Monday, July 21, 2014

A Dinner Impasta!

In previous posts, I've mentioned how some (supposedly) healthy food substitutions just don't cut it for me. You know, like fake bacon, vegan cheese (?) or the other day I saw "zucchini nachos" on Facebook.  While zucchini in place of tortilla chips is a healthier option, they're not nachos.  While I'm sure they're tasty, still not nachos.  More like a taco salad, which is good (but again, not nachos).   Half of the nacho appeal is the crunchy chip that carries all the good toppings, so for me, I'll just skip them all together if I can't have the chip too.  Last time we talked about this I was raving about spaghetti squash being a really good substitute for pasta, especially when meat sauce is involved.  This time it's zucchini.  Even more like real pasta when you have the right tools, you can even twirl it on your fork.
I had two medium-ish and one smallish zucchinis (from the garden!).  This was more than enough for the four of us, which was nice because I got to eat it for lunch the next day.
This little gadget is called the Veghetti.  It's an "As seen on TV" product that sells for about $14.00.  I bought mine with a coupon and spent about $11.00.  Totally worth it.
I also borrowed my friend Matt's Spiralizer which retails for about $36.00 on Amazon.  I wanted to do a little comparison for you so when you get to the end of this post and you're dying to make zucchini Impasta you'll be able to decide which gadget you want to buy.  There is a third option, the julienne peeler, but I didn't try that and I don't think you can (easily) pull off the long spaghetti like strands with that one.
The Veghetti is pretty simple to use, cut off the end and stick it in one side (choose thick or thin) and twist.  I'm using the side labeled thick.
The one drawback with this is that if your zucchini is too large it won't fit in there.  So either pick them early or choose medium or smaller squash at the store.  Just save the giant ones that you somehow missed the last three times you were in the garden and now it's as big as your lower leg for the zucchini bread.
The Spiralizer is more flexible when it comes to the size.  This also has two sizes of "noodle" to choose from.  The drawback on this one is the amount of space it takes up in the cupboard.  My gadget cupboards over floweth therefore, not for me.
So for this, you just crank the handle and the noodles start coming, pretty easy.
This is the large cut on the Spiralizer, a little bigger than I wanted.
This is the thinner one.  I was afraid this might be too easy to overcook so I switched.
The ones on the tray are the Veghetti noodles, which were somewhere in between.  Hard to tell in this picture, I know.
Both of them spit out these funny little "cores" at the end.  I put the "noodles" on paper towels on a cookie sheet and dried (or tried to) them in a low oven for about 20 minutes.  I then squeezed them in a clean dish towel to remove some of the excess water (which is A LOT).  I think putting them in a colander with a light sprinkle of salt for 15 min would be just as effective.  Just wring them out in a clean towel before cooking.
I had mine spread on 3 baking sheets, after squeezing the water out...down to one tray!
So to cook these babies up I put a little swirl of olive oil in my pan, maybe a couple of teaspoons.  And warmed it up.
Then I added a cup of chopped cherry tomatoes and 2 cloves of minced garlic.  I cooked these stirring occasionally for about 5-6 minutes until the tomatoes were softened.
Next I added The zucchini to the pot and stirred and cooked for about 2-3 minutes.
Next I added 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (you can start with a cup depending on how many noodles you have).
Next I added 1/4-1/3 cup of cream, salt and pepper and about 2 Tbs of fresh basil.  You could use a tablespoon of pesto if you have some on hand.  Now just cook the Impasta until al dente and serve.
Looks like pasta, tastes fantastic and way healthier!
We had this the other night as a side dish with some game hens (sounds fancy but they sell them at Aldi).

Zucchini Impasta (original recipe)

3 medium-small zucchini, cut into noodles
2-3 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbs minced basil (or 1 Tbs pesto)
1-1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese if desired

After lightly salting the zucchini noodles, let sit for 15-20 min. Place in a clean dish towel in batches and squeeze out the excess water.  Meanwhile heat olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook stirring for 5-6 minutes or until tomatoes are softened.  Add zucchini to the pan and cook stirring for 2-3 more minutes.  Add chicken broth (enough to almost cover the noodles), cream and basil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 5 more minutes, or until liquid reduces slightly and noodles are al dente.  Stir in a tablespoon of shredded Parmesan cheese if desired.  
Bon appetite!

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