Low Calorie Low Carb Spaghetti Alternative

by Andie Mitchell on May 21, 2012

zucchini summer squash-3

To start, this is not pasta and will not ever be pasta. It is lovely and light and beautifully summertime, but really- there’s no fooling ourselves in the delicious department. None of us will eat this thinking we’re at our Nana’s house being nurtured by meatballs and garlic bread.

So here’s the reason why using thinly grated zucchini and summer squash as your faux-pasta is refreshing: It’s just the vehicle, the SUV in size, for your favorite sweet tomato sauce. It’s a way to ensure that your sauce is drenching a heaping pile of something rather than one cup of cooked spaghetti.


For us volume eaters, it’s satisfying. For those of us who want a bowl of sauce and meatballs more than any.

Try subbing thinly stranded zucchini and summer squash for spaghetti once in a while when you’re looking for a lighter, lower calorie meal. Spaghetti squash also works, though I find it can be a bit more watery.


To prepare:

Soften the strands by gently steaming them in a covered pot filled with half an inch of water for two minutes, just until they’ve begun to wilt and are warm to the touch. Drain well before adding your sauce. Alternately, you could lightly saute the zucchini in a pan with a little olive oil and minced garlic for better flavor. Eating the vegetable strands raw with hot marinara sauce is also perfectly fine if you’re into that slightly crisp texture.

Top with your favorite marinara or try my family’s famous sauce and meatballs: PJ’s Meatballs and Sauce

zucchini summer squash-1


Thoughts on pasta alternatives? Worthwhile or weird?

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy May 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I really like a substitute for spaghetti. i find it can be super filling and way less carb coma for me.


Kathi May 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm

How do you prepare the squash? Do you use a cheese grater? It doesn’t seem like that would work.


Renee October 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I use a Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer that can be purchased at Amazon. It comes with 3 different blades but makes quick work of turning squash and zukes into “Spaghetti”. Less than a minute to do one of each.


Trisha May 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Thanks to Corey, zucchini is my absolute go-to when craving spaghetti. You’re right, it’s not pasta, but it almost as satisfying and so SO good!


Corey @ Learning Patience May 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm
cate May 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I love spaghetti squash instead of normal pasta. I’m a volume eater, so getting to eat a mound of something as opposed to a sensible portion will always appeal to me. :) Plus spaghetti squash is so sweeeeeet.


AZJoy May 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm

If you don’t want the mess of grating, then it also is good when using the grater part that is a slicer. It will come out in wider thin strips. I love that you put this on here, very yummy!!! I have sworn off pasta for a while until I can lose some more weight, so this is perfect!!! I happen to love squash! Thanks!


Mostly May 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm

It’s hardly the same low calorie replacement, but I am very fond of brown rice pasta ($1.99 at trader joes even)


Michelle in N. Cal May 21, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I have friends who eat spaghetti squash but I just don’t care for spaghetti “alternatives”. If I am doing a low-carb meal, I just serve the sauce over a bed of fresh spinach (raw) dressed with some light vinaigrette and mix it all up – it’s very good!


Ashley May 22, 2012 at 4:35 am

How do you get the zucchini shredded so nicely?


Stacie May 22, 2012 at 4:55 am

I love spaghetti squash but you are right, it’s not pasta. Still, I like to sub it as an alternative. Have not done other squashes–now it’s on my list!


angela@spinachtiger May 22, 2012 at 5:03 am

No it’s not pasta, but it might take that craving away just a tad, the way my cauliflower pizza crust is not really pizza crust the way we usually crave it. I love the spaghetti squash also, but there is a ton of zucchini growing in my garden, so I have ideas.


The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh May 22, 2012 at 5:03 am

I’ll give it a go but honestly I’ll go for the pasta since I have it so rarely. Something about marinara sauce on veggies eeks me out. I know, weirdo.


ciely May 22, 2012 at 5:26 am

The produce section of supermarkets usually has a tool with a bulbous orange grip to julliane veggies. Works! I eat my strands with peanut sauce. Cuts the guilt of PB


Laura May 22, 2012 at 5:37 am

My favorite thing to put a good marinara sauce on is roasted asparagus. Roast the asparagus, top with italian shredded cheese, then top with warm sauce. Sooo good! Even better with a few turkey meatballs on the side!


Alex May 22, 2012 at 5:41 am

My hubby thinks I’m nuts but I love marinara over rice, maybe even with some melted mozzarella…..veggies too. He says its weird and unnatural…I say so are sliders but they still taste good! :)


Laura Brooke Allen May 22, 2012 at 5:56 am

Last night I diced a ton of eggplant, smothered them in sauce and baked them for an hour on cookie sheets. When I took them out, I covered them in a little more sauce, then some crushed red pepper and nutritional yeast flakes (cheese like). YUM. Very filling, and comforting.


Lisa May 22, 2012 at 6:11 am

I made raw zucchini pasta with raw marinara sauce. I even bought a spiralizer for it! But, I wasn’t that into it. I think steaming the zucchini and using cooked sauce is more up my alley, and I will be re-visiting this recipe now! Thanks!


Kelly @ Turned UP to ELEVEN! May 22, 2012 at 6:46 am

SO worth it. I love the pasta alternatives and honestly when I eat Spaghetti squash I don’t even miss the actual noodles. My husband loves it too so it’s a win/win. I do agree it gets a bit watery – so I’ve started to shred it and remove it from the shell. We usually just eat it IN the shell like a fun bowl.

I had never thought to try these veggies though so thank you for writing this. All too often I’ve been at the store with all the ingredients for Chicken Spaghetti w/ Spaghetti Squash only to find the store had none… with this method all hope will NOT be lost! I also learned to START at the produce section from now on!


Andrea May 22, 2012 at 8:53 am

Mmmm. Most definitely am a volume eater. I love me some spaghetti squash… not weird at all to me! Although, my husband does not agree.


Gabrielle @ Marathons and Macarons May 22, 2012 at 9:38 am

I’m a big fan of zucchini “pasta” and spaghetti squash. They never will be pasta, and as long as you appreciate them as something totally different, they’re delicious and filling vehicles for sauce!


diianamariie May 22, 2012 at 11:19 am

I wonder if it would be any more satisfying if you made a blend of pasta AND the zucchini? That way you’d cut down on the amount of carbs but wouldn’t have to give them up entirely…


Laura May 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I use a julienne slicer for my zucchini / squash noodles, but I usually sautee with olive oil as seaming makes it too watery for my taste. I also use long strips of zucchini or squash or eggplant as a lasagna noodle. Just sprinkle the strips with salt and put in a colander for about 30 minutes to get extra water out, and then just make the lasagna as I normally would (tons of veggies, meat sauce, ricotta blend) and bake as usual. FANTASTIC.


Trish May 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I must try out the eggplant in place of lasagna noodles. I have been trying to cut out grains, so I had thought that was the end of lasagna.


Laura May 23, 2012 at 11:21 am

Just make sure you thinly slice them – mandolin slicer, perhaps? And salt them in a colander to get the excess moisture out. They’re fantastic!


Marcella May 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I love zucchini to bulk up my regular pasta choice. I find that not only do I need that additional volume, but my body won’t be fooled by veggies alone, which is why I use it in addition.

Although one of my favorites is zucchini noodles sauteed with garlic, lemon juice, parm. and mushrooms. Sometimes diced tofu for protein. Fabulous.


Aggie May 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Totally worth it. Volume eaters rejoice!!!


Trish May 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm

I recently discovered spaghetti squash, and I was very skeptical at first, but it worked out really well, and I didn’t get the carb crash that I do with pasta.


Meg May 23, 2012 at 7:46 am

I’m actually a huge fan of zucchini as a summertime alternative to pasta, especially when it’s too hot out to even think about turning on the stove to boil a big pot of water. Ack. My preference is to use a vegetable peeler along the length of the zucchini, so that you get broad, thin ribbons of it, somewhere between fettuccine and pappardelle size. Keep turning and peeling until all you’re left with are the seeds. I don’t even cook them–I prefer that fresh crunch, it feels more substantial to me, somehow. I particularly like it with chunks of chicken sausage, roasted grape tomatoes, and a sprinkling of feta or goat cheese in the summer. Great way to get your veggies in!


GInger May 23, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I’ve wanted to try this for a while, but zucchini and summer squash are expensive out-of-season, but cheap (aka free) during the summer time so I’ve been waiting until I get the yearly load of fresh zucchini from my mom’s garden.

I’ve heard of spaghetti squash being done that way, but I’ve never tried it because until recently I hated spaghetti squash (So weird – I love all other kinds!). I had a bad experience as a kid – my mom (over)cooked it and it was very bitter and not well seasoned and until I tried a gratin with a squash I got from my grandparents a couple months ago, I’ve avoided it ever since.


Lou May 24, 2012 at 11:08 am

I like using thinly shredded cabbage and broccoli stalks to make fake peanut “noodles.” I toss it with tahini and enjoy feeling like I’m eating spicy Chinese noodles. Yum!


Holly May 25, 2012 at 6:37 am

I like veggies (including spaghetti squash) with marinara. Sometimes I really want pasta, and then I have that. I don’t think veggies are a substitute for pasta, just something different to enjoy with sauce. I love to bulk up noodle stir fry with broccoli slaw and shredded cabbage. I like tofu. I don’t think it’s a substitute for meat. It is just something I enjoy sometimes. I like rice noodles. Not sure they’re any better for me, but I like them.
I cannot like shirataki noodles. I know some people love them. I wanted to like them. I just can’t!
Thanks for the great ideas.


Melissa May 26, 2012 at 2:46 am

I love to eat spaghetti sauce over zuchinni. I usually cut it into pieces and sautee it in a little pesto oil then add the spaghetti sauce.

When I was a kid, we used to have “zuchinni boats” with a half zuchinni hollowed out, topped with meat sauce and cheese and baked.


Bari Chef April 29, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Did you make these recipes in New Jersey where they originated?


Karah May 29, 2012 at 1:28 am

I haven’t tried using zucchini yet! I do have spaghetti squash when I make spaghetti for my family, and I honestly don’t miss the pasta at all. No, it’s not the same, but it’s close enough for me! :)


Kim Johnson May 29, 2012 at 8:19 pm

How do you strand the squash? I love spaghetti squash as an alternative. Polenta works okay, but not sure nutritionally how it fares.


Olivia June 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I absolutely love this idea! I often use spaghetti squash during the winter, but when it’s 104 out using the oven is the farthest thing from my mind. I wll definitely have to try this asap!


Al November 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Not that I don’t love love love spaghetti squash or zuchini…I do…but not with marinara sauce please. I prefer Dreamfield’s low carb, low glycemic pasta…it’s da bomb! You can satisfy your pasta craving every now and again and still stick to the low carb thing.


Karen February 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I’m not a huge fan of squashes or zucchini but I might be able to do this since there is sauce to go with it! but then again I really do enjoy the noodles, i try and use wheat when I can :)


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