Keto Mac & Cheese (with Palmini Noodles)

Macaroni and cheese is a childhood favorite–and this palmini version is low in carbs and a synch to put together. You can add tuna for a delicious tuna noodle dish, or some fresh cooked brussel sprouts, even cooked broccolini! Here I used a smokey sausage. OMG, its creamy, soothing and full of that cheese flavor that never came out of a blue box! This is a quick, satisfying dish, good for a cold winter’s evening. It’s a total of 15 net carbs, so if you’re dead set on staying under 20 net carbs for the day, it might be a bit of a stretch for you. If you’re doing 30-40 carbs, it’s completely worth it.

Palmini Noodles as a Staple

I bought a case of the palmini noodles. It felt like an investment, but wow. They are a super-simple time-saver. There other advantage is that they give me a break from the meat-and-two-veg quality of the keto meal rotation. Sure, keto eating is good, but one does miss pasta!

Palmini come in 14 oz cans and since 2 or 3 ounces is a good serving (at about 2 net carbs), 14 ounces makes for several meals. I take them out of the can, drain them well, rinse them in water and put them in a plastic, sealed container, covered in milk. This way, they can soak for a day or two til I get around to making something noodley.

I need meals I can assemble quickly. I have a tendency to work too late and come home tired. Fighting DC traffic every day is like holding a second job. Going home late often means less traffic, so at least two days a week, I’m hitting the door at 7 pm or later. Pre-soaked palmini noodles means all I have to do is boil them up, pair them with a sauce and a protein, maybe adds some keto-friendly veggies and there we go!

Six year on a low-carb diet –and mac and cheese sounded like heaven.

The Recipe

This recipe paired a smokey maple sausage (Trader Joe’s Maple Bourbon Sausage) with a lovely sharp cheddar cream sauce. Fast, simple and filling, this was perfect for a late supper. This recipe is a meal for one, but if making this for more than one person, it can be easily doubled. Add three to six ounces of noodles and just double the sauce ingredients. The concept is simple: make a cream sauce, add herbs and cheese. Pair with pasta and a protein.

The Ingredients

  • 3 ounces of palmini noodles, soaked in milk for at least 20 minutes (I soak them overnight in milk in a sealed container in the fridge), drained.
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoons of butter
  • fresh or dried thyme (about 1/2 a teaspoon.)
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic (I used frozen crushed garlic)
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • slices of fried sausage (I used just one)

The Directions

Step 1. Boil the noodles for ten minutes. While these are cooking, you can make the sauce. Boiling the noodles for this long a time substantially alters their texture, making them much more like pasta and less like a vegetable.

Step 2. Melt the butter in a saucepan.

Step 3. Add the onions and garlic to the sizzling butter. Let those cook for about three minutes.

Step 4. Add the heavy cream to the saucepan. Bring it to a boil and turn the heat down. Start whisking to incorporate the butter and the cream.

Step 5. Add the dried or fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Stir it around. Keep the heat low.

Step 6. Add the shredded cheddar cheese, whisking it in so that it melts and incorporates into a thickened, cheesy sauce.

Step 7. When the noodles are done, drain them and them in a bowl. Ladle on the cheese sauce. Add the protein (in this case, the fried sausage slices).

The Results

This was one of the best uses for the palmini noodles yet. The cheese sauce is very flavorful and softens and coats the noodles so that they are a very close match to wheat-based noodle products. Sharp cheddar is best in this, paired with the smokey sausage slices. I can see having this with kielbasa, as well!

The Carby Facts

  • Heavy cream, 5 net carbs
  • 3 ounces of palmini noodles, 2 net carbs
  • Cheddar cheese, 5 net carbs
  • Onions, 3 net carbs
  • The rest have less than 1 net carb per

That’s 15 net carbs for this dish. As you can see, it’s the heavy cream that provides most of the carbs–and surprisingly, the cheese isn’t “free” either. I was shocked. I based this recipe on a keto cheese sauce that said it was ONE net carb. OOPS. You know, I KNEW that it couldn’t be 1 carb, but I had no idea I’d be so far off. Heavy whipping cream has less that one net carb per serving–and a serving is once ounce. When you kick that up to SIX ounces, well then. The math gets real. 😦

You can slim this down by substituting onion powder for the onion (but you would also lose the fiber). You could also reduce the amount of cream. In future, I am going to see about using protein powder and water–and reducing the amount of cream, to see if I can get this dish under 11 carbs! We’ll call this the “holiday” version. The good news for me? I had only had five carbs all day, so I kept my carb intake sufficiently low! Win!

Low-Carb Pasta: “Palmini” — A Review

One of the advantages of being in keto groups is you get to hear about all kinds of new products. “Palmini” — a low-carb pasta made from palm hearts–sounded too good to be true! Pasta at 4g carbs per serving?  I wanted to give this  try. 

Buying Palmini

This product was a creation of a “shark tank” investment and is currently not widely found in stores–but it is on Amazon.  

Palmini is available in a four ounce pouch (for 7 dollars) and a 14 ounce can size.  The pouch can feed one person; the can can feed 4-6 people — but you have to buy a CASE of it (six cans!)!  Buying the case brings the cost down to 27 dollars (which makes it a little over 5 bucks a can — MUCH more affordable than the pouch per serving)– but the six ounce pouch was good enough for a try-out.  After all, 27 bucks is an investment. Color me uncertain about this purchase, despite the rave reviews I’ve heard.

 The pouch says it holds about 2.5 servings in there — and that’s about right.  This is not a product to feed the whole family — just the one keto member who would like to be included on pasta night. The pouch is resealable, so I was able to get out just one largish serving, about half the pouch, seal it up and put in the fridge for another time later in the week. Not sure how long this will keep in the fridge — probably about as long as any other vegetable. 

The Palmini Package

WHAT is Palmini? 

Palmini is simply a lightly processed product made of  “hearts of palm” — a vegetable with very low carbs — which have been pressed and extruded to resemble short strands of fettucini pasta.  Think of it as an improvement over “zoodles” (those zucchini noodles you can now find in stores).  

I eat zoodles but I’m not happy about it.  I still haven’t figured out the best way to cook them so that they have a taste and texture that is  more “noodly” and less “vegetabley.”

Out of the box, they feel like soft, flat zoodles–only white, in short, straight strands about 2-3 inches long.  I followed the directions to rinse them well, and then the optional direction: let them sit in milk for fifteen to thirty minutes — to improve their (not unpleasant)  vegetable smell. 

Palmini, ready for the sauce
*The specks are some stray Italian seasoning from my pasta sauce*

You can them just eat them with sauce. OR you can boil them for five to ten minutes more to make them softer.  I chose to give to boil them because at 3.50 a plate?  I wanted a truly pasta experience. 

I went slightly beyond the directions: I seasoned the boiling water, just like real pasta, with a dollop of olive oil and lots of salt, just as one should prepare regular pasta.  Some stray Italian seasoning got into the pasta water — as I was fixing my red sauce — and that’s where the specks on the plate came from. 

The Results

The noodles are pretty darned close to real pasta.   I boiled them for about six minutes.  The texture was close to a slightly al dente wheat fettucini.   They picked up the red sauce flavor very well and within a few bites, I was only faintly aware of their vegetable nature.  I also couldn’t stop thinking about how perfect these would be for a low-carb phad Thai recipe I’ve been working on. Hmmmmmm.  And for fettucini alfredo.  And tuna noodle casserole.  And, and, and!! 

By the end of the plate, I was a very happy camper.  

The Carby Facts

Palmini consists of palm hearts, water and salt — and fumaric acid (to preserve it) . At 4 carbs–2 of which are fiber — how can you beat that?  A serving is net TWO carbs.   I expect to buy more palmini — and hope it gets into stores soon.  Until then, here’s a link to the pouch portion on Amazon. 

I will in all likelihood pony up for a case in the near future.  

Namaste!  ~Lola