Agrodolce Zucchini & Chicken Pasta Is Packed with 34 Grams of Satisfying Protein

March 6, 2024

When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a decade ago, it devastated me. As a passionate cook and eater, someone who was connected to food both personally and professionally, it sounded like an end to pleasure was being leveled at me, and a life of sad denial of my favorite foods. 

Many people I know feel this way at first, in part because often discussions of eating and diet for T2D folks are all about what you cannot or should not have, “bad” foods and “good” foods, or “red” foods and “green” foods, and not nearly as much about how to effectively create a relationship with food that uses smart moderation to help you stay healthfully and joyfully in your new lane. If nothing else, know that there is not a single food on the planet you cannot eat in moderation as a person with type 2 diabetes. Not one. You just have to find out what sort of moderation your body needs. 

While everyone needs to listen to their medical team, and watch their numbers and make adjustments to their diet accordingly, I found that I was able to make some changes that have allowed me to effectively and successfully manage my diabetes without living a life bereft of wonderful foods. My husband, too, was diagnosed a couple of years after I was, and so our life together is aligned in staying healthy. 

Perhaps the single smartest thing I did for me, and then for us, was to focus on balance, not just within meals, but within dishes. I am not the type of eater to get the same deep pleasure from a cauliflower pizza crust as I am from one made of actual bread dough. I also could not imagine a life without pizza. My solution? I learned to make pizza dough at home using my sourdough starter, and I let the dough slowly ferment in my fridge for at least five days before making pizza, so that the wild yeasts can eat all the readily available sugars and convert the dough to a lower-glycemic version. Yay, science! I also learned to stretch that dough much thinner and, most importantly, to eat less of the end results. Turns out, a couple of slices of a super-thin-crust homemade pizza with a salad is very satisfying to me, much more so than twice as much of a purchased low-carb pizza-like product.

The first trick I share with anyone who is newly diagnosed is my carb reduction method. Take a high-carb dish you love and think about smart ways to reduce the carb load. I always begin with swapping out half and then adjusting up or down to tweak the flavor and satisfaction, and then adjust my portion sizes accordingly. Are you a lasagna fiend? Sub out half of the noodles with layers of thinly sliced eggplant and you have halved the carb intake on an identical portion size—and I promise you won’t miss it. Love fried rice? Swap out half of the rice for riced cauliflower for the volume you want without it being as carb-laden. 

This mantra can be an essential tool for last-minute or weeknight meals. When you want to get dinner on the table fast or, let’s be real, dinner in a bowl on your lap in front of the TV even faster, carbs tend to be the go-to when you want something speedy. One of my longtime favorite dishes was inspired by a dish I had in Italy: shredded roasted chicken tossed with pasta, fried zucchini and lemon, and topped with toasted pine nuts and golden raisins. It is a zingy dish full of pops of flavor, bright sunny lemon, sweet raisins, savory chicken, grassy herbal notes and little nutty crunchies. 

Big bowls of pasta are a thing of the past for me, but I realized that by shifting the zucchini from fried rounds to spiralized strands, I could reduce the pasta amount by over half, and still have a satisfactory twirlable forkful of yum. Using a third of the original volume of raisins, chopped so as to go further with fewer, and increasing the chicken for a satiating protein boost (plus choosing a store-bought rotisserie instead of roasting it myself), and the meal is simple enough for a busy Tuesday, deeply delicious and completely within my carb boundaries. A one-dish meal, it even leaves room for us to have a small glass of wine with it if we like. And since the recipe now serves four instead of two, I pack up half as soon as it is finished cooking so that we have lunch for the next day.

Ali Redmond

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