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Meatless Monday No. 10 – Shirataki Mac & Cheese

Can I get a show of hands from those of you who love pasta?

Yes, I thought there might be a few of you!

I’m half Italian, and I think it’s pretty much part of my DNA to adore pasta… unfortunately, however, my Italian genes aren’t strong enough to ensure that I stay slim while including pasta as a delicious part of every meal. (Seriously, how DO Italian women do it?!) So while it’s fine to enjoy the wonderful stuff occasionally, it’s good to know that, should one so desire, there are a handful of low-calorie foods similar enough in structure to stand in for calorie- and carb-laden pasta.

One of my very favourites would have to be shirataki noodles.

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I’ve posted about these noodles before (here, here, and here), but never really said a whole lot about them – so I thought that as part of today’s Meatless Monday experiment I’d remedy my delinquency. Hopefully this is helpful to the uninitiated!

  • In general terms, regular shirataki noodles (such as Miracle Noodles) contain zero calories and zero carbs (I know, right?!), and tofu shirataki noodles (such as the ones made by House Foods) have minimal amounts of each. Both come in a variety of pasta shapes such as angel hair, spaghetti, and macaroni.
  • While shirataki noodles may look similar to pasta, and work well in various dishes as a pasta stand-in, that’s pretty much where the comparison ends. Don’t expect them to be pasta – because if you do, you’re almost certain to be disappointed. They’re not prepared like pasta, they don’t taste like pasta, and they don’t have the same texture as pasta. (Best of all, they don’t have the calories of pasta!) The way to approach shirataki noodles, I think, is to simply appreciate them for what they are.
  • Shirataki noodles are packaged in a rather fishy-smelling liquid. DO NOT let this put you off! Draining the fluid and rinsing the noodles under warm water banishes the smell entirely, and doesn’t affect the taste of the noodles whatsoever.
  • The best method to prepare shirataki noodles is to dry-fry them. After you’ve rinsed and drained them (even patted them dry with a paper towel, if you want to speed the process), toss them into a non-stick pan and cook them at a fairly high heat, stirring regularly, until all the liquid is gone and the noodles start to squeak. Unlike pasta, you can’t overcook shirataki noodles, so don’t skimp on the dry-frying time.

For some people, trying shirataki noodles for the first time may be an act of bravery because, if you’re used to a fairly traditional diet, these noodles are quite different. I myself was rather nervous the first time, but I’m glad I gave them a shot, as I discovered that despite (or perhaps because of) their different-ness, I really enjoy them.

Now, on to today’s Meatless Monday dinner! Since the temperature is still on the chilly side, I decided to stick with comfort food in the form of macaroni and cheese.

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I used the Cooking Light recipe for Baked Mac and Cheese as a starting point, and made the following adjustments:

  • Since the whole recipe serves six, and there are just the two of us, I cut it approximately in half.
  • I substituted three 226g packages of Tofu Shirataki noodles (macaroni-shaped) for the penne.
  • Instead of 2% cottage cheese, I used 1% to cut the calories a little more.
  • Since fresh parsley was only sold in massive quantities at both the grocery stores I visited, I opted for a bottle of Litehouse Freeze Dried Parsley, which is measured the same as fresh and is a little nicer than the regular dried stuff.

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The whole dinner was a bit of an experiment, as I don’t usually seem to have very good luck when I adjust quantities… most likely because my math skills are, er, somewhat lacking. (Remind me to tell you about the chili recipe I “adjusted” and eventually had to toss because it was too hot even for me to bear!)

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All in all, though, it seemed to work out fairly well. Our only complaints were that I hadn’t added enough salt (easily remedied), and also that there was a little bit of excess liquid at the bottom of the baking dish (maybe because I didn’t let it stand to set for a few minutes before serving). Also, I could have left the dish in the oven a little longer to brown more (but we were both so hungry that I was rushing the process at the end).

But it was good… and today, I even remembered the salad!

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Are you participating in Meatless Monday?
What did you make for dinner tonight?

NaBloPoMoDecember2013

Laurel Regan – Writer, tangler, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, cat herder, needle felter, iPhoneographer, Growlita, iFan, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

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