I read something interesting about spiralized vegetables the other day. The point was made that no-one is likely to be tricked into thinking that zucchini strands are really spaghetti. They should be celebrated as separate, but equal.
Spiralizing is a fun way to incorporate more veggies into our diets. It’s also a bonus for people who need to avoid gluten for health reasons. Being able to twirl spirals around a fork is important for someone who has to avoid traditional pasta. It also never hurts to cut back a bit on carbohydrates and substitute fresh vegetables in their place.
The thing is, carbs are not the enemy. We need good carbohydrates as part of a healthy diet. Moderation is key. I’m going to post one of my favorite meatless meals with a substitution of spiralized zucchini for half of the pasta. The strands will still twirl around a fork, but the dish will be lighter by half.
This recipe, using cherry tomatoes, is an adaptation of Lidia Bastianich’s “Pasta With Baked Cherry Tomatoes” (Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy.) If you want the original recipe, check out the cookbook or her website. The one I’m going to post here is true to hers in spirit, but the measurements are different. I hope that she would approve of the addition of spiralized zucchini.
1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 C fresh basil leaves, shredded
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 C dried bread crumbs
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 pound thin spaghetti or linguini fini
1 large or 2 medium zucchini
5 garlic cloves, sliced
1-2 TBS pesto, optional
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Put halved cherry tomatoes in a bowl with 2 TBS. of the olive oil. Add the bread crumbs, salt, and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat the tomatoes.
3. Spread the tomatoes in a single layer on a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until lightly caramelized. Remove from oven when they are done and set aside.
4. Spiralize the zucchini using the “spaghetti” blade. Trim to pasta lengths. Set in a colander to drain off some of the natural liquid.
5. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Break the long strands of spaghetti in halves. Cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Remove 1 cup of the salted pasta water before you drain the pasta.
6. When the pasta is done, pour it (water and all) over the zucchini that has been resting in the colander. Once the water drains, return the pasta/zucchini mixture to the pot to keep warm. If you like, you could add a tablespoon or two of pesto to the spaghetti/ zucchini mixture to amp up the basil flavor.
7. Pour the remaining olive oil into a saute pan set on medium heat. Add the sliced garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until the edges are sizzling.
8. Add the cup of reserved pasta water and bring to a vigorous boil until the water is reduced by half. Reduce heat and keep at a simmer.
9. Add the cooked pasta/zucchini to the simmering garlic infused water/sauce. Slide the roasted tomatoes onto the pasta. Scatter the basil pieces over the tomatoes and toss everything together.
10. Remove from the heat. Add the grated cheese and toss again to coat, or serve the cheese on the side, so each person can decide how “cheesy” they like their pasta.
Frank declared this effort a “home run.” It really is a great dish. The zucchini stays just slightly crunchy, adding another texture to the dish. It’s hard to go wrong with garlicy roasted tomatoes and pasta!