Paleo Pasta: 3 Low Carb Comfort Dishes

by Matt Moore on May 31, 2013 · 16 comments

in Cooking, Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

With Memorial Day this week, we marked the unofficial start of summer. Sunshine, warmer temperatures, cookouts, and lake/beach vacations are on the horizon.

Gone are the fall and winter dishes of comforting risotto, lasagna, hearty soups, and stews. Summer ushers in a culinary season bright with fresh fruits and vegetables for use on the grill, in salads, and other lighter fare.

Yet, just because the warmer temperatures and bountiful harvests loom, that doesn’t mean I’ve lost my cravings for comfort foods, otherwise known as carbs in my Southern vernacular. Regrettably, I’m still a few pounds heavier than my preferred ‘vanity’ weight required for poolside lounging. So I’m ready to put aside carb-heavy food along with my jackets and sweaters.

Of course, any diet should be one that focuses on moderation. Cutting out certain groups of food altogether leads to an eventual crash – rather than a lifestyle change of making healthy choices. That being said, one thing is certain with the workings of my own metabolism — when I cut out the carbs, I shed the pounds.

With that key component in mind, I’ve developed some low-carb comfort meals over the years that allow me to make better choices without sacrificing flavor. After all, one can only eat so many salads or lean proteins and veggies on a low-carb diet without searching for some flavorful alternatives.

Since pasta tends to be my carb of choice, I’m doing a remake of three of my favorite dishes with a vegetable twist. I’ll give you the ins and outs of how cabbage, zucchini, and spaghetti squash can all be used to satiate that pasta craving without the guilt.

With that said, enjoy all your classics while looking your best throughout the summer season!


German Braised Cabbage + Turkey Sausage (prep 10 mins, cook 15 mins, serves 2)


This comforting dish is typically served with a heaping of steamed egg noodles or mashed potatoes; however, I find that serving the sausages alongside shredded, braised cabbage gives much of the same payoff. Instead of a heavy gravy or brown sauce, the vibrant mustard helps to cut through the fat of the sausage while also ramping up flavor. You can substitute turkey or chicken sausage for the pork variety, if desired.

1 lb sausage kielbasa, Italian, etc., raw
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
Red onion, thinly sliced
Assorted pickles
Spicy brown mustard

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add sausages, and cover with about 1 inch of water. Slowly cook sausages in a simmer for 6-8 minutes. Remove sausages and reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid. Place the same pan back over medium heat and brown sausages for 2-3 minutes each side, remove, and tent with foil to keep warm. Add cabbage and sauté in the drippings in the pan (add a bit of oil if necessary). Deglaze with reserved cooking liquid and continue to sauté, uncovered, until cabbage is tender – about 6-8 minutes. Season cabbage to taste with salt and pepper. When ready for service, place a heaping of sautéed cabbage on the plate and top with thinly sliced red onion. Serve alongside sausage, mustard, and pickles.

Bay Scallop Scampi + Zucchini ‘Pasta’ (prep 10 mins, cook 10 mins, serves 4)

scallop zucc

Seafood scampi is a staple around my house. Served traditionally with linguine noodles, it’s the perfect pasta dish for sopping up all of the delicious and buttery sauce laden with seafood flavor throughout. Zucchini makes a great pasta substitute when you are looking to lighten up this classic. Using a vegetable peeler or food processor, one can thinly slice zucchini ribbons or grate the vegetable into thin strips to serve as a base for this great dish.

 4 large zucchini
Kosher Salt
½ stick unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine, or substitute chicken stock
1 16.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
½ lemon, juiced
Fresh cracked pepper
1 lb bay scallops, or substitute shrimp, crab meat, etc.
½ cup heavy cream
Parmesan cheese, grated

Using a vegetable peeler or food processor, carefully slice zucchini into thin strips.

shredded zucc

Season lightly with salt (to help ‘pull out’ the water) and place on paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add garlic and sauté for 30–60 seconds, careful not to burn. Add wine, bring to a simmer, and reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and lemon juice, season with cracked pepper and salt to taste. Next, add zucchini and scallops to poach in the liquid, stirring on occasion until scallops are firm to the touch and zucchini is al dente, about 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat, add cream, and stir to incorporate. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Turkey Bolognese + Spaghetti Squash (prep 10 mins, cook 1 hour, serves 6–8)

turkey squash

This is low-carb comfort food at its finest. If you’ve never cooked spaghetti squash before, now is the time to start. It’s such a versatile pasta substitute that works with virtually any sauce – red, white, cream, etc. I’ve provided a step by step procedure for getting it perfect every time. To keep things healthy, I’ve also whipped up a quick bolognese sauce using lean turkey breast meat. For a vegan option, skip out on the turkey and throw in chunked portabellas. Either way, this recipe is rich and delicious, without the carb-laden food hangover.

Spaghetti Squash

2 large spaghetti squash
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper


Carefully cut squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Season the cut sides with salt and pepper and place cut side up into an oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.


Remove squash from oven, drain, and allow to cool slightly. Use a fork to ‘dig out’ the strands of squash to be used as the pasta in the dish.

Turkey Bolognese

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
4 cloves Garlic, finely diced
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 lb ground turkey breast
½ cup red wine
2 16.5 oz cans petite diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can tomato sauce
Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Add onions and carrots and saute for 5-7 minutes. Next add garlic and season with salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes. Add ground turkey and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Deglaze pan with red wine and bring to a simmer to allow the wine to reduce by half. Finally, add diced tomatoes and sauce, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30–45 minutes. Serve over the top of the spaghetti squash with grated parmesan cheese to taste.

What are some of your favorite low/no-carb substitutions? Share some of your delicious recipes below!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dawn May 31, 2013 at 6:58 pm

At the risk of sounding like a shill, Leann Ely’s Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way really helped our family. It’s a year’s worth of entrees, in a weekly format sorted by season. She includes grocery lists and side-dish suggestions whose recipes are in the back. There were a few recipes we won’t try again, and a few we skipped due to food allergies, but overall it helped me help my husband meet his goal weight.

2 Troy June 1, 2013 at 12:53 am

So Ironic, I’m eating some spaghetti squash with a red meat sauce as I read this article. haha. I have to vouch for it, after making it the first time about a year ago. Now I always use it instead of normal pasta and I do not regret it one bit!

3 D June 1, 2013 at 11:55 am

I love Saving Dinner but I am excited to try some of these recipes too!

4 KC Krupp June 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm

All of these ideas are extremely clever.

5 Jordan Crowder June 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Sghetti squash is so much tastier than regular pasta. I started eating it in college, it’s awesome!

6 The Witz June 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I have been using a similar recipe for the bolognese with spaghetti squash. I tend to use grass fed beef sirloin or bison meat. If you’re short on time, just throw a cleaned out half of the squash in the microwave for about six minutes.

7 Mr ed June 2, 2013 at 2:21 am

Leeks, topped and tailed and then sliced lengthways into strips about the width of tagliatlle. Blanche them pretty much as if you’re cooking pasta then add whatever you’re using for sauce. Works really well with a carbonara

8 chet "the rocket" steadman June 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

“After all, one can only eat so many salads or lean proteins and veggies on a low-carb diet without searching for some flavorful alternatives.”

Low-carb diets aren’t supposed to be low-fat.

9 Adam Casalino June 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I was skeptical about the cabbage in the Kielbasa recipe, but it was surprisingly good cooked in the drippings from the sausage. It gave the cabbage a smokiness, and the red onion gave it a nice kick. Loved this meal. I will try again.

10 Steve Cavanaugh June 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Thanks for this article. This past week I found out that my youngest child has joined her sister as the second family member with Celiac, so paleo-pasta is just what the doctor ordered. For supper tonight I came up with a recipe using zucchini, which I’ll share. My wife and I both really liked this.

Zucchini “Paleo-Pasta” Carbonara

3 strips bacon
2 small zucchini
1 teaspoon salt
1 red pepper
3 Tablespoons walnuts, chopped
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon olive oil

cook bacon until well done in a skillet, remove to plate with paper towels to drain.

While bacon is cooking, shred two zucchinis (with skin), discarding ends and seeds, and put in a bowl with salt and mix. Slice red pepper in small strips about 2 inches long. Chop walnuts. Grate parmesan (if you buy by the block).

When bacon is removed from pan, drain most of the bacon fat (you can reserve for later use if you drain into a glass jar) and add olive oil to skillet. Squeeze excess water from zucchini and add, along with red pepper strips and walnuts, to skillet, stirring frequently. Sautee about 3 minutes. While the zucchini and pepper are cooking, chop the cooked bacon into small bits, and add to the vegetables and walnuts. Cook about 2 minutes more and transfer to serving dish or plates. Top with grated parmesan.

11 Colonel June 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I have no problem with carbs, but that bolonese with spaghetti squash is an awesome idea. I’ll have to give it a shot. Thanks!

12 JohnnyTheGent June 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm

For months, I’ve been seeing AOM’s mouthwatering sandwich recipes, forlorn because they weren’t in line with my paleo diet. Finally, some recipes I can sink my teeth into! THANK YOU!

One word of caution for paleo-ites. Sausage (also, bacon and other processed meats) often contains sodium nitrite, which should be avoided because they are carcinogenic.

Processed meats in general also contain absurd amounts of salt. Over-consumption of salt can be a problem for low-carb eaters, as many replacement foods are heavily salted (nuts, for instance).

My switch has lead to a 30lb weight loss, most of which disappeared virtually overnight–in about two months after my switch. I also have seen a lot of the benefits Brett discussed in his articles about male hormones.

I am a strong advocate of low-carb diets and extremely grateful for your contributions here, Matt!

13 Myles June 4, 2013 at 10:44 pm

Just want to put this out there that the fear over sodium nitrite is overdone. Celery and other greens are absolutely chock full of sodium nitrate yet no one is telling us that celery causes cancer. (Sodium Nitrate gets converted to sodium nitrite in the digestive process) Also side note those “No added nitrates” foods mainly use celery juice as the curing agent…..which has sodium nitrate.

Also a huge benefit of the low carb lifestyle is that due to less insulin spiking your body actually flushes out most of the sodium you eat. Insulin has this habit of storing salt in your body, less insulin => less salt retained(among other things). I am not saying go crazy on the salted foods, but what I am saying is you really don’t need to worry about your salt intake as long as you are low carb and processed food free. (When I think of processed food I think of TV dinners, not pastured raised bacon)

One of the common occurrences of a switch to low carb is an initial extremely rapid weight loss which then levels out, much of this can be attributed to water weight as the body flushes out its salt reserves.

I love the post and am happy to see this type of style of eating getting spread to more people. The faster we get everyone healthier the better. Also I hope this does not come across as aggressive I just wanted to correct what I perceived as some misconceptions.

14 Alex June 22, 2013 at 6:29 pm

The zucchini noodles were terrible. This is the first bad advice I have ever gotten on this site. It took 5x as long as just quartering the zucchini and cooking a zucchini dish and it tasted awful.
No, it wasn’t my ingredients and I am a competent cook. Zucchini is not a good pasta substitute. It is a good squash. Cook it like a squash. Never try this.

15 jules June 27, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Break cauliflower into small flowerets. Steam until tender. drain very well. Put into a food processor with plenty of melted butter and a large spoonful of sour cream. Process until smooth.Salt and pepper to taste. This is great sub for mashed potatoes. YOu can also add some roasted garlic if you like garlic mash potatoes.

16 Eric October 31, 2013 at 3:24 pm

It’s troubling to see so many bad bolognese recipes on the net. This dish does not call for garlic, and contrary to popular opinion traditional Italian cuisine does not call for lots and lots of garlic all the time. Italians use it very sparingly and only in certain dishes, not everything. Also never use so-called “italian seasonings” just add a bit of one fresh herb as garnish, either basil or parsley in this case. You left out the celery and the wine should be white, not red. You don’t need tomato sauce either, chopped or whole canned tomatoes work equally well, the whole ones get chopped up as you stir the sauce.

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