Zucchini as a substitute for pasta. Too good to be true? Well, yes and no.
Lately, I’ve been seeing recipes made with this little gadget on Pinterest:
It’s called a “spiral vegetable slicer” but really, it cuts them into long, uniform strips. Kind of like pasta.
I’m not a big kitchen gadget person. I’m usually dubious about stuff like this. but more than that, I’m a “knife skills” geek who prefers to do it myself with a regular old chef’s knife (or whatever knife is appropriate for the job). But this intrigued me because I’ve been using zucchini as a pasta substitute for awhile now and I haven’t found the right cutting method for my desired texture. I thought this might do it, so I bought one.
I’ve used it a few times now and I can safely say that it works as advertised. I’ll never argue that using zucchini (or spaghetti squash or cauliflower) as a substitute for pasta is equal to the real thing, no matter how it’s cut. But is it a reasonably satisfying alternative? I’d say that yes, it is, as long as you remove as much of the moisture from the vegetable as you can, prior to–and after–cooking.
I really can’t emphasize that last point strongly enough. Vegetables hold a lot of water, and much of it is released in the chopping and cooking processes. So whether you’re using a spiral cutter or just slicing veggies to sauté, removing as much moisture as you can will give you a much better result.
In the case of the spiral chopper, I used paper towels to get the water out after chopping but prior to cooking. Now, when it comes to heating this up, you’re going to want to do more of a “flash-cook.” Heat up your pan first and toss the zucchini in until it’s just heated through. The longer you keep it on the stove, the mushier it’s going to get and while you probably don’t want that in general, you definitely don’t want it if you’re using this as a sub for pasta. After it’s cooked, use some fresh paper towels and squeeze out the moisture again. You really just want it as dry as possible.
Your “pasta” is now done. Add whatever toppings you want. Personally, I’d stay away from anything that’s too wet–tomato sauce and such–it tastes less like actual pasta and more like vegetables. My preferred accompaniments are a touch of olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, shrimp, toasted pine nuts… that sort of thing.
For my lunch today, I sauteed some garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil for a couple of minutes then tossed it with the zucchini. I added parmesan cheese and fresh basil:
The results were delicious, but in retrospect I should’ve added sliced cherry tomatoes (I have one plant that’s crazy producing) and toasted pine nuts. If I was serving this to my husband, I’d add shrimp. But even without these additions, it was a delicious and filling lunch.
I’m the sort of person who’d eat pasta all day, every day, if I could. When I was in Italy last year I certainly tried and came back feeling like a big lump of–well, like a big lump. I realized that much of what I love about pasta are the things that come with it and Italian flavors themselves. While this isn’t anywhere near the same as eating a nice big bowl of spaghetti aglio e olio, it’s a reasonable alternative. And really, isn’t that all we can ask for?
28 Jul 2014 / Holly / 0