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

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Creamy Mac n’ Cheese

mac n' cheez

Oh Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. The mystery of its Day-Glo orange color, the flood of nostalgia from its delicious orange powder, the squelching sound of the sauce filling the hollows of the noodles as you stir– it’s all disgustingly good. Except, of course, the fact that it’s basically processed poison. From the shit storm of chemicals and food dyes, to the controversial palm oil (goodbye orangutan habitats and rainforests), the outrageous amount of salt and fat, and of course, the dehydrated bodily fluids from mistreated animals. Way to kill my mac n’ cheese reverie Kraft! Jeez…

Oh well, there are other cruelty-free options out there on the shelves like those from Daiya or Earth Balance, but to be honest, they are gross. Fake cheese in general still has a long way to go. In my opinion the best thing you can do is not try to make ‘fake’ cheese sauce, but use real, whole ingredients to make a WHOLESOME cheesy sauce. Sure, it’s still aiming to be that flavor that you know and love, but it’s taking the whole food route, instead of the chemical one. The result is much more palatable and WAYYYYYY healthier. I think this recipe tastes way more like the mac n’cheese I grew up on than those store-bought fake cheese alternatives.

There was one sure-fire test that I knew this sauce had to pass before I could post this recipe. It had to pass muster with the only person I know who had consumed as much poundage of Kraft Mac n’Cheese growing up as I did myself– that is, my brother.

I’m proud to say that after tasting a spoonful of sauce I got an enthusiastic, “This is what I’m having for dinner, make me a bowl now!” In other words, two thumbs up. I have to humbly agree, it’s delicious. It doesn’t taste ‘fake’. Also, it just so happens to have 28 grams of protein in the whole recipe of sauce. That means that if you compare it to a serving size of Kraft’s, you get 10 grams of protein per serving compared to Kraft’s 7 grams. And let’s face it, you are going to eat 2 servings right!? The other great thing is that this recipe doesn’t use any fake butter or added oil, so it’s very low in fat! One more bonus, nutritional yeast is full of B vitamins, (what up B12) folic acid, and other lovelies. Throw in some quinoa pasta to the equation and you have yourself an actual, whole food, healthy and delicious dinner. It’s a mac n’ cheezy miracle.

Creamy Mac n’ Cheese

Makes 6 servings

3 cups of dry macaroni (or pasta shape of your choice)

1 small peeled sweet potato (hello orange color!) peeled and diced

1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped

1/2 cup of raw cashews (soaked in water for an hour, then rinsed and drained)

1/4 cup soy milk (or whatever non-dairy milk you like best)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (found at any health food store or online, this ingredient is KEY)

1/4-1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid

1-2 tsp yellow mustard

1-2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 pinch of paprika

1 pinch of cayenne

Garnish: a few tablespoons of minced chives

Optional Bread Crumb Topping:

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 tbs olive oil (disclaimer: this partially negates those low-fat claims above)

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp black pepper

 

First off, cook pasta according to its package, which generally entails throwing it into a pot of boiling water for about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, fill another small pot with about 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the chopped sweet potato and onion and boil until fork tender, mine took about 15 minutes. When done, drain them from the water, while making sure to catch about a cup of the cooking liquid.

In a blender, combine the sweet potatoes, onions, cashews, soy milk, the nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, 1 tsp of mustard, and 1 tsp of salt. Add the garlic, paprika, and cayenne. Blend it until very smooth. Give it a little taste, you might want to add another teaspoon of mustard to make it tangier, and another 1/2 tsp of salt, depending on your own taste. You might want to add another 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. (I always liked a super thick sauce while my husband likes a thinner sauce, so it’s up to your own tastes!)

Get out a 9″x 13″ baking dish and pour in the cooked pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss them together until thoroughly combined. You can either consider yourself done here or go for the topping!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine all the topping ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Sprinkle the topping over the mac n’ cheese and put in the oven. Keep a close eye and take out when the bread crumbs have turned a nice golden brown.

Sprinkle with minced chives and enjoy!

P.S. This cheese sauce can be used on more than just pasta, pour it over broccoli or throw in some minced jalapeños and red bell peppers, maybe even some vegan butter and chili powder and pour it over tortilla chips for some epic vegan nachos!!!!!

 

vegan mac n'cheese

 

 

Spaghetti and Juicy Eggplant Mushroom Meatballs

Spaghetti and Eggplant Mushroom Meatballs

I’m not a huge fan of faux/processed meats, so I enjoy the challenge of recreating classic dishes with real whole foods from scratch. So here it is, my version of the beloved spaghetti and meatballs! (You could also make meatballs with the recipe for my super deluxe double double-take veggie burger patties, but I think this one is a bit less laborious.)

On a side note, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I rarely give exact measurements for salt in my recipes- I believe it’s just too personal of a decision. Depending on who you ask, it’s always too little or not enough. So my recommendation is: add a little shake, give it a taste, and see if it needs more. One of the many amazing things about plant-based cooking is that nothing is going to kill you -like raw meat could. This means you can really taste as you go along and control your flavors from beginning to end according to your own tastes.

Another ‘issue’ that has been brought to my attention is that I have a serious garlic addiction! Whatever amount of garlic a recipe tells me to add, I like to quadruple it. This is particularly noticeable in my raw recipes, where the garlic can have a wasabi-like intensity! So if you aren’t crazy about garlic or can’t handle the heat, A.) You’re a pansy, and you need to get it together, and B.) Just use about half of what my recipe says. Very simple solution. By the way, I think the garlic quantity in this recipe is actually a reasonable amount… for once.

I was really pleased with the great texture and loads of fresh flavor in these little meaty balls. I served this at a family brunch, and I got some very positive feedback from the skeptical non-veg crowd. Perfecto. Now tell me what you think if you try them!

Spaghetti and Juicy Eggplant Mushroom Meatballs

makes about 20 meatballs, depending on size

1 red bell pepper

1/4 cup flax seed meal

3/4 cup water

*(Guess what? Last week I made these meatballs and totally forgot about the ‘flax egg’, but they still turned our really well. So if you don’t have flax meal or egg replacer of some kind in your repertoire, just leave it out. It’s only there to hold the balls together a tiny bit more, and they will still work without it.)

1 large eggplant, peeled and finely diced

3 cups finely diced Crimini mushrooms

8 cloves garlic, minced

3 shallots, finely diced

4 tbs olive oil, divided

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tbs red chili flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup white wine

1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley

1 cup panko bread crumbs

as much spaghetti as you want 🙂 (I used a gluten-free bread crumbs and pasta)

Tomato sauce of your choice

Using tongs, hold the bell pepper over an open high flame on you stove until it starts to blacken and blister all over. Once it cools down, peel off the skin and remove the seeds. Chop it up very finely, almost to a pulp.

Combine the flax and water in a bowl, give it a stir and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Add 3 tbs of olive oil to a big frying pan over medium heat. Throw in the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook 1 additional minute.

Add the eggplant, bell pepper, and mushroom to the pan and continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Add the red chili flakes, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Splash in the white wine to deglaze the pan and stir it around, scraping the bottom for 1 more minute.

Take the pan off the heat and let it cool a bit until you can handle it without burning yourself.

Strain the flax through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve to separate and reserve all the good sticky goo from the flax meal.

Add the panko, parsley, and ‘flax goo’, and mix everything together.

Grease a baking sheet with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Using your hands, mold the mixture into little 1.5″ meatballs, and line them up on the baking pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, turning every 8 minutes or so, so that they get brown all over.

Meanwhile, cook your spaghetti according to the box, and heat up the sauce in a separate pan.

Serve the spaghetti with a few meatballs piled on, and pour some sauce on top.

Just like grandma used to make.

spaghetti

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

MMMM… Lasagna. Slightly laborious, but so delicious it doesn’t matter. Even the leftovers are fantastic. I first experimented with using a tofu based sauce in place of the ricotta, but it tasted too much like… tofu. Not good. Cashews turned out to be much better, very creamy and just the right texture. Roasting the vegetables before putting them into the lasagna really brings out their flavors, and you can use any combination you like. Also, using a fresh, homemade tomato sauce makes a world of difference, and this sauce is really easy and quick. You can use it for all sorts of applications and it saves you money in the long run. A lot of plant based lasagnas have fake cheese, fake meat, etc., but I find that those ‘slightly wrong’ flavors are distracting. This lasagna is essentially just made with whole plant foods. You could take it a step further and use layers of thinly sliced zucchini and eggplant in place of the noodles, equally delicious! I don’t think I have ever equated lasagna with healthy food, but here it is!

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Makes 4 large servings

15 asparagus spears, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise

10 crimini mushrooms, sliced thinly

1/2  kabocha squash, sliced thinly

2 big tomatoes, sliced thinly

2 zucchinis, sliced thinly

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tbs Italian seasoning

1 box lasagna noodles (about 9 noodles, or enough for 3 layers in your dish)

2 cups cashews, soaked overnight

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tbs salt (or to your taste)

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup water

6 big tomatoes

2 tbs olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 tbs italian seasoning

1 head garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 c white wine

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 tbs brown sugar

1 cup fresh spinach

1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

3 tbs Fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

1/4 cup panko brea crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Try to slice all your asparagus, mushrooms, squash, tomatoes and zucchini to about the same thickness. In a large bowl, toss your sliced veggies with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and seasoning. Line two baking sheets with foil and lay the veggies in a single layer. Bake for approx. 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, blend the cashews, nutmeg, salt, and garlic. Add the water in a little bit at a time. You might not need all of it, you are just incorporating enough to make the cashew mixture spreadable, like ricotta cheese. Set aside

Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Drop the 6 tomatoes into the boiling water for 1 minute, then remove with tongs and rinse under cold water. The skins should easily peel right off now. On a large cutting board, cut away the tough center where the stems attach and dice up the tomatoes, seeds, juice and all. You want to keep as much juice as possible!

Add the lasagna noodles to the boiling water and cook according to directions, mine was 12 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat the 2 tbs of olive oil over medium high heat. Toss in the onion and italian seasoning. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Then toss in the garlic and sauté for about 1 more minute. When the garlic starts to turn a light golden color, pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan. Add the tomatoes, brown sugar, and salt and keep stirring for another 5 minutes.

To assemble your lasagna, you will need 5” x 9” or 9” x 13” a glass baking dish. You could use other similar dimensioned dishes, you just might need to cut the lasagna noodles to fit, no big deal.

Now the fun part. Start by slathering about a quarter of your tomato sauce all over the bottom of the dish. Next do a single layer of noodles. On top of the noodles, scoop out 1/3 of your cashew ricotta and spread it evenly over the noodles. Top that with 1/2 of your roasted assorted veggies. Layer on some spinach leaves and sprinkle on half of the chopped basil. Another layer of sauce, noodles, cashew ricotta, roasted veggies, spinach, basil, and then you will top that with your final noodles. I spread the remaining cashew ricotta and tomato sauce on top, and sprinkled it with the panko bread crumbs.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until it is nice and bubbly and the panko is golden.

Pull it out and sprinkle the chopped parsley on top.

Let it rest for about 5 minutes before diving in!

Pesto Sauce

pesto

So I have already mentioned this recipe for the Kale Quinoa Bliss Bowl, but I think it deserves a post all it’s own. This is my favorite recipe of all time. It is so versatile, you can use it as a dip, like hummus for veggie sticks or crackers, as a salad dressing, as a pasta sauce, as a marinade, as a sandwich spread, it just makes everything better. It is also great for you, it’s anti-inflammatory, raw, and full of antioxidants. It even has a little  protein and fiber as well! I know traditionally pesto has pine nuts, which I love, but lately they have been so unbelievably expensive, I just can’t justify it, especially considering how much of this stuff I go through. Not to mention almonds have more protein. But you are free to sub them in for the almonds. I hope you try it and tell me what you think.

Pesto Sauce

makes about 2 cups

3 cups purified water

1.5 cups raw almonds (cashews work too)

2 packed cup fresh basil, thick stems removed

6 cloves garlic

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup first cold pressed olive oil (use only 1/4 cup if you want it to be thicker like a dip, 1/2 cup for a pasta sauce.)

Combine the almonds and purified water and let them soak on the counter for a few hours, covered by a dish towel. You will notice that once they have been soaked, the almonds pop right out of their brown skins. Go ahead and take off all the skins, it makes for a much better pesto and they come off very easily. (No need to soak if you are using pine nuts.) Throw the peeled almonds, along with the rest of the ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend away until a smooth creamy sauce forms. It lasts in the fridge for about a week.

Here are a couple delicious uses for this sauce. I got a great new kitchen tool called the Spirooli, and it turns things like zucchini into delicate linguine noodles, or sweet potatoes into curly fries. (it’s not an expensive tool, and it’s so much fun, I highly recommend getting one!!)

linguine

Raw Pesto Zucchini Linguine

makes 1 serving

2 zucchinis, peeled and spiralized

2/3 cup Pesto Sauce

Toss and serve!

**You can also add two tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan, and saute the noodles for about 3 minutes, this makes them almost exactly the same texture as actual pasta, and the garlic in the sauce becomes deliciously caramelized. Enjoy!

I also made this purple cabbage cole slaw, this was so crunchy and delicious!

red cabbage pesto slaw

Purple Cabbage Pesto Cole Slaw

makes about 2 servings

1/4 of a whole purple cabbage

1/2 orange bell pepper

1/2 cup Spicy Creamy Pesto Sauce

2 tbs minced white onion

Slice the purple cabbage and bell pepper very thinly. Put everything in a big bowl and toss to combine. This is great right away, or even up to two days later. If you are going to eat it right away, you can throw in a handful of micro-greens too.

Pumpkin Cream Sauce

image

Ok, so I did not make the ravioli shown here (Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ravioli) but this sauce would be great on anything, like the filling for a pot pie! If you try it, let me know what you think. I used pre-made pumpkin butter for this recipe. But if you can’t find it at the store, you could always make it yourself (it’s great for so many things -on toast, ice cream, sandwiches.)  All you do is combine pumpkin puree, honey, lemon juice, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and a touch of ginger in a pan. bring it to a boil then reduce and stir it on low heat for about 30 minutes till it looks thick and spreadable. Something like that.

Pumpkin Cream Sauce

(2 servings as a pasta sauce)

3 tbs earth balance

2 tbs all purpose flour

2 tsp pureed garlic (or minced)

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup almond milk

3 tbs pumpkin butter

salt and pepper to taste

a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional)

Melt the earth balance in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir it in until well combined and golden-y, about a minute or two. Add the garlic and keep on stirring so it caramelizes but doesn’t get too brown. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Keep stirring until it gets to a nice thick alfredo-y texture, about 5 more minutes. You might need to lower the heat a bit when you add the milk. As always, give it a taste, you might just want to swirl in a little more pumpkin butter. Toss with some pasta and try not to lick the hot pan!