rice? I've had a great brown rice pasta. I feel like it has to be boiled a bit longer than pasta, otherwise it's way too al dente for me, but its great. Polenta is a nice change-just bake a slice, and cover in veggies, sauce, cheese, whatever. Also, when I'm craving something hearty but don't want pasta, (and I know a lot of people have mentioned this) roughly cut eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms or whatever else with a red sauce is fantastic!

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                        Schrute, prob. not for the first two if s/he is diabetic, esp Type II. Corn, rice (even brown rice), any grains tend to do bad things to the blood glucose levels. It's a beeyatch.

                                                                        The rough cut veggies is a great idea. I forgot about mushrooms...those puppies have a wide variety of shapes, textures, tastes. Excellent idea, and depending on where OP lives, readily available year-round.

                                                                        1. re: pinehurst

                                                                          That's too bad-my knowledge is obviously limited :( but yeah, the veggies work out well when I'm trying to cut calories, you get the feel of just having a big Italian meal, when really you just had tons of healthy veggies! And something will always be in season-squash, potatoes, carrots-the skies the limit!

                                                                      2. How about some of the large beans? Like Pasta e Fagioli without the small elbow macaroni, just the peans.

                                                                        Using vegetables for stuffing, like peppers, whole onions, small squash with tomato based flavors works well as a sub too. The trick is not to get bored.

                                                                        1. I use mushrooms a lot as a background filler for dishes usually involving pasta - e..g marsala, carbonara, pesto. It's a different texture but it works.

                                                                          1. Personally I like zucchini better than spaghetti squash or any of the dietetic pastas. I don't even bother to julienne it---I just slice it and saute' it in a little olive oil and eat it with any tomato-based pasta sauce and grated Parmesan. I was very surprised at how good this is as a pasta replacement. Be sure to eat it good and hot---that helps.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. Bean sprouts can be lightly sauteed in olive oil until they are al dente. Only takes about a minute or so.

                                                                              1. Someone on the Food Network made a risotto with cauliflower. You could probably find the recipe on their website.....it was "The Next Food Network Star."
                                                                                Looked interesting...

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: perk

                                                                                  I've tried it, works pretty well though reminds me of just more hydrated mashed cauliflower.