Zucchini Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce Plus a Bonus Vegan Alfredo Sauce Recipe

spaghetti with marinara (1)

What is a life without pasta, am I right? It would be a sad thing indeed. And a bowl of pasta with a good marinara sauce is such a simple and happy food. The only downside? I personally gain five pounds when I so much as see the word pasta on a menu. Others of you I know have issues with gluten, or rightfully hate the cardboard taste of whole wheat pasta. Yes, it’s a cruel, cruel world we live in. So what is a person to do who dreams of eating pasta everyday while proudly squeezing into a tiny bikini? The answer is Zoodles. Zucchini noodles that is.

I was skeptical of zucchini noodles at first because I don’t particularly like the taste of cooked zucchini, (it tastes like fishy rotten garbage to me.) I also am not a huge fan of spaghetti squash, (soggy) and all those lovely pastas made with grain alternatives like quinoa and brown rice still have that high-carb weight gain effect on me as regular pasta. But then I got a spiralizer and discovered zucchini anew! This tool costs like $13 and works great on zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, etc to make beautiful angel hair-like tendrils. I mean, come on, here is one for $8, just get one. They are the most fun kitchen tool ever! (By the way, I have no affiliation to any brand, I just did a quick google search and found this one, buy any spiralizer you like!)

I have been making zoodles almost every single day for lunch and just tossing them in different kinds of sauces to change it up. (If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you will find a ‘Category’ drop down menu. Select the category of “Sauces, Dressings, and Marinades” and you will find 20 other sauce recipes!) Zucchinis are the perfect weight-loss food. They have a high water content and only 33 calories each, plus tons of vitamin C. Eating a big bowl of zucchini noodles is a great way to feel full and satisfied while burning fat. I am definitely seeing the difference on the scale.

There are two ways you can eat zoodles- raw or cooked. Because I live in the 100 degree weather of Los Angeles and I love raw food, I tend to just eat them raw. They have a little crunch and the high content of water makes me feel full. However, you can also heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and toss them with tongs till they are hot and softened. This is where they REALLY take on the roll of pasta as the texture transforms in the pan

The same thing goes for my marinara sauce. This sauce is geared toward those who strive to eat a largely raw food diet, because we all know how good for you raw veggies are! However, this sauce heats up beautifully and works great on pizza or in lasagna too.

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, zucchini noodles and marinara? Sounds boring. So you want to take it to the next level? You really wanna go for that red, white, and green, monster bowl of Italian deliciousness?  Try adding some vegan alfredo and pesto sauce to  your marinara zoodles for an incredibly creamy and satisfying meal.

Zucchini Spaghetti with Marinara 

Makes 2 servings

6 medium zucchinis, peeled and spiralized

Marinara:

makes about 1.5 cups

6 roma tomatoes, with tough stem ends removed

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and then drained

6 cloves of garlic

1 tsp salt

1 sprig each of parsley, basil, and oregano

1 medjool date, pitted

After spiralizing the zucchinis, sprinkle a little salt on them and set them aside in a colander over a bowl or in the sink. They release a lot of water, which can dilute the sauce, so I like to let them drain for a bit, and right before serving a give them a little squeeze to release the moisture.

Combine all the marinara ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. So easy!

Ready to take it to the next level?

Vegan Alfredo Sauce

makes a little over 1.5 cups

1 cups raw cashews, soaked for a few hours in a bowl of water to soften. Rinsed and drained

1 tbs nutritional yeast

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4-1/2 tsp salt depending on your preference

1/4 tsp pepper

1 tbs olive oil

a pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup water

optional: 1 clove garlic

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until very, very smooth.  If it’s not smooth enough, add another tablespoon or two of water until you get a perfectly smooth consistency.

And finally, the pesto recipe can be found right here!

Enjoy!

Italian flag pasta

zucchini pasta

Shitake and Enoki Calamari

Shitake and Enoki Calamari
Last weekend I went to New York for my birthday and we went out to dinner at a very cute little vegan restaurant that I had really been looking forward to trying. Specifically, I was super excited to try their ‘mushroom calamari’, because it sounded like such a perfect idea! Now, I try hard to be generous with my reviews of vegan restaurants because I want them to get business and succeed. However, I cannot tell you how much of a fail this dish was. It was just awful. It’s like they took trumpet mushrooms, sliced them into uniform discs, then used a small cookie cutter to cut out uniform holes to make them look like rings, then ever-so-lightly breaded them in sand from the beach, and then baked them until they were burnt. They were so gritty it hurt my teeth. The rest of our food was decent (not spectacular) and the service and ambiance was lovely, so I’ll just give you a hint, their name (ironically) rhymes with Awesome. I wouldn’t have minded so much but this place was really pricey.
If you haven’t noticed yet, one of my favorite hobbies is to research restaurants that look interesting or cool and learn about their menu, philosophy, and public perception. Then I go and taste as much as I can. Usually there is something so amazing that I just have to try to copy it at home, like an homage. If I were a musician, these would be my ‘cover song’ recipes. But every once in a while, I try something that just makes me want to yell, ‘you’re doing it wrong!’ And then I can’t sleep or work until I get in that kitchen and make whatever it is, the way I think it should be. So this is one of those situations. Haha.
So a few notes about why my mushroom calamari brings all the boys to the yard: first of all, I used shitake mushrooms, which have a very similar ‘rubbery’ texture to real calamari. Instead of a cookie cutter, I used the tip of a sharp knife to cut out rings, this led to a more irregular and realistic looking squid ring. I also used enoki mushrooms, because you have to have tentacles right?! I experimented with a few different breadings, from bread crumbs, to panko, to egg replacer and flour. All were pretty good, but the best result turned out to be good old fashioned beer batter. I’ve got to admit this recipe is my pride and joy! Alright, enough gloating, here’s the recipe:
Shitake and Enoki Calamari
Serves two as an appetizer
3 cups peanut oil
1.5 cup flour
1-2 cans pale colored beer (I used Bud Light, don’t judge me)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
12 shitake mushrooms, the pointier the better, as opposed to flat cap
1 bunch of enoki mushrooms
Salt to taste
Lemon wedges
1/2 cup good quality marinara or cocktail sauce
In a deep frying pan or dutch oven (or deep fryer) get the peanut oil heated up to about 350 degrees, or over med-high heat.
First combine the 1.5 cup of flour and 1 can of beer in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. You are going for a pancake batter consistency, so add more beer if necessary. Add the garlic powder and paprika and stir it up. Then let it rest on the counter while you prepare the mushrooms. For the shitake, sometimes I was able to slice off the pointy top two thirds of the cap, and the stem would fall away, leaving me with a  perfect ring. But mostly, I held them stem-up on the cutting board, and used the point of a knife to saw a little circle around the stem. Try to keep the rings as thin as possible without breaking them, because the batter adds a lot of bulk!
For the enokis, I just broke them apart in little bunches of 8 (they stay attached at the base), and be careful because these little guys are delicate.
One by one, coat the mushrooms in the batter and drop them into the hot oil. After dipping them into the batter, really shake them off, because the batter puffs up so much, you only need a thin coat. For the enokis, try to separate the stems from each other, so they fry with little splayed ‘tentacles’.
Turn them a couple times as you fry, they are ready when they turn light golden.  Take them out of the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Serve immediately with a light sprinkle of salt, lemon wedges, and a small dish of marinara for dipping. Remember that the tedious cutting away of the stems to make rings is purely an aesthetic exercise, so if you don’t care if these look like sliced squid, just skip that step and get to the good stuff. Yum!
P.S. I had quite a bit of batter left over, because I wanted to work with a nice deep bowl while dipping the mushrooms. Feel free to do what I did and go on a mad hunt around your kitchen looking for anything and everything that could possibly be battered and deep fried, onion rings anyone?