Using your Noodle-Veggie Style

As I mentioned before, the food world is changing. We are looking for ways to maximize what we are eating, how we eat it, and why we are eating the things we do. Lots of us are really having to look at the kind of relationship we have with food.  I know this because we are going through a bit of a food revolution in our house. Why you ask? Well, it has to do with how our bodies handle and process certain foods. Simply put, like the allergies that cause you to sneeze during the summer, you can be affected by the foods you eat as well.

If you have read any of my blog, you know that one of the most popular dishes in my house is pasta. However, traditional pasta contains gluten and not everyone can tolerate gluten. So, the question becomes how can we make pasta delicious, fast, and easy without giving up on any flavor? I have a perfect solution.

The first option is more obvious, which is gluten free pasta. You can find it in most grocery stores these day and it is very tasty. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic solution and one that I would go to more often than not. In fact, I am still recipe testing homemade gluten free pasta which I hope to share with you. However, I am working through a few snags at the moment. That should do it, right? No, not exactly. I think we should shake noodles up a little bit.

What if I told you that some of the vegetables in your house right now could be turned into healthy, super easy noodles? No, I am not kidding. Do you have carrots, zucchini or sweet potatoes in your fridge or pantry right now? Check, I can wait………….got them? Guess what? You have an amazing substitute for regular pasta that you can use for any application. It is truly that simple.

So, what are we making? We are making zucchini fettuccine with my ground turkey bolognese. Don’t remember how to make bolognese? No problem, just click here for a refresher.

That leaves us with how to make the noodles. Okay, you have a couple of options. If you have a vegetable peeler or a wire cheese slicer then you are good to go. These will come out looking more like ribbons, but the effect will be the same.

Zuchinni Pasta style

The noodles on the left are various sizes that I made from a vegetable peeler. I was able to create a spaghetti, fettuccine, and a wide noodle with the peeler. On the right are the noodles I made with my “Zoodle” maker. Yes, it is an actual thing. It is too much fun to say to not have it be true. If you want these fancy zoodles then head to your favorite online kitchen store and look for a “zoodler.” Again, the gadget name is too good to make up. Having done my own research, I know you can find a basic one on Amazon for about 10 dollars, but there are plenty of options if you want to up your zoodle game. You can’t go wrong either way, in my opinion.

Okay, time to fire it up! Follow the directions to make my bolognese. While  the bolognese is cooking down, you will have plenty of time to prep your noodles.To get the zucchini ready, trim off the ends and follow the directions of your zoodle maker. If you are using your vegetable peeler, remove the the zucchini skin and form a large pile of the strips. If you notice your noodles are too long just cut them down to a desirable size or cut it in half before you make your noodles. Once you have reached your desired thickness of the sauce, pile some noodles into a bowl, and top thusly with bolognese. Make sure to cover the noodles fairly well. The heat of the bolognese will soften the noodles and provide that cooked sensation.

Zucchini Bolognese
Even I have to remind myself that these are zoodles because this bolognese sells it! If you want to take this dish to the next level, sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on the finished dish. Honestly, I didn’t miss the cheese and I ate the whole bowl full!

If you want to take this dish totally vegetarian or vegan, you can omit both the ground turkey and the cheese. Of course, if you have any other restrictions feel free to make any changes that are necessary. You could also throw in some mushrooms or a number of other vegetables to bulk this dish up a little bit.

A couple of things to keep in mind here. You may find that you need to season the bolognese a little more than normal. The regular pasta releases starch and holds some salt from the boiling water, so there is a little less salt in the dish. That is totally okay if you feel like that is needed. However, you can certainly add other seasonings or herbs such as basil, oregano, pepper, thyme, and wine as well. If you add more wine, make sure you allow time for the alcohol to cook out of the sauce. Again, make sure you use you wine you would drink, because as wine cooks down those flavors are concentrated. Feel free to add vegetable or chicken stock to help reinforce those flavors as well. Oh, yes, I just used the word cooking, so let me talk about that before I forget. Zucchini has a high water content, so we don’t want to cook it in the classic sense. So leave the noodles raw if you can so you can retain some texture and don’t end up with mushy noodles.

This is only the beginning of the possibilities with veggies noodles. So, be creative!

Congratulations we have taken this dish to a whole new level! We did it! Let me know what you think by commenting on the recipe or sending me an email. I know this dish will surprise you as it did for me.


Bolognese That Will Bowl You Over

OK, tonight we are talking about a classic Italian pasta dish — Bolognese. It is simply a rich flavored, tomato based sauce. Sounds good right? There is only one problem with this amazing sauce, it is not known to be a quick cooking dish.

You can find a million recipes that list the cook time between 3-12 hours to get this right. Who can spare that time? Even on weekends that can be hard unless you use a crock-pot. By the way, you can make the sauce that way if you prefer. However, I have a recipe that you can have up on the table in 45-60 minutes instead of 12 hours. That sounds even better, doesn’t it?

Here is what’s behind door number one!

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Let’s talk changes:

We love garlic. So, instead of 2 cloves we use about 6-7 cloves, adjust accordingly.

Meat mash-up. The first time we made this we did try the ground beef but found the pasta to be overly heavy and it left a unpleasant coating in the mouth with each bite. We loved the recipe and wanted to find another option so we turned to ground turkey. Ground dark turkey meat will give you the richness and flavor, and in my opinion, you  won’t miss the ground beef at all. Since it is just the two of us we do three quarters of a pound and do just fine.

Basil makes everything better. We prefer basil to parsley, so that is what we use when we make this sauce.

Finally, we love Parmesan cheese to finish this pasta. The cheese is rich, creamy, and brings a pleasant finish of salt with each bite. We prefer fresh shaved Parmesan, which requires a small piece of Parmesan cheese to use as needed, but if you don’t have the access to a whole piece of Parmesan then the pre-shaved stuff works just as well.

Speaking of salt, seasoning is really important here. Remember to season often with this dish to build the layers of flavor. Also, taste, taste, and taste. Taste is the key that unlocks the door to great fare.

Just so you can get an idea of what you will need I have included this photo for you.

Level one, onions and garlic. Keep an eye on the heat level as each stove cooks a little differently. Don’t rush, you will have time to make sure everything is cooked through.

All veggies report to the pan. Repeat, all veggies report to the pan. This is not a drill.

The ground turkey has been working with all the vegetables for a few minutes here.

Right before you let this simmer add a dash of dried oregano, dried basil, between 1/8-1/4 cup of wine (something you would be happy to drink). Once this starts to simmer stir everything together and continue to stir every few minutes until the sauce has reduced enough.

Feel like the sauce is lacking the special something? With a couple minutes left before you are ready to serve add 4-8 tablespoons worth of left over pasta water to the saucepan.. Why? The pasta water will have salt in it, which will help you give the sauce additional flavor and you might be able to add less salt as a result. Also, the starch in the pasta water will help give the sauce more body and richness, and will help the sauce adhere to the noodles better.

That’s it! Done. You won’t regret it. 🙂