I miss pasta. I miss heaping bowls of steaming linguine with red clam sauce. I miss the feel of a spoonful of classic spaghetti alla Bolognese. I miss ravioli and oozy bites of lasagna or bouncy tagliatelle coated in creamy cheese sauces. I even miss (don't judge me) the thin, springy strands of 10-cent ramen coated in that much-too-salty flavor powder (my favorite is "oriental"). I miss the ease of pasta. Few things match the comfort and convenience of tossing a box of rigatoni into a rapidly boiling pot. Shhh... Listen. Can't you practically hear the woosh as they pass from cardboard box to bubbling water?
I tried substitutions. I played around with soy noodles and low-carb noodles and nutty-textured whole wheat noodles. I painstakingly julienned thin strips of zucchini and boiled and served with sauce just like I would normal linguine. And everything looked so good! It looked right. But the moment I lifted fork to mouth, the excitement was gone because it just didn't *taste* right. And, as I'm sure you'll agree, it really is all about the taste.
So I basically gave up on trying to recreate these memories at home, settling for the occasional indulgent bite of my boyfriend's pasta which he'll hold up in front of me, steamy and dangling from the fork just inches from my face. And those bites...man...those bites are good. And they're good enough to make me rethink this whole way of eating. So I battle it out in my head. The bouncy bite of al dente vs. the single-digit-sized dresses hanging in my closet. And I'm almost sorry to say that for this girl, this girl who trained in Tuscany and who can, if asked, turn a mound of flour and eggs and water into something bouncy and wonderful, well even for her, those dresses win.
But I still miss it, and I began to assume that this would just be it. But then something happened. Something I never expected. There I was, pushing my cart through the refrigerated aisle in a search for Greek-strained yogurt, when my eyes fell upon something new. A plastic bag filled with...cooked spaghetti? I picked it up: Tofu Shirataki. Yam and tofu noodles, it explained. I turned it over and smiled. 3 grams of carbs. 2 grams of fiber. That's 1 net carb. And the serving size? Well it was the whole bag! I grabbed a few and tossed in my cart excited about the possibilities.
Folks, I love this stuff. I love it. I made carbonara first, frying bits of thick, country bacon until crisp, tossing with shaved pecorino, and breaking one giant egg over it all, letting the golden yolk ooze and pour over the strands. It was good. It was very good. It was pasta. The next night I made a cream sauce from whole-milk ricotta, lemon zest, and fresh basil. I cracked black pepper over it all and curled up with my bowl.
It doesn't taste weird. It doesn't taste like anything, actually. Made from the root of an Asian plant called the Elephant Yam (which bears no relation to those starchy Thanksgiving yams), the noodles are somewhat transluscent and have practically no calories, carbs, or really much of anything. They can be made from the yam alone, but these can be a bit rubbier than the ones made from a tofu-yam blend which are springy, but not in an overly pronounced way. I've tried both and prefer the tofu kind, but will eat either. The noodles are tasteless and take on the flavors of whatever it is served with. Note that the water it comes in smells a bit odd. Almost fishy or slightly chemical, but it can be easily rinsed away in cold water and then boiled for a minute or two to completely wipe it out and it doesn't affect the taste of the noodles at all.
If you miss pasta, try this. Buy a few bags (look for them at Whole Foods and Trader Joes near the tofu, tempeh, and vegan products in the refrigerator case; your local Asian markets should have them too. They can also be purchased online in boxes of 12.) Once you have them, be sure not to boil them like you would pasta. Just a minute or so to rinse off the package water then finish off in the sauce you make or toss into a cold noodle salad. Add to soup. Top with sauce or cheese or olive oil and garlic. Add herbs. Add spices. It's pasta. Enjoy it.