Low-carb pasta (Recipe: Tex-Mex penne)
Updated April 2012.
Wehd ya fine dat penny riggAHHHHduh?
When I first moved from Boston to Rhode Island, I didn't speak the language. Eight years later, I'm starting to catch on.
Where'd you find that penne rigate?
That's what the cashier at my local supermarket asked me as he scanned the box in the checkout line. It was the colorful-but-not-blue design (and, by the way, why do so many pastas come in blue boxes?) that caught the cashier's eye.
What caught my eye was the promise of a low-carb pasta that didn't have the texture of wallpaper paste or taste like wet cardboard.
Over the past few years, as more and more companies have jumped on the low-carbohydrate bandwagon, I've tasted some pretty dreadful products masquerading as healthy-and-delicious, so when Dreamfields pasta actually passed both the taste and texture tests, I gleefully restocked The Perfect Pantry's shelves.
Made from durum semolina flour, with no soy or substitutes, Dreamfields has all the good flavor of regular pasta. When cooked to the al dente stage, it's actually firm to the bite, with what chefs call "good mouth feel." And with just 5 grams of digestible carbohydrate per 2-ounce serving, it's low low low on the glycemic index -- a boon to diabetics, South Beach dieters, and anyone who has to keep an eye on the daily carb count.
How does Dreamfields succeed where other alternative pastas, billed as low-carb or high-fiber or "healthy", have failed?
Thank technology and ingenuity. According to the inventor of the manufacturing process by which most of this pasta's carbs become "protected" or non-digestible, it "involves molecular interactions that help block the enzyme from attacking the carbohydrate starch granule. It is not encapsulated. We have basically created the situation where there is a matrix more or less that has a tendency to attract the enzyme to the matrix and not the carbohydrate."
That doesn't sound terribly appetizing, but the result is a truly technology-forward pasta that will hold up to your most traditional recipes. With six shapes to choose from, you can substitute this pasta in all of your favorite dishes, and nobody will miss the extra carbs.
Dreamfields does cost more than other dry pastas; at my local supermarket, a 16-ounce box sells for $2.99, compared to DeCecco ($2.39), Barilla ($1.33 to $1.79), Ronzoni ($1.25), and the store's own brand ($1.20). But, in the case of carbs, I'm willing to pay a bit more to get a bit less.
If you ever make it to Rhode Island, stop by for some penny riggaduh smothered with home-made gravy (that's what we call marinara sauce), a local favorite.
Serves 8; can be doubled, or made ahead and reheated.
1 lb pasta (penne rigate or rotini)
2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 lb ground turkey (you can substitute beef, but reduce oil to 1 Tbsp)
1 tsp ground cumin, or more to taste
1 tsp chili powder, or more to taste
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1 4-oz can fire-roasted green chiles, drained
16 oz canned chopped tomato
2 cups water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Store-bought shredded reduced-fat Mexican four-cheese blend, for topping (or other cheese of your choice)
Prepare the pasta according to package directions, until the pasta is still a bit undercooked but almost al dente. Drain and set aside.
AT THE SAME TIME, when you start the pasta water, prepare the sauce. In a large, deep sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and cook the onion for 2 minutes, until translucent. Add the ground turkey, and cook, breaking up the pieces, until lightly browned. Add cumin, chili powder, oregano and red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Add green chiles, canned tomato, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook, uncovered, until mixture has reduced to desired consistency, approximately 20-25 minutes. (If the sauce gets done before the pasta is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and set it aside; bring back to the heat when you're ready to add the pasta.)
Add the pasta into the sauce, and cook, stirring well, until the pasta and sauce have come together, 2-3 minutes. Either stir in the shredded cheese, or pour the pasta into a serving bowl and pass the cheese separately, for each person to add to taste.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Rotini with spicy meat sauce
Farfalle with spinach and sausage
Falafel-turkey meatballs with pasta
Curried shrimp and pasta salad
Pasta with chunky vegetable sauce
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Baked rigatoni with turkey bolognese, from What We're Eating
Turkey (or chicken) lasagna with sage and three cheeses, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Penne arrabiata with brown rice pasta, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Turkey chili pasta, from Black Girl Chef's Whites
Creamy taco mac, from Annie's Eats