It’s no secret that Italian cuisine is ripe with rich flavors, textures—and carbs.
While eating yet another fettuccine alfredo may feel great going down, the inconvenient truth is that many of our favorite Italian meals aren’t so good for our bodies. With bases like bread and pasta, there are often far too many carbs in a meal to justify all that flavor.
Or are there??
While eating your favorite Italian classics prepared in the traditional fashion may not be possible on a ketogenic or carbohydrate diet, there are many healthy alternatives that can be found that preserve the taste of your favorite meals.
Making simple substitutions and being mindful of sauces and bread can mean the difference between cutting Italian food completely out of a diet and eating fresh stuffed pasta while still meeting your dietary goals.
Here are five healthy alternatives to Italian classics.
Rich meat and vegetables stuffed in a pasta shelf are a go-to menu item for any restaurant, and you’d be surprised at how few changes need to be made to take this classic dish and make it diet-friendly.
To make a low-calorie stuffed shell meal, skip the meat and go for flavorful greens like spinach to take its place. Mushrooms, peppers, and onions are also a good way to give your meal a bit of an edge.
After cooking the pasta just below the point where it could be eaten, place it aside and get started on your stuffing. Mix cooked onion, spices, spinach, mushrooms, and cottage cheese with some egg. Stuff the cooked shells, add a final dusting of cheese, and place on an oiled baking dish to cook.
Cover with foil and bake for twenty minutes or so, and enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor.
It’s hard to make a bad-tasting pizza, but far harder to make a pizza without all of the carbs that come with so much bread. For this healthy alternative, we’ll be taking on the ketogenic need of cutting carbs while still preserving all of the cheese and meats you love.
The key to this dish is all in the crust—mix shredded cheese and egg and bake in the oven until brown. The egg and cheese will form a flourless cheesy crust that’s perfect for the rest of our meal.
Top with a sparring amount of tomato paste before dumping your favorite ingredients on top. We recommend lean meats like shrimp or chicken or a few leafy greens as well. Bake as normal once loaded, cut into eight slices, and enjoy.
While not a dish, noodles and pasta in general hold up the backbone of almost all Italian dishes. Without noodles, there would be no spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo, or bucatini.
Since noodles fundamentally rely on flour, it can seem like a carb-free alternative isn’t possible, but that isn’t accounting for the zoodle.
Zoodles are noodles created from fresh zucchini, and with the right tools, are even easier to make than their noodle alternatives. Julienne peelers, a mandoline, and a spiralizer are all good ways to turn this summer squash into the base of your next pasta dish.
Zucchini is also a favorite ingredient in many meals at your local Henderson Italian Restaurant. Whether you’re eating some fresh gnocchi pesto or zoodles with pasta and kale, you’ll find that there’s far more to the zucchini than meets the eye.
Utilizing a salad to deliver the great taste of an Italian meal is the simplest way to eat Italian without the bread and noodles. If you’re not sure where to start with an Italian chopped salad, consider this easy and simple recipe:
Starting with your favorite salad base (romaine lettuce remains our favorite pick), load up on red onions and sweet tomatoes. Toss in sliced cucumber and all of the herbs and spices you can stomach, before topping with a vinaigrette and some crumbled cottage cheese.
For some extra zest, you can try lemon juice, cloves, and a light touch of olive oil. Feel free to experiment with the portions, and you’ll find yourself with a salad that could stand on its own as a flavorful and filling entree.
No, this is not a typo.
Despite what you may be thinking, not only is this carb and calorie-heavy dish ripe for healthy substitution but with the right ingredients, you can enjoy a piece of lasagna even on ketosis.
The secret is in how you approach the lasagne itself. Similar to how we made our pizza, we’ll need to approach pasta with something other than flour. Our recommendation? A homemade meatza.
Meatza is a phrase that usually refers to a keto-friendly pizza with a meat crust, but in our case, we’ll be taking the same idea and applying it to the lasagne pasta. To make some meatza, mix eggs and ground beef alongside your favorite herbs and spices. Once everything’s mixed, oil a pan and spread out your creation, before baking for about 15 to 20 minutes.
You should be left with an excellent base for a bread-free pizza, but in our case, we’ll be using this as our structure for lasagna. After making enough meatza, layer leafy greens, low-carb pasta sauce, more meat if needed, and cheese. Top it off with a final layer of meatza and cheese, toss it into the oven to bake, and you should have quite the low-carb creation.
Making healthy alternatives to Italian food doesn’t mean cutting out your favorite meats, cheese, and spices, but finding ways to cut as much bread and pasta out of the equation as possible. Feel free to mix and match a few ideas from each of these healthy alternatives, and start working on a dinner meal that’ll be sure to draw more than a few questions out of your party guests.
And who knows? You might find more uses for meatza then you were expecting to.