Lighten Up Pasta with Garden-Fresh Zucchini

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Pasta may be too heavy for a hot summer night, but you can lighten it up by substituting or swapping it out with vegetables.
Zucchini pasta is super easy to prepare and perfect for anyone who is gluten-intolerant, diabetic, low carbing it, a raw food lover, or those like me that are up to their ears in zucchini from the garden.  Zucchini pasta is nothing more than raw zucchini that has been cut to mimic traditional pasta: fettuccine, linguine, and yes even lasagna. 

Depending on your tool arsenal you may have several choices for cutting the zucchini. 

The spiralizer is the Cadillac of choices.  If anyone is willing to let me borrow one, give me a call! 

You already know I'm not keen on fancy tools. I like to keep it simple! In my kitchen, I have a couple of options. 

First, the knife. Slice thin strips from the zucchini then stack 2-3 layers deep and slice into strips.  This works well if you are looking for a fettuccine shape. 

Second, the vegetable peeler. It's a speed demon for shaving off long strips of zucchini that are perfect for a lasagna style noodle. 

Lastly, a julienne vegetable peeler.  These peelers can be found at most online kitchen stores or markets and will only set you back $10-$12.  They work just like a traditional peeler except that as you move the peeler it does double duty in slicing and shredding the zucchini into long matchsticks.
You have the cuts, now it's time to get cooking.  What do you do with the zucchini pasta noodles?
Swap out half a serving of traditional whole-wheat pasta with zucchini noodles.  The zucchini noodles should be about the same size as the traditional pasta noodles.  Add the zucchini noodles to the pasta noodles in the last minute of cooking.  Serve with light sauces like pesto, simple sliced grape tomatoes and basil with just a short pour of olive oil, or tossed in garlic, heart healthy chopped nuts and a finely shredded flavorful cheese like Asiago or Manchego.

Go 100% zucchini noodles.  Cook the zucchini for just one minute in boiling water and a pinch of salt then immediately drain and run cold water over the zucchini to stop the cooking.  

Mediterranean: Toss with sliced artichoke hearts (use canned ones packed in brine that you've drained and rinsed), herbs from the garden plus a dollop of goat cheese for a cool summer pasta salad. 

Asian: Miso paste is a perfect pairing with the zucchini pasta.  Combine three shredded zucchini with two teaspoons miso paste and one tablespoon warm water; toss and serve. 

Lasagna: Long flat strips are wonderful for a new take on layered pasta.  Sauté chopped shallots with cherry or grape tomatoes in a small amount of olive oil, then stir in grated Parmesan cheese.  Layer the filling between the flat strips of zucchini, fold into a parcel and mist with cooking spray. Return to the pan to heat the zucchini.  Sauté 1-2 minutes on each side, then transfer to a plate.  Add 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar to the pan, heat it until it sizzles, then pour over "noodles."
Raw:  Zucchini pasta is a perfect raw choice.  Select smaller zucchini that are more tender.  Cut into your desired shape, sprinkle with pinch of salt and let rest 20 minutes.  Rinse away the salt and toss in other raw favorites like avocado, tomatoes, and herbs.
As the garden supply of zucchini starts to dwindle don't fret, spaghetti squash will be ready any day and you can start making spaghetti squash pasta!
Do you ever swap pasta for veggies?