I’ve been wanting to share some of my favorite weekly, low-carb/Paleo-ish “recipes” with you all for a while now and today is the day I start. I say “recipes” because both Jason and I are not “too the book” “measure out each ingredient” cooks. Typically, we look for flavor combinations we enjoy and include flavors to satisfy that. So a few overall tips to start:
- Think about the flavor combinations you enjoy:
- Italian, for example, may include garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, onion, etc.
- Mexican might need some pepper, cumin, curry, garlic, lime, etc.
- Asian may include ginger and garlic (I don’t do a lot of Asian-flavored meals, so I’m not sure what else to include here off the top of my head)
- If you think a flavor is particularly strong, don’t include a lot of it
- If you think a flavor is particularly light, add more
- If you like a flavor, add more of it
- If you don’t like a flavor, leave it out
And added or subtracted teaspoon of a spice is not going to make or break a meal. It’s all about you and what you like, so do what you like!
So lets get to today’s meal – Zucchini/Squash Pasta!
To feed two people, you’ll need:
- 2-3 decent sized zucchinis or yellow squash (it’s very pretty to do a mixture)
- A julienne peeler or mandolin
- Paper towels
- Onion powder
- Olive oil
- Other Italian-ish spices you like!
We like to top our “pasta” with either meat sauce or marinara sauce with either shrimp or meatballs.
So, first things first, get your topping started. This is really what takes the most time.
- If you are doing meatballs, get those in the oven with your marinara sauce
- For shrimp, we like to season it with similar ingredients to those listed above, but make it a little spicier. We cook the shrimp in a pan with a little olive oil, then add the marinara sauce into the same pan once the shrimp has cooked
- For meat sauce, go ahead and work on browning your meat and add marinara into the meat once it is cooked
Now, onto the real instruction! While your protein topping of choice is cooking (before you add the marinara, except in the case of meatballs) get to work prepping your squash. Use either a julienne peeler to make long, stringy spaghetti-like noodles, or use a mandolin to cut shorter, penne-like “pasta” on the diagonal of the squash.
- The advantage of the mandolin is that you get more squash (it’s easy to include the center part with all the seeds (this doesn’t really work well)
- The advantage of the julienne peeler is that, well, I like the texture better
Again, it’s up to you!
By this point, you should make sure to have a large pan/skillet heating up on the stove top with a little olive oil. You want this pan to get HOT. I usually have it on a 7 out of 10 on my range.
Once you have your noodles, gather them onto a stack of 2-3 paper towels and, using another 2-3 paper towels on top, press down over all of the squash to remove as much moisture as possible. If you are able to flip it over a press from the other side as well, do that! This is a very important step that I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks. It keeps your plate from turning into a slopping marinara-liquid mess (though it tastes excellent either way!)
Once you’ve removed some of the moisture, get some flavor into your noodles – add the salt, pepper, Parmesan, garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, etc. (or not! it’s up to you!). Sprinkle these on top of the squash pile. There’s no need to mix, it all get incorporated once you are cooking the noodles.
Throughout this process, you should have been periodically checking on your meatballs, shrimp, or meat and those should be just about done. You don’t want to start cooking the zucchini until they are. Once they are done, add the marinara sauce (if necessary) and turn down the temp to keep them warm.
Now, get ready to feel like a hibachi chef! Add your squash and spices to your piping hot pan… and have some tongs or another stirring utensil ready. It should steam and sizzle and look and smell awesome! Keep the noodles moving almost constantly – we don’t want them to get too brown. The hot pan will help keep the moisture out of your finished dish by evaporating it quickly. Cook the squash for 3-5 minutes until it takes on the appears and consistency of pasta.
Finally, plate it up – noodles first (trying to drain, squeeze, or shake out any remaining liquid, then top of your protein and sauce. Feel free to add additional Parmesan on top. And ENJOY!
Preparing this meal from start to finish typically takes no more than 30 minutes and is a weekly go-to in our house, usually on Wednesday when we both go to BodyPump and aren’t home until about 8pm. Last week, we got home at 8, started the meatballs and marinara, both took showers, prepared the noodles, and were clean and eating by 8:30… success!
I should also add, that this was one of the meals that convinced me that we could really go low-carb full time. Finding a satisfying substitute for pasta was HUGE for me and I’ve since come to learn that it’s really the spices and the marinara and the meat and the cheese that make a dish seem Italian… NOT the carbs!