Robin's Healthy Take: Cool Noodles

Robin Miller's three alternatives to plain pasta: brown rice noodles, squid ink pasta and soba noodles. Each recipe can be served hot or cold.

I felt like writing about unique noodles this week – cool varieties that probably weren’t in your grandma’s pantry. One of my favorites is black, regular pasta that’s been infused with squid ink. The black ink lends a brilliant flavor of the sea (slightly salty, mildly sweet). I also love brown rice noodles because they’re 100% whole grain, gluten-free and a good source of fiber (4 grams in 2 ounces). They’re also light, making them ideal for richer sauces like Pad Thai and my spicy curry sauce below. Lastly, I adore soba noodles. Made from buckwheat, they’re loaded with nutrients and incredibly hearty (and surprisingly, they contain almost half the calories of regular white flour pasta). Soba noodles are also excellent cold (the Japanese rely on cold noodle dishes during their sizzling hot/humid summers).

Not only did I create three recipes for each of the three types of noodles, I made sure they were from different parts of the globe.  The squid ink recipe is Italian-inspired, the brown rice noodles boast the flavor of India and the soba noodles are distinctly Asian.  And get this, for you brown-baggers out there, all three dishes are excellent served cold or room temperature.

Squid Ink Noodles with Chunky Tomato Sauce

Feel free to add grilled shrimp or seared scallops on top.

12 ounces black squid ink noodles (any shape)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced white onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
2 (14-ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook noodles according to package directions, reserving 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid for the sauce.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add oregano and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute, until oregano is fragrant. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes. Add cooked noodles, pasta cooking liquid and cook 1 minute to heat through. Remove from heat, stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4
Coconut Curry Brown Rice Noodles with Fried Egg

Broccoli slaw mix is sold with the other bagged slaw mixes in the produce section.

12 ounces brown rice noodles (Pad Thai size)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
14-ounce can light coconut milk
3 tablespoons hot curry paste

12 ounces shredded broccoli slaw mix (broccoli, carrots and red cabbage)

2 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook noodles according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggs and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until cooked and still moist. Remove eggs from pan and set aside. To the same pan over medium-high heat, whisk together coconut milk and curry paste. Bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes. Add noodles, broccoli slaw and scallions and cook 1 minute to heat through. Stir in eggs and cilantro and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Soba Noodles with Bok Choy and Wasabi Butter Sauce

Soba noodles are very high in starch so make sure you rinse them VERY well in cold water after cooking to prevent clumping. Also, I call for either fresh or pickled ginger so you don’t have to buy an extra ingredient if you already have one of the two in your fridge (I always keep pickled ginger/sushi ginger on hand).

8-9 ounces soba noodles
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cups chopped bok choy
1 tablespoon minced fresh or pickled ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons wasabi paste, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Rinse well under cold water.

Meanwhile, heat both oils together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bok choy, ginger and garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add broth, butter, soy sauce and wasabi paste, mix well and bring to a simmer. Add noodles and toss to combine. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.

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