I love noodles. I love that slurpy, soft-yet-substantive, dances in my mouth texture. I love that they sop up flavors and hold court with the delicate and down-home alike. I love that each form tastes different than its brothers - a thin wide ribbon so unlike short grains of risotto or fat springy spirals!
...Did I mention I love noodles? Oh yeah, and I'm Italian. And I've realized it's not the wheat I'm in love with when it comes to these delicious noodley bits - its the noodleyness! And we can Absolutely make amazing noodles out of vegetables. I hate calling it zucchini "pasta", or cauliflower "rice". It feels like a cop-out. Like I'm attempting to substitute for the real and better thing. It makes me miss "real pasta" and "real rice" - except I don't! Truly I don't - wheat pasta doesn't float on the tongue the way a well cooked zucchini noodle does, white rice doesn't hold a candle to the texture and flavors I can build with grains of cauliflower!
All this little burst of inspiration hit me when I was home, thinking up something to cook for me and my mom. So I made noodles. Happy noodles. :) Enjoy!
Ingredients: (serves 2, easily made for more)
1 sweet bell pepper, pith and seeds removed. Julienned or chopped.
1/2c sweet grapes, chopped
1/2c sweet tomatoes, chopped
1/2c baby spinach
1/2c onion or shallot, diced - or pearl onions halved
1/4c cashews, chopped (if salted you may not need to salt the dish)
1tbsp olive oil
2 zucchini, peeled then stripped with a veggie peeler into noodles
salt, fresh cracked black pepper, garlic to taste
(If using fresh garlic saute in pan with the rest. My mom has this amazing spice grinder of roasted garlic flakes that you grind up right onto your food - amazing flavor for dried!)
Into saute pan on med-high heat: olive oil, onions and garlic if using until fragrant. Add all ingredients except zucchini and spices. Saute until they blacken a little and release their juices. Stir only every 6-7 minutes to allow that caramelization to happen, about 15 min total.
Meanwhile, strip your zucchini into noodles. Don't include the outer peel, and stop when you reach the seedy middle. Save that part for roasted veggies later - seedy noodles are not so good and break apart easily in the pan. This is so easy! I love the wide flat texture, they cook up so slippery and noodley and hold onto a good amount of sauce mmmmm
Once your spinach is wilted and veggies are sufficiently softened and blended, remove from pan leaving the oil behind. Into the skillet toss your noodles on high heat, allowing them to brown and soften without becoming mushy. This only takes about 2 minutes.
Toss the toppings back into the pan and mix them with the noodles, then serve it up with some cracked black pepper, garlic and salt to taste!