Calorie Cheating Spaghetti Bolognese

An absolutely delicious bolognese sauce so low in calories, you can have a proper plate of spaghetti

low fat bologneseWell, here we go again.  I can’t be the only one who decided to cook ‘normally’ this Christmas – with the inevitable consequences…

But….so bloody inconvenient dieting in the New Year, when you’re crying out for sausages in gravy with a big pile of buttery mashed potato, not some scantily-dressed grilled chicken salad!

And as for spaghetti bolognese – well that’s clearly off the menu now you’re counting calories again – no point in trying to make that child’s starter portion of spaghetti go the distance!

On the other hand….

Here’s a really good low fat recipe for a ragu-style sauce that’s so low calorie that you can have a decent portion of pasta – and by that I mean about 85g dry weight – in other words, what normal people eat.

At less than 120 calories per serving – and it’s a generous serving – a proper plateful of spaghetti bolognese will come in at roughly 420, which should fit into your low calorie regime.  To put that in perspective for any calorie nubes out there, that’s significantly less than the average Tricolore Salad – without any bread.  Hey, you could even allow yourself a fine dusting of grated parmesan!

Incidentally, the cheat here is replacing the fatty lamb or beef mince with ultra-lean pork tenderloin, bulking that out with lentils but preserving the overall sense of meatiness with chopped chicken liver.   And before you say that sounds really really offal (sorry..!) I can tell you that I even got this past my kids without any complaints whatsoever.

low calorie bolognese

calorie cheating bolognese sauce recipe (Serves 6)

150g Pork Tenderloin 
200g Chicken Liver
150g Tinned Lentils
1 large Onion
3 cloves Garlic
100g Carrots
1 stalk Celery
300g Mushrooms
2 tins Tomatoes
1 tbs Tomato Puree
175ml Red wine
Beef stock cube
10ml Olive oil
1 tsp Dried herbs
1-2 tsp coarse salt
Pinch Stevia-based sweetener 
1 tbs Mushroom Ketchup OR
  Worcester Sauce (optional)
  1. Blitz or really finely chop all the vegetables.
  2. Gently fry off the onion and garlic in the olive oil and don’t rush it – it will take about 15 minutes on a lowish heat and be careful not to burn anything.
  3. Meanwhile mince the pork or blitz in the food processor. Finely chop the liver.
  4. After about 10-15 minutes, add the carrot and celery. Fry it off for a while, adding the herbs.
  5. Then turn the heat up and brown the pork and then the liver, keeping everything moving.
  6. Add the lentils, tomatoes, stock, red wine and seasonings – 1tsp of salt at this point, whether you need more later will partly depend on how salty your stock cube turns out to be
  7. Get everything cooking nicely and then chop the mushrooms finely and add – then simmer for about an hour.
  8. Add some water where needed to keep things moving. You want to keep this sauce quite loose.
  9. It’s ready when it looks delicious and tastes meaty. Check the seasoning – if there’s not enough flavour, carefully add more salt.

low fat spag bol

Just a couple of other things to mention:

Yes, it’s a real pain frying vegetables off using minimal oil and a lower than usual temperature, but remember, it’s this process that brings out flavour

You don’t need to use the sweetener, but I always think a tomato based sauce needs it. Stevia-based products such as Truvia in the UK are perfect for cooking with no calorific impact but without affecting flavour.

Don’t skimp on the salt!

And be sure to use a nice thin spaghetti so you get as many strands as possible for the weight. Barilla No. 5 (from Tesco) is very good; my favourite, if you can get hold of it, is Panzani.

If you want a little Parmesan with it, a 5g dusting (which is plenty so long as you use a really fine grater, like a microplane) will add just under 20 calories – a 125ml glass of Chianti will add another 90 or so.

Buon Appetito!

Diet Buddies: Zero Calorie Shirataki Noodles

They’re noodles. They’re filling. Good for you, too. And no calories whatsoever. What’s not to love about Shirataki Noodles?

Zero Calorie Noodles

Now this is proper cheating.  So much of a cheat in fact that I did wonder whether shirataki noodles actually qualified for this blog. After all, there’s nothing remotely clever or ingenious about substituting a notoriously calorific ingredient with one that has literally no calories. Nevertheless, such an intriguing and, let’s face it, downright excellent proposition couldn’t be ignored – so spurred on by media coverage,  I got out the wok and ordered a big box from Amazon….

Basically, instead of wheat or rice, Shiritaki noodles are made from flour made from the roots of the Konjac plant which grows in Japan and China. This mostly consists of a dietary fibre called glucomannan – yep, they’re high-fibre too – and as a result they’re both good for you AND completely calorie-free.

Now you might have been put off by reports that they’re a bit slimy, or that they have a fishy smell.  Don’t worry about all that. There is a slight odour on opening the packet – apparently not from the noodles themselves but from the water they’re preserved in –  but it disappears as soon as they’re rinsed.  And as for the texture – well it seems the thing to do is boil them for a couple of minutes before adding them to your stir-fry or whatever.  Do that, and I’d go so far as to say that they’re bloody delicious.

Shirataki noodles are essentially glass noodles – so you won’t want to be shoving Bolognese sauce on them.  Not unnaturally, it’s with Asian cuisine that you’re going to get the tastiest results here.

A quick rummage around my kitchen store cupboard – and the internet – and I threw together a pretty respectable and very filling stir-fry which, despite a large portion of chicken and a realistic slug of olive oil (you might manage with less) – and, lest we forget – a huge portion of noodles, came in at under 300 calories.  Make the same thing with ordinary noodles, and you’d be adding a good 250 calories to that.

Even better was Miến Gà  – Vietnamese chicken glass noodle soup – here – and best of all a Vietnamese beef and glass noodle salad – an excellent recipe here – again both these recipes setting you back no more than 300 calories. (And of course, you could muck around with them to get them lower – but why bother?)

Note that with the salad, sweetness is an essential quality of the dipping sauce, so be sure to substitute something like Truvia for all that sugar.  And go easy with the peanuts.

At £2.50 for a 200g portion, shirataki noodles aren’t cheap, so you won’t want to eat them every night of the week.  But they are delicious and extremely filling, and a real godsend for all of us who’ve pretty much had to give up pasta for the duration of our diets.

Shirataki Noodle Recipe