Monday, June 27, 2011

No-Cook Pasta Sauce - Angel Hair Zucchini

It is hot out there and in the kitchen. Temperatures have soared to around 110 Fahrenheit in the past few days here in Tucson and while we want to make nutritious meals for our families the idea of spending any significant time cooking in the kitchen does not appeal. 

A picture of the recent bounty from TMC's Community Garden on Facebook, and the recent release of the USDA's new food guidelines, My Plate, prompted a little research for recipes that were low on heat, pretty low on preparation, but high on taste and nutrition. 

I found what I was looking for in one of my go-to online resources, Debbie Koenig's blog, Words to Eat By-No-Cook Pasta Sauce -Angel Hair Zucchini. I ran it past one of our TMC dietitian to check it was a good dish to share and Debbie gave the all clear to share it on this forum too. Thanks Debbie. (Debbie often focuses on easy preparation, high nutrition and tasty meals with families in mind. She has a book coming out early next year just on this topic.)

Produce isn't just cheaper if it is season, it tastes a whole lot better too so what ever the meal it had to make use of seasonal vegetables. Our garden is wild with squash and basil right now and zucchini is cheap in the stores so this dish seemed perfect for a summer evening. My comments are in italics in the recipe below. 

Photo Credit: Rachel Miller
Angel Hair Zucchini Serves 2, but doubles easily
Cooking Time: 60 minutes (20 minutes active)
Words to Eat By 

  • 3 small zucchini, trimmed and julienned into long strands 
  • 4 ounces angel hair pasta - I used whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup basil leave
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (I use Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 14 walnuts halves (this is not in the original recipe, but added to the protein portion) 

Note this isn't really julienned, but is is as close as I get.
Photo Credit: Rachel Miller
About an hour before you plan to eat, julienne the zucchini and put it in a colander. Toss with 1 teaspoon salt, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, until much of the liquid has been drawn out.

About 25 minutes before you plan to eat, put a large pot of salted water on to boil—cover it to speed things up. When it boils, cook pasta according to package directions.

While it’s cooking, lay a kitchen towel on the counter. Take handfuls of the zucchini and give them a good squeeze over the sink to wring out as much liquid as possible. Spread the zucchini out on the towel, and roll it up like a jellyroll. Squeeze over the sink to remove even more moisture. Unroll over a large serving bowl, and let all the zucchini fall into it.

This is probably the most labor intensive part of the process apart from cutting up the zucchini. I have my four-year old squeeze the zucchini. Involving her in the food preparation always helps her interest in the finished product.

Next, chiffonade the basil leaves: Stack them up, roll them into a cigar, and cut as thin as possible. Unroll and you’ll have beautiful slivers. Put these into the bowl (save a handful for sprinkling on top, if you want it to be pretty).

Before draining the pasta, reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. When it’s drained, add the pasta to the bowl. Pour on the olive oil, lemon juice, and Parmesan, and toss well (I use tongs for this). Add splashes of the reserved cooking water if it looks too dry, until the pasta glistens.

Serve topped with additional Parmesan.

No-Cook Spaghetti Zucchini in the My Plate format
Photo Credit: Rachel Miller
Before mixing together I separated out the portions just to see how they fit into the USDA's My Plate model. The My Plate graphic really helps in assessing quickly whether you're on track for good proportions. If you're not sure how much a portion is? My Plate has great guides to help you. A protein portion of walnuts? Nine walnuts. 

We have more recipes to try out from our TMC dietitian - Watch this space. 

Nutritional Facts per Serving
(Calculations are approximations)
Calories 437
Total Fat 16g
Carbohydrate 52g
Protein 16g
% of Calories from Fat 33%
% of Calories from Carbohydrate 48%
% of Calories from Protein 15%
Fiber 10g
Calcium 4%
Sodium 8%

Oh, and taste wise? This is a great quick meal that both kids and adults enjoy.


  1. It looks good for my health. I should probably try that recipe sometime. I should visit that site as well because I think it can help me in a lot of ways.

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  2. I'll be happy if you update us with more recipes. I prefer a gluten-free pasta for good health.

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  3. This sounds so appetizing. Thank you for sharing this.
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  4. This recipe was a very different way of serving pasta and hiding the veggies inside! I loved it and so did my picky 2 year old and husband. It wasn't that time intensive and to flip it, just put a cookie sheet over the top of your skillet, invert the pancake onto the sheet and the slide it back into the pan, easy!! Served it with jarred marinara sauce and roasted broccoli, yum!!
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  5. I decided to consider this dish after I read the nutrition facts. I believe it's very healthy and looking at the dish itself, I think it's delicious as well.
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  6. It's a great thing that you shared this recipe to us. I find it easy and good for my health as well. Thanks.
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  7. Can't we make a different sauce for this pasta? The one that suites the taste buds of our kids.
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  8. I'm thinking of adding chopped turkey meat into this zucchini recipe. Is it possible to add some dressing on this too?
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  9. This looks delicious and healthy at the same time. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I will definitely try this out. I'm loving the ingredients, it fits my diet.

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