September 4th, 2012
I’ve been inspired! And I think you will be, too.
I was recently on my friend Elizabeth’s site, Brooklyn Supper, and spied her Zucchini “Noodles” with Marinara and Sausage. I’ve seen zucchini noodles before, but these caught my eye. I think it might have been the sausage.
Most cookbooks that encourage you to swap zucchini for pasta are uber healthy odes to raw or vegan food. I can appreciate that, but it doesn’t inspire me. Sausage, on the other hand, does. Especially when paired with peak season zucchini.
So Elizabeth (and her, uh, sausage) sold me, but what about the boys—the hungry papa especially. Would they think this was some nerdy food move? A plea to be vegans Monday-Friday. (It’s crossed my mind!) I wasn’t sure, but with sweet Italian pork sausage as my lifeline, I embarked on an adventure to serve the hungry family zucchini ribbons in place of pasta.
Making zucchini ribbons is fun and, to my surprise, quite easy (provided you have a wide vegetable peeler or mandolin). And, once dressed with tomato sauce and, of course, Italian sausage, they are remarkably satisfying. As much as pasta, if not as filling.
Did I like zucchini ribbons? I did. A lot. The hungry papa did, too. A lot.
The kids, not so much. But, in all fairness to zucchini ribbons, the kids had been out all day and were exhausted. It was not the best night to introduce zucchini, their least favorite veg*, served in lieu of pasta, their most favorite food. For the record, the hungry baby ate some leftovers the next days (which tasted just as good as the night before) and Elizabeth’s kids totally ate her zucchini ribbons. Sigh.
Regardless, I plan on making zucchini ‘pasta’ again and again, and I’m not even trying to go vegan or take on some other nerdy health food challenge. I just like them. And, after a few tries (or ten), the hungry boys will, too.
*Zucchini is actually the hungry boy’s least favorite vegetable. The hungry baby (how long can I call him that?) just does and says everything that his older brother does and says. So, for now, neither of them like zucchini. Whatevs.
Zucchini Ribbons with Sausage
adapted from Brooklyn Supper
(can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)*
4 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for cooking sausage
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
Tomato sauce with butter and onion**
5 medium zucchini, washed and tops trimmed
Freshly grated Parmesan
1. Drizzle just a little bit of olive oil in a medium pan set over medium heat. When it is hot, add sausage and cook through. Remove from heat and cut cooked sausage crosswise into coin-sized medallions. Add sausage to tomato sauce and set aside.
2. In the meantime, using a vegetable peeler or mandolin adjusted to a very thin slice, cut the zucchini into lengthwise ribbons. Keep them thick (I do this for the grown ups) or stack the ribbons and use a knife to cut them lengthwise into thin spaghetti-like strips (I do this for the kids).
3. Cook the zucchini strips. I’ve seen several methods (e.g., blanch them in hot water, skip the heat and salt them in a colander where they can drain for 30-40 minutes), but this is my favorite: Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large pan set over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add half of the zucchini ribbons with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook, tossing the zucchini, for two to three minutes, until softened. You want to stop cooking the zucchini just before all of the water releases; if some seeps out, allow the cooked zucchini to drain before serving. Repeat with the remaining zucchini strips. Transfer all of the cooked (and drained) zucchini to a serving dish, top with sausage and tomato sauce. Taste to adjust salt and pepper. Finish with grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.
*Note: While it is safe to serve meat to children 6+ months, I prefer not to until at least 8-10 months (especially high fat meat like sausage). If you’re holding off on meat, simply puree or cut the zucchini into little pieces along with tomato sauce and grated Parmesan. Otherwise, add a piece of sausage, too!
**Note: I doubled the recipe to make my zucchini saucy and still have plenty of leftover sauce for the freezer