A bowlful of zucchini noodles serves as a low-carb base for all sorts of flavors, textures, and colorful additions. The bowls make a deliciously satisfying plant-based meal, although meat may be added if desired. Don’t have a spiralizer? Don’t worry. There’s an easy alternative!
Hot summer days call for cool meals and abundant use of fresh produce.
These bowls fit the bill and are satisfying enough to enjoy all year round as a light entree or welcome alternative to a tossed salad. While you can create the low-carb “noodles” at home with a spiralizer or a basic vegetable peeler, store-bought prepared zoodles offer a convenient shortcut.
For those who may be new to the spiralizer concept and wish to purchase the clever gadget, I have been very happy with my Paderno model. It offers two blades for spaghetti-like strands, one thin and one thick. There’s also a slicing blade.
When cooking zoodles, like in this recipe for Zucchini Noodles in Rustic Tomato Sauce, I use the thicker noodle blade for more texture in the final dish. For salads, as below, the thickness of the strands comes down to personal preference.
Some spiralizer models have more than three blade options, although I’ve never felt I needed more choices. (Perhaps I don’t know what I’m missing!)
Don’t have a spiralizer and still want to do-it-yourself? Thin ribbons are just as good and can be made with a help of a simple vegetable peeler.
This “ribbon” method works well: Using a vegetable peeler, press firmly into the zucchini (or summer squash－the color combination does look pretty) and peel it into long, wide strips. Work your way around the zucchini (sort of like it’s a rectangle and you’re peeling the four sides), stopping when you get to the seeds. Discard the seedy core.
I typically use a Y-shaped peeler for this easy task, but a traditional potato peeler will also do the job. (For the above pictured recipe, complete with the roasted mushrooms and tomatoes, click here.)
To avoid watered-down sauces, I salt and drain the spiralized zucchini as mentioned in the recipe below. When using the ribbon method, however, you can usually get away with skipping this step because more of the seedy, moisture-rich core is eliminated. If your zucchinis are especially large, however, it won’t hurt.
- 1 pound zucchini* (about 2 medium; may use a mix of zucchini and summer squash)
- ⅓ to ½ cup your favorite pesto (like this one)
- 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup corn (I love using leftover corn on the cob and usually reserve 2 ears and use however much that is!)
- 1 small avocado, diced
- 2 rounded tablespoons roasted pepitas (or sunflower seeds, chopped almonds, walnuts, or a mix)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Optional: 1 cup chopped chicken, shrimp, or beans; 2 sliced scallions, 2-3 tablespoons minced red onion, or snipped chives; a few extra basil leaves for garnish
To prepare the zoodles: Spiralize the zucchini with a spiralizer or turn the zucchini into noodles with a julienne peeler. (Or use a vegetable peeler for this ribbon option.)
Place the zoodles in a colander, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt, toss well, and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes or up to an hour or so. When ready to proceed, use a clean tea towel or two sturdy, lint-free paper towels and squeeze the excess moisture out of the zucchini. Zucchini has a high water content and this will create better noodle texture and prevent the finished bowls from becoming watery. At this point, you may wish to snip the long strands into shorter pieces for easier eating later.
Advance prep tip: You may prepare to this point several hours in advance and refrigerate, undressed. (I don’t even cover the bowl and do not add any pesto or even salt at this point, as this will draw moisture from the noodles.)
When ready to serve, toss the zucchini with pesto until coated. Add the tomatoes, corn, avocado, pepitas, and optional extras. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I add about ¼ teaspoon or so or each). Serve immediately.
*If preferred, you may use store-bought zucchini noodles.
Leftovers: Over time, the pesto will brown and the zucchini will release some liquid, but I still find any leftovers to be quite good the next day for lunch. In this case, I usually perk them up with an extra sprinkle of crunchy seeds.