Saying this zucchini pasta is “gluten-free” is cheating a little bit. Sometimes Sienna and I get a little exasperated by packaging or stores where they will say something ridiculous like “100% GLUTEN FREE mandarin oranges!!!!” as if there are any sort of oranges in the world that contain gluten. On packages of processed foods where gluten-content might be uncertain, a gluten-free label is a great thing. Also, in cases where it’s an item like a pancake or some bread where it would normally be made with wheat, we think it’s a wonderful idea.
One of the things that becomes bothersome living gluten-free is that there are a lot of products out there which are replacements for wheat products that don’t really taste very good or don’t stack up very well. In such cases it’s almost better to just get a “real” thing and use that to substitute. So for example, despite the fact that there are pretty good gluten-free cookies out there, a person who can’t get their hands on a good cookie might just want to switch to eating macaroons (which are supposed to be gluten-free.) Or a person who can’t get good gluten-free pasta might want to serve their marinara sauce on polenta instead. I don’t know if I’m making any sense here, but hopefully I am.
Anyhow, here’s a way to substitute for pasta with something “real,” and that is julienned zucchini. To make this you’ll need a mandoline with a julienne blade (or a sharp knife and A LOT of patience.) You’ll want to use two smallish or one medium zucchini per serving. Wash the zucchini and then put them through the mandoline lengthwise, so you are getting the longest “noodles” you can get. As you cut them, put the finished julienned zucchini in a colander with a little salt. For each medium zucchini you julienne, add 1/2 tsp of salt to the colander. That sounds like a lot of salt, but the purpose is to draw the moisture out of the zucchini and then rinse the salt off and towel dry the zucchini when its ready to go. It is possible to use too much salt, however, and you might find that you have to make adjustments to suit how salty you like your pasta.
Once you’ve got your zucchinis julienned and they’re sitting in your colander, give them a stir and let them drain for a half hour. While they drain you should start your pasta sauce. Also, a few times during the half hour, stir them up and gently press on them to help them drain.
You can let them sit longer if you like. After the half hour, give them a quick rinse and then dry them gently with a towel to remove most of the salt.
Did I mention that most people agree that zucchini pasta is really only good with red sauces? At this point, hopefully your red sauce should pretty much be ready to go. Next you’ll want to fry the zucchini up in a pan. You’re only going to want to fry the zucchini up enough to heat it through and make it bend a little more like pasta. You definitely do not want to cook it to the point where it becomes transparent. If it gets that far then you’ve overcooked it.
We used a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. If you’re using a regular pan, you want the heat higher. One the pan is hot, throw the julienned zucchini in there and toss it until it is barely tender. You probably won’t want to cook it more than five minutes.
Once the zucchini pasta is done, put it on some plates and add your pasta sauce of choice. Here we used some delicious tomato sauce (made by our friend Mike – Hi Mike and Sonia!) with lots of garlic. We added mushrooms, ground beef, and some of our homemade pesto to the tomato sauce to give it an extra kick. We topped the sauce with cheese and BAM! It’s time to eat.
We love zucchini pasta and not just because it’s gluten free.
Besides being naturally gluten-free, the zucchini pasta is crunchy, which is really nice. You’d never really think of pasta being crunchy but in this case it’s quite delicious. It’s also a good way to eat zucchini for people who don’t really like zucchini. In addition to being great for a gluten free diet, zucchini is also a healthy low-carb alternative to wheat pasta. You’re getting your vegetables and your gluten-free pasta!