When I decide to eat “healthy,” that almost always means one thing — cutting carbs. All that other stuff you’re supposed to eat in moderation — bacon, cheese, butter, red meat — I mostly do OK eating those things in moderation. But pasta? Potatoes? Beer?! BREAD!?!? Nope, nope, nope, and nope. Give me bread or give me death.
Funny story — I was in college before I realized that white bread wasn’t a straight-up health food, on par with green beans and spinach. In fact, when I was about 11 years old (i.e., old enough to be aware of the fact that eating unhealthy foods could make you fat), my grandmother got a bread machine and brought us a piping-hot loaf of fresh white bread. And I. Ate. The whole. Thing. That night. And I remember thinking, “Man, it’s so good and healthy of me that I actually like the taste of bread! You can never have too much bread! It’s just like peas or carrots!”
Well. As it turns out, you can have too much bread. And too much beer and potatoes and pasta. Crazy, huh?
So if you’re like me, this is a perfect “healthy” dinner. Yes, there’s cheese and bacon, but the pasta IS ZUCCHINI, FOLKS. And I was actually pretty shocked by how much I liked it. It didn’t taste exactly like pasta, of course, but it felt like pasta. If that makes sense. I felt like I was eating pasta. And getting tons of veggies to boot. And — as if you needed a third reason — you don’t even have to cook the zucchini! Just shred ’em up, squeeze ’em tight, and get ’em in your belly.
BACON-PESTO ZUCCHINI SPAGHETTI (adapted from Perry’s Plate)
4 medium zucchini, washed and peeled into long, thin strips with a vegetable/potato peeler
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
6 stalks asparagus
1/4 cup basil pesto (you can buy premade, or see my tip below for a lighter homemade version)
grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
1. Place zucchini strips in a colander over a bowl/the sink. Sprinkle zucchini liberally with salt and toss to combine. Let zucchini sit for 15 minutes or so (so the salt can draw out the excess moisture). Drain zucchini, squeezing it with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, fill medium saucepan with water and heat to boiling. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Cut tough ends off asparagus and add asparagus to boiling water. Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 4-5 minutes, then remove and immediately submerge in ice bath. When asparagus has cooled, chop into 2-inch pieces.
3. In large bowl, combine zucchini ‘noodles’ with pesto, green onions, bacon, and asparagus. Toss well, top with grated parmesan cheese, and serve. Can serve room temperature or chilled.
Really, really, shockingly good. A few things.
One — I actually preferred this chilled. Felt extra light and fresh.
Two — I make my own pesto using this recipe, except I lighten it up considerably by swapping out the 2/3 cup olive oil for 2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp broth (veggie, chicken, whatever you have). The broth-for-oil thing is one of my favorite swaps!
Three — If you’re quasi-interested in this zucchini-as-noodles thing but not sure you’re ready to fully commit to it, how about going halfsies? The next time you make spaghetti, swap out half of your noodles for some zucchini ‘noodles.’ I think one medium zucchini corresponds to one generous serving of noodles. I for one am definitely going to try this.