It's fun and wonderful and satisfying... and sometimes incredibly fattening. Especially if, like me, you've already spent most of your life wrestling with your weight. So lately I've been doing a lot of watching of carbs, trying hard to minimize them, or at least eat them mostly in the form of veggies.
That was my inspiration for this lower-carb pasta salad. Because in summer I really crave pasta salads. And I crave them bursting with fatty mayo and carb-rich pasta.
It helps that I already like my pasta salads jammed with fresh vegetables. So for this recipe I loaded up with fresh raw corn cut from the cob (yes, it's delicious raw), crunchy red bell peppers, a little bit of red onion and scallions, some cherry tomatoes and a handful of peas.
For the mayo, I could have gone with low- or no-fat mayonnaise, but those can taste flat and artificial. Instead, I went with a blend of fat-free plain Greek yogurt and low-fat sour cream. The combination — amplified by a few seasonings — hits just the right textures and tastes I was looking for.
Now, about that pasta... The secret weapon here is an increasingly popular new-ish product known as shirataki noodles, which have zero to 20 calories per serving. They are produced by several companies and generally are made from soy, yam or some combination of similar ingredients. With calorie counts like those, you can easily eat a satisfying mound of them.
The noodles — which are packed in bags of water and are sold in a variety of shapes, including penne — just need to be blanched in boiling water for a couple minutes. The texture is a bit softer than traditional pasta, but when mixed in with heaps of vegetables, the difference is minor.
HEALTHY CARB PASTA SALAD
Penne-style shirataki noodles are ideal for this recipe, but they can be harder to find. As an alternative, use fettuccine and cut the noodles into 1- to 2-inch lengths.
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Three 8-ounce packages shirataki noodles
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 ears corn, husks removed
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Ground black pepper
Line a rimmed baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, hot sauce and salt. Set aside.
Drain the noodles, then place them in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch, then bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the noodles for 2 minutes. Add the peas and return the water to a simmer, then drain and spread the noodles and peas in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the freezer to cool and dry for 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the kernels from the ears of corn. To do so, one at a time stand each ear on its wide end and use a serrated knife to saw down the length of the cob. Add the kernels to the yogurt-sour cream mixture in the bowl and mix well. Mix in the bell peppers, red onion and tomatoes.
Once the noodles and peas have cooled, add those to the bowl and gently mix in. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 120 calories; 35 calories from fat (29 per cent of total calories); 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 5 g fiber; 220 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.