I have a hard time coming around to fads and trends and “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) are no exception. I think it started with a horrible experience of marinara topped spaghetti squash and I’ve been saying “um, no thank you” to veggie noodles ever since. For one…what a let down. I’d rather eat the sauce with a spoon then over soggy, limp, imposter pasta. Secondly, this was supposed to be my entire meal and I AM STARVING. There is low carb and then there is NO carb. I choose the former both for texture, overall enjoyability of the experience, and to help avoid the scene of me, in the freezer with a spoon and pint of ice cream, one hour after dinner.
Progress was made when I spotted a recipe in Bon Appetite for Spaghetti with a No Cook Tomato Sauce. The recipe called for raw zucchini grated into the sauce for texture and hazelnuts for body. This was my first favorable experience with zoodles and suddenly raw zucchini and my pasta bowl were making progress. Still, baby steps. We keep the noodles around, just cut back a bit, and we add dollops of creamy ricotta and a drizzle of olive oil because, well, we deserve it. The zucchini adds texture and thanks to some advanced salting not too much water. And most important for me, it feels like it belongs there, next to all those summer showstoppers, instead of as an inferior substitute forced upon me in the name of health.
I’m fully aware that I am underselling this recipe. That’s terribly unfortunate given it’s ready in 15 minutes with the help of a food processor and tastes like August sunshine in a bowl. I’ve made it three times…in two weeks. Hurry now, get your hands on the best tomatoes you can find and make this quick, the summer is fading into fall and we don’t have long.
The original recipe called for ricotta salata which I used the first time I made the recipe. The second and third time I went to my local grocery store which didn’t carry it so I substituted feta and then fresh ricotta in this final version. Really all variations work but I think I prefer the fresh ricotta best.
- 6-8 ounces long pasta such as spaghetti
- 2 medium to large zucchini, spiralized or grated
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3-5 tomatoes depending on size (3 for larger beefsteak, 5 for Roma)
- ½ cup roasted hazelnuts (I buy mine at Trader Joe's), almonds could be substituted
- 1 cup basil leaves (plus more to garnish)
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on spice tolerance
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
- Cheese to garnish: dollops of fresh ricotta, shaved ricotta salata, or mild feta
- Place a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
- Meanwhile take your spiralized or grated zucchini and toss with a teaspoon of salt. Place over a strainer to drain. This will ensure the final sauce is not too watery.
- Chop and seed the large tomatoes. Seeding will remove much of the liquid that would otherwise dilute your sauce. You should be left with only the meaty portion of the tomatoes.
- Roughly chop the hazelnuts and divide in half. Combine one half of the hazlenuts with chopped tomatoes (not cherry), basil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
- Discard water that has drained from the zucchini. Toss zucchini with cherry tomatoes, sauce, and pasta. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sliced basil, reserved hazelnuts, a drizzle of olive oil and cheese.