Twirly, Swirly … Zucchini?

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, and sometimes, just like March, your appetite comes in like a lion. Oftentimes, when you get a serious appetite, you look for a meal that will be warm, filling, and comforting: pasta. Pasta has become a staple of the American diet, and with endless ways to make it, it seems pasta can be served at almost every meal.

Recently, there has been a hot new twist to pasta: vegetables to replace noodles. A lower carb option, it’s a brilliant idea, cutting up vegetables so that they have the same texture and shape as noodles. You can use zucchini, squash, or potatoes – the options for vegetable pasta are numerous. But how do you make sure you’re cooking them in a way to maximize vitamins and minerals while keeping the pasta texture?

The best way to get started is to purchase a spiral slicer. It turns vegetables into perfectly shaped pasta noodles. However, if you do not have access to a spiral slicer, a stainless steel julienne peeler will work just as well (and allows you to make the pasta by hand).

The vegetable noodles can be cooked or served directly after slicing, but you may want to degorge them first. Degorging is a process in which you lay the sliced vegetables on paper towels, sprinkle them with salt, and allow them to sit in open air at room temperature for about 20 minutes. You will see small water droplets form on the vegetables, so just rinse off the veggies, pat them dry, and you’re done degorging. This method removes water and some of the bitter taste from vegetables, giving them a flavor more like pasta.

After slicing your vegetable of choice, you can pour sauce over them raw, or you can cook, sauté, or microwave the veggie noodles to give them a more pasta-like texture. Boiling the vegetable noodles is essentially the same as boiling regular pasta, except you need to keep a closer eye on them because they tend to cook faster, and different vegetables have different cooking times.When they’re done cooking, you have new, low-carb pasta. Simply pour your favorite sauce and satisfy your appetite with a nutrient-packed meal.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what toppings to use on your pasta, here is a recipe to get started:

No Mac “Mac and Cheese”

4 cups cooked vegetable noodles (vegetables used can include squash, zucchini, or potatoes)
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter that can be purchased in Indian food markets)
1 tbsp whole-wheat flour
1 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 cup cheddar cheese (reduced-fat can be substituted)
Canola oil spray
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional garnish
1 teaspoon grated parmesan, optional garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Slice the vegetables into thin even pieces, or use a spiral slicer. Cook them for 5 minutes (or until vegetable pasta is soft). Strain the excess water and place them aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt ghee on medium heat and whisk in whole-wheat flour. Add milk and whisk quickly. Turn heat down to low, add both cheeses to saucepan, and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
  3. Pour cheese sauce over the vegetable pasta and broccoli mixture, and toss until all the veggie pasta is covered.
  4. Dish into 4 portions, and top off with red pepper flakes and extra cheese if you wish.

Katie Nahay is a junior at Auburn University majoring in nutrition dietetics. She plans to become a registered dietician and then continue on to physician assistant’s school or continue writing in the nutrition field.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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2 Comments

  1. Twirly Bites (Michelle says:

    This is such a great overview of spiralizing, nicely done!
    And yes, I would definitely call them twirly zucchini

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