Jan 04

I love Spaghetti! A post for National Spaghetti Day

Do you love spaghetti?  I certainly do.  There’s nothing quite like it as a comfort food.  I love to twirl it round my fork; it’s been a small pleasure of mine since childhood.noodles-4851996_640

italian-1082230_640Spaghetti is the most popular type of pasta in the world.  It’s possible that the Etruscans made pasta as early as 400BCE, but we can be sure that noodles, the precursor of spaghetti have been made by the Chinese for at least 4000 years. Spaghetti is made from durum wheat, and Italy remains the biggest producer.
Spaghetti, like other pasta can be a surprisingly nutritious food.  As well as providing around 12% of your daily protein needs, 100g cooked wholemeal pasta is a useful source of dietary fibre, B-vitamins, magnesium, manganese and selenium.  For many people, spaghetti, particularly the wholewheat variety, which is higher in fibre than its white cousin, is a useful, economical, and of course utterly delicious part of a balanced diet.  The sky’s the limit when it comes to sauces.  One of my favourites, which was one of the first dishes I ever learned to cook, was a sauce made from tomato, tuna, garlic and fresh basil, finished off with a wee knob of butter.  No need for any cheese; back in my younger days, this was a staple storecupboard meal.  I still enjoy it occasionally.
However, 100g spaghetti also contains 30g carbohydrate.  This probably isn’t as high as you thought, but for those who need or choose to follow a low-carbohydrate diet, it may not be the best choice. White spaghetti by itself has a glycaemic load (GL) of around 23-28.  Any single food with a value of 20 or more is considered to be high GL. The higher the GL, the less desirable the food will be for someone looking to manage blood sugar levels. Traditional spaghetti, of course, contains gluten, so is not suitable for coeliacs or those with a gluten intolerance.  Gluten free spaghetti doesn’t taste bad at all, but if you want a low-carb alternative, preferably with as much or more nutritional value as the real thing, or you just fancy a change, here are the top 5 alternatives which have passed my taste test.
Edamame Noodles
Thfood-3348739_640ese lovely green noodles have about half the carbohydrates and twice the protein of regular spaghetti.  They’re good with green or tomato-based sauces, and especially good in Oriental dishes.  They would be less good with a creamy-style sauce.  Unlike lentil pasta, I don’t find them grainy.  They do contain soya, so watch out if you’re sensitive.
Sweet Potato Noodles
These are most suitable for Oriental dishes where you want an alternative to rice or glass noodles, which have a higher glycaemic load.  Although these noodles aren’t as nutrient dense as my other choices by any means, they’re easy and convenient. They’re also colourless, which may suit picky eaters better (sometimes they come in purple, which I think is even more fun).  I like to throw them into broth with some veggies for a quick and effortless supper.
Black Bean Noodles
These ink-black noodles (not to be confused with squid ink pasta) contain 46g protein and 21g fibre but only 13g carbohydrate per 100g, making them an impressive choice if you’re trying to reduce your carbohydrate intake without going extreme.  They do have quite a distinctive taste, but they would work well with vegetable-based sauces rather than cheese-based ones.  They’re also available in Aldi, so they could be a good choice economically too.
spaghetti-squash-2382520_640Courgetti (or perhaps Zoodles)
If you don’t already know, these are courgette spiralized to look like spaghetti.  Admittedly, they are not like the real thing, and Nigella Lawson won’t go near them, but that’s no reason to throw them out altogether.  Courgetti lack the protein and fibre of some of the other choices, but they contain helpful amounts of B-vitamins, Vitamin-C, potassium and manganese. With a glycaemic load of 2, they’re a great choice if you’re working on blood sugar management.  They do need careful handling; you barely need to cook them at all; never boil them, just give them a quick heat through in a large-based frying pan, otherwise they will turn to watery mush and be hideous.  Great with all types of sauces, particularly raw sauces in the summer.
Spaghetti Squash
spaghetti-4297593_640-1This is a kind of miracle vegetable.  Bake it in the oven, cut it in half lengthways, remove the damp stuff from the middle, and run a fork through the rest of the flesh.  Behold – spaghetti-like strands will appear!  This is one pasta alternative that’s absolutely great with a cheese-based sauce as well as all the vegetable-based ones, and it has the fun factor as well, which is lovely for children.  Although it doesn’t score quite as well on the nutrient front as courgetti, it has the same glycaemic load and a higher amount of dietary fibre.  The downsides are that it can be hard to get hold of, and it takes a long time to cook.

Will you be trying out some of my alternatives, either for National Spaghetti Day or later this month, or sticking with the traditional product?  Let me know.  Or, tell me about your favourite way to eat spaghetti.

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