In our Powered by Plants series, created in partnership with Califia Farms, we're highlighting forward-thinkers who use plants to fuel their lives—and their passions. They're out to prove that plants are so much more than just a sad plate of broccoli. Check out the other plant-based pros here.
Without Ali Maffucci, the founder of Inspiralized, we'd all still be struggling to fit in our daily dose of veggies. By swirling and twirling plant foods through a spiralizer (an Inspiralizer for her), now we get to eat vegetable pasta every single night. And we're not just talking about zoodles. Maffucci transforms sweet potatoes, onions, rutabaga, carrots, beets, and even apples and pears into noodles that can be tossed into a plant-based pasta or thrown on top of a homemade pizza or salad (just take a look at her Instagram for a hundred more brilliant ideas).
As an Italian American, Maffucci admits her portion control would get out of hand (we get it). But she says spiralized veggies are like having your cake and eating it too; you get to enjoy a big bowl of pasta and still feel great afterward. She calls it revolutionary, and we agree, so we chatted with her to hear more.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My personal and professional goals! I'm a very self-motivated person, and I'm currently motivated by the immense opportunity I have with Inspiralized to create an amazing, long-lasting brand. Also, I love setting personal health and fitness goals. I love waking up for a morning workout and feeling strong and powerful so that I have the energy and drive to conquer my goals that day.
What inspires you when you're creating new recipes?
I'm constantly inspired by different types of cuisines and dishes based on my travels, whether that's a trip to a local restaurant in NYC or to another country. It's a fascinating culinary world out there, and I think there are just so many flavors and ingredient combinations to experiment with. It's exciting, and I'm always inspired.
How do you stick to a healthy diet when you’re out to eat/traveling/don’t have time to cook?
I stick to an 80/20 rule and try to eat clean and healthy 80 percent of the time—but give myself some lenience 20 percent of the time due to things like a busy work or travel schedule. The most important thing is to never feel guilty about food. If you don't eat the way you'd like to eat one day, don't feel ashamed or upset; recover that day, commit to eating nutritiously, and your body and system will bounce right back (they're extremely resilient!). I'm also a firm believer in packing snacks while traveling, like raw nuts and raisins or my go-to protein bars. Sometimes, all you need is a little something to hold you over until you can get to a healthy meal.
What's your go-to dinner recipe for busy weeknights?
Definitely my sweet potato noodles with lentil ragu! It's so quick and easy, and uses real, clean ingredients.
What excites you most about having a baby on the way?
Ah, so much! Snuggle sessions, baby giggles, seeing my husband become the amazing father I know he will be, seeing my parents become grandparents, and the thought of teaching my son to treat women with respect, admiration, and support. I can't wait to play on the beach with my baby and my husband as a family. And one day, I hope my children will be proud of and inspired by me.
What’s your favorite food to spiralize?
I like making spiralized pastas. As an Italian American, I love recreating my favorite classic Italian pasta dishes into healthier alternatives with the same flavors. As for a favorite veggie to spiralize, it all depends on the season. I love sweet potatoes and rutabaga in the winter, and then I'm all about zucchini in the summer.
Why did zucchini noodles have such a big impact on your life?
I grew up Italian American and always struggled with portion control. As someone who has always desperately wanted to find that balance of flavor and health, zucchini noodles hit the spot. When eating zucchini noodles (and all spiralized veggies), you're having your cake and eating it too; you're eating a big bowl of satisfying, delicious pasta, but you're feeling great afterward and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It's truly revolutionary!
Why do you want to help people eat more plants?
I believe that eating a primarily plant-based diet is the healthiest way we can fuel our bodies. However, I realize this isn't realistic for all, so if I can show people how to sneak veggies into a perhaps more meat-centric diet, that's a win! Mainly, I just want to show people that eating plant-based can actually be just as satisfying and tasty as a diet that consists of animal protein.
What's one tip for someone who is new to cooking plant-based foods?
Think about flavor! Recreate your favorite flavors in your favorite foods, just use plants and veggies. For example, if you like cheeseburgers, then make a veggie burger. If you like pasta, use a veggie noodle as a replacement! If you like burrito bowls, try cauliflower rice or spiralized rice. It's all about being creative!