A few weeks ago, I tasked myself with finding a healthy substitution for my favorite dish: pasta. I crave pasta when I’m sad, hoping that the carbs will lift my spirits, but not my jean size. I crave pasta in happy times, because who doesn’t celebrate with baked ziti? But pasta is a major culprit in unhealthy diets, providing a lot of calories for very little nutrition. Besides the noodles themselves, pasta dishes tend to be loaded up with cream and cheese, adding to the massacre on your waistline. In my mid-20s, I’m starting to see my crazy metabolism slow down and betray me and it might be time to be more conscious of what I eat. And so I took the challenge and jumped on a fad, exchanging my fettuccine for…zucchini? Sounds weird, I know. But the result is rich, tasty and comforting. Once you’re wolfing it down you forget those aren’t real, starchy noodles on your plate. Give this recipe a try and surprise yourself with how satisfying it can be.
What You’ll Need
(1) Medium-sized zucchini per person*
(1) Large can of crushed plum tomatoes
Half of a Vidalia or sweet onion
(3) cloves of garlic
(1/4 cup) Olive oil
Salt, pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes
Your favorite dry herbs
Optional: Deactivated yeast flakes or Parmesan cheese
*Or tons of zucchini per person. It’s freakin’ zucchini! Stuff your face with it!
Vegetable peeler or mandolin
Large sauce pan that can go in the oven
1. Peel your zucchini. You may leave the skin on for more nutritional value, but I find the waxy texture of the peel takes away from the pasta-ness of the “noodles.”
2. If you’re using a vegetable peeler, run the peeler down the length of the zucchini so that you get thin sheets. When you hit the zucchini’s seeds, flip it to the other side and peel some more. Keep peeling these sheets until you’re only left with the seedy core. Set sheets aside.
If you’re using a mandolin, run the zucchini down the mandolin–with the safety guard!–so that you get thin sheets. When you hit the zucchini’s seeds, flip it to the other side and peel some more. Keep peeling these sheets until you’re only left with the seedy core. Set sheets aside.
3. Mince your garlic.
4. Dice your onion.
1. Heat half of your olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Add the garlic, onions, and a healthy pinch of salt. Push all that around until the onions start to go translucent and there seems to be more liquid in the pan. If you’re getting good whiffs of the stuff, go on to step 3.
3. Pour all of the tomatoes and sauce out of the can and into the pan. Keep stirring so that the tomatoes break down and the garlic and onions are incorporated. Season to taste with the salt, pepper, paprika and red pepper flakes. Now is when you also want to add in your favorite mix of dry herbs (rosemary? thyme? oregano?). Turn down the heat and let it simmer.
4. Meanwhile…grab your zucchini noodles and toss them with salt, pepper and the rest of your olive oil.
5. When the sauce has been simmering for about fifteen minutes start mixing in your zucchini noodles a handful at a time. Continue stirring them in the sauce until they soften slightly and everything looks delicious.
…with fresh basil and a sprinkling of deactivated yeast flakes or real deal Parmesan cheese.