No-Pasta Pasta: Pesto and Artichokes over Zucchini Noodles

I’ve been eyeing the pre-made “zoodles” at the grocery store for a few weeks, but I have been too intimidated to grab them. Serendipitously, I had a birthday coupon from Williams-Sonoma. What to choose? They literally have everything in the world and I am not actually in need of anything. Except, oh wait, I don’t have a spiralizer. Forget that I have never had zoodles, so I might hate them. It has several blades so I can use it on beets or potatoes, which I do know I like.

I picked out the Paderno 4-blade model over the OXO brand. I have used it a couple of times and it was not intuitive. I had to decipher an instruction booklet and then watch a video online, which incidentally instructed to cut the zucchini in half–wrong!–and use a much larger blade than I preferred. I found some other videos and learned some tricks. For instance, use the lower hadle to push the zucchini through the blades. Also, use strong pressure to get longer length noodles.

So the first time cooking the homemade zucchini noodles was left up to my husband…while he watched Biddi. I left him with a bowl full of raw zucchini noodles, a skillet and some olive oil and a couple of cloves of garlic while I ran out to run some errands.  And he made an amazing meal! So simple and clean tasting, and zucchini is just starting to come into season so I can’t wait to eat these all summer long!

I love pasta but I do think it makes me feel bloated and not great, so I don’t eat it very often. I used to cook pasta at least once a week, but now I realize it isn’t very healthful. Also, I find that eating pasta starts a kind of carb-craving death spiral of cheap energy and subsequent crashes. Even when I make an insanely nutritious veggie pasta, my thoughts when I eat it are like, “would this just be better and paradoxically more filling without the pasta?” Yes!

Zucchini Noodles- Nailed It

In Winter I am obsessed with spaghetti squash in leiu of pasta, but not in the Spring. Like apples and sweet potatoes, by the time Spring and Summer come around they have been in storage all winter and, in my opinion, they have lost some nutritional value.  I am so excited to try out all of my stand-by pasta recipes with zucchini noodles–and zucchini isn’t even on the “Dirty Dozen,” so I can buy non-organic. Although I’m not sure if there is even a big price difference, I will usually just buy the ones that look best and are the right size for my recipe.

Zucchini NoodlesAnd since you don’t have to wait for water to boil and then pasta to cook, it is actually faster than pasta!

Some favorite pasta recipes I love are:

  • a deconstructed pesto: pine nuts, basil, olive oil and lemon juice with blistered cherry tomatoes
  • shrimp scampi: olive oil, peas, parsley, white wine, and maybe even some actual shrimp
  • anti-pasta flavors: roasted red peppers pesto, roasted red peppers, basil, black olives
  • simple tomato sauce: oven roaseted tomatoes instead of canned, red wine, roasted red peppers

But here is what I settled on today for lunch: Pesto and Artichokes over Zucchini Noodles. The artichokes were a last minute addition, when I grabbed the pine nuts from the freezer they literally fell into my hands. I took it as an omen that they were no longer fulfilled living in the freezer and wanted to become lunch. I keep the pine nuts in the freezer cause they are expensive and have a high fat content, like walnuts and almonds and pecans. I have bought nuts and eaten them after they went rancid before…and never again. I use them relatively quickly and store them in the door, the warmest part of the freezer, so I don’t think there is any risk of freezer burn.

Zucchini Noodles- Ingredients

Pesto and Artichokes over Zucchini Noodles (serves 4)

6 meduim zucchinis, spiralized (about 3 lbs)

1 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for when the zucchini noodles are added

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup pine nuts

32 oz bag frozen artichokes

3/4 teaspoon extra-coarse sea salt (optional, use 1/8 teaspoon with table salt)

2 tablespoons fresh basil

1 Tablespoon fresh oregano

1/4 cup homemade or storebought pesto*

crushed red peppers, to garnish

*check the ingredients before buying off the shelf: many cheaper pestos use cashews instead of pine nuts and I think the flavor is lacking as a result. I usually buy the pesto from the cheese/cooler section of whole foods, it is made in-house and sold by weight. It’s expensive and super-rich, so it can be thinned with olive oil for this recipe.

Cooking Method

Heat 1 tablespoon Olive Oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet

Add garlic and sautee for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown

Add pine nuts and cook for 2 minutes, until heated through and beginning to brown

Add the bag of artichokes directly to the sautee pan and cook for a minute until artichokes are lightly covered in oil

Cover pan with lid and cook for 5 minutes until thawed

Add zucchini noodles and 1 tablespoon Olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt*

Cook for 10 minutes to let the salt sweat out some of the water from the zucchini

Toss with herbs and pesto

Serve with crushed red pepper flakes to taste.

*add crushed red peppers at this point, if you like spicy food and if you aren’t serving this to a toddler 😉

Zucchini Noodles- Twinning

For Biddi, I added a 2 oz tofu, tossed in pesto and warmed through, peice of toast and 1/2 a peach. She loves pesto and eats tofu often, so the peaches were the only “new” food for her, although she has had them cooked before never raw. I had to explain to her that she would like them and then pop one in her mouth quickly, but she ate all the ones I gave her and then asked for more. She ate all the zucchini noodles, half the tofu, no bread, and the entire peach, and she was stealing artichokes off of my plate; I never considered that she would even try the artichokes!

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