Zucchini Makes a Great Gluten Free Pasta Option!

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by Jordan Danz & Clare Jacky

There aren’t a lot of people who don't love a big bowl of pasta. Whether it is served with a bright pesto or a fresh tomato sauce, simple olive oil and garlic, or a creamy vodka sauce, a bowl of pasta always makes me feel warm and homey. But as we have mentioned in previous posts, we are currently riding the gluten-free train, which means that that big bowl of puttanecsca with bowtie pasta is off the table. Besides, that nice, warm feeling lasts about 20 minutes until that bowl of delicious pasta becomes a brick in my stomach. So instead of staring longingly at The Olive Garden ads on television (we are not sure if that is really pasta anyway), we decided to figure out some substitutions.

There are many great gluten-free pasta options on the market that are grain-based. (I am personally partial to the brown rice ones made by Joy.) You can get pasta made from nearly any grain: quinoa, brown rice, teff, millet and corn. Some work better than others depending on the type of sauce or dish that you are trying to make, and they often take a bit longer to cook than your normal wheat flour pasta so plan accordingly. For this cooking experiment, we toyed with the idea of brown rice pasta or quinoa, but with summer fast approaching, we were feeling inspired to make something really fresh and light. No bricks in the stomach here. So we ditched the grains completely and made zucchini pasta instead.

Zucchini pasta is excellent because you get a serious load of veggies while still maintaining a homey pasta dish. If you have never had zucchini or summer squash pasta, be prepared for the different texture and taste. Like spaghetti squash, pasta made from zucchini and summer squash do not have quite that chewy gluten factor that grain-based pastas will have. So if you are truly craving the texture, opt for a grain-based pasta like those listed above. Although a little different, zucchini pasta makes a great platform for a delicious sauce, which is exactly what we were going for. Plus, you have all those delicious nutrients instead of a bowl full of gluten. Double win.

There are a couple incredibly simple options for making zucchini pasta. The first technique involves a special machine called a Vegetable Spiralizer. There are several different types and they are all pretty affordable. This machine creates a spaghetti-like shape out of vegetables that are spun in the machine. If you do not have a spiralizer and don't want to purchase one, you can use a vegetable peeler or a mandolin slicer to create noodles.

Simply peel long thin strips that will resemble pappardelle pasta. Once you get to the core simply turn the zucchini and peel down to the core.

Try your zucchini pasta in the following recipe:

Zucchini Pasta Primavera with Prosciutto

6–8 zucchinis turned into pasta

4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 bag frozen peas

1 4-6oz package prosciutto, sliced into strips

1 onion, sliced

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Tbsp red pepper flakes

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

4 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

3 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

4 green onions, chopped

In a large skillet heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil to medium temperature. Add onions and cook for about three minutes until just soft. Add garlic and prosciutto and cook another three minutes until prosciutto is starting to crisp. Add the tomatoes and lower the temperature to medium low. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and let simmer for 10-20 minutes.

In a large pot (one you would use to boil pasta), heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil to medium low heat and add the smashed garlic cloves to flavor. Let the garlic flavor the oil for about 10–20 minutes, then remove. Add the zucchini pasta and some salt and cook in olive oil until just tender. (The zucchini will release a bit of its water.)

Once sauce has simmered, add the parsley, basil, tarragon, lemon zest, lemon juice and peas. Cook until peas are just warmed through. Mix the zucchini pasta and the sauce and serve in a large serving bowl, top with the green onions and enjoy.

*Feel free to use real pasta or a store bought gluten free pasta in place of the zucchini.

Jordan Danz and Clare Jacky are the co-editors of the food blog OurQueerDinner.wordpress.com, a collection of recipes and stories centered on their chosen family of friends in Minneapolis. They share a common love for food, family dinners and Saturday morning PBS cooking shows.