I grew up eating Italian food. I'm Italian on both sides of the family. My mom is of old California pioneer stock (her family came from Louisiana for the Gold Rush.) They were French but soon hooked up with a bunch of Italians out here in California so the non Italian relatives on her side are down to about 1/8 of a percent. My dads' family was straight off the boat, he was first generation. His family were from Florence and Siena. On his side they're a distinguished bunch and we even have a coat of arms and a couple of Pope relatives from waaaay back in the day.
Despite all this Italian business, and having two grandmothers who were excellent cooks, why was my mom serving Chef Boyardee raviolis out of the can, and boxed instant pasta and frozen pizza from Kraft? The answer is pretty simple; she hated to cook. My mom had a can opener and a dream and that dream was to get the food on the family table with a minimum of effort and cost. She didn't believe in preheating an oven before putting food into it, and "scratch" was what you did to an itch. The closest she got to homemade was Bisquick. It wasn't because she was lazy, it was because she really didn't care much about food, and she never quite understood those of us who do. Food was just something you had to feed your family and yourself to keep breathing and so let's not make too big a thing of it.
I on the other hand was intrigued by all the stuff I saw my grandmotthers doing in the kitchen and I really wanted to learn to do it too. I started cooking for myself when I was about 11 years old using one of my great grandmother's old California pioneer cookbooks...where there were no oven temperatures because...fire...and several recipes for squirrel. Gradually I figured stuff out and while I've cooked a lot of stuff over the years...never used that squirrel recipe yet.
One of the first things I learned to cook was pasta. I learned to cook it out of the box al dente, then I cooked it fresh, and finally I started making my own pasta.
Pasta is not something we eat that often around our house, mainly because I'm usually cooking Indian food. Also, in the name of not eating too many heavy carbs, pasta is saved for special treat days. Recently the question came up as to how to get that "Pasta feeling" without the actual pasta. The other question was how to get that pasta to turn in an Indian food direction. The answer was a Spiralizer. So, I bought one.
What a nifty device. This thing turns vegetables into pasta but the ultimate test was to try it out on my live in guinea pig, my husband Alan. I figured that pasta made of zucchini would taste great with a tomato sauce and I knew a classic Indian Butter Spiced Tomato Sauce that just fit the bill. I had to give this a try.
Zucchini Pasta With Indian Spiced Tomato Sauce
Here's What You Need:
2 Large zucchini
2 14 oz cans of tomatoes
2 large shallots
2 Tbs ghee or unsalted butter
2 bay leaves
2 black cardamom pods
5 green cardamom pods
2 serrano chilies
6 thin slices of peeled ginger
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried methi (fenugreek leaves)
1/2 to 1 cup whipping cream
I cinnamon stick
Here's What To Do:
Put the black cardamom pods and the green cardamom pods in a mortar and crush them gently. You just want to crack the pods slightly.
Chop two serrano chilies finely and put them in the bowl with the cardamoms and cloves.
Peel and thinly slice some fresh ginger. You want 6 thin slices.
Place them in the bowl with the other stuff and toss in a a cinnamon stick.
In a skillet or kadhai heat the butter or ghee.
When it's nice a foamy toss in the cinnamon, bay leaves, shallot, cloves, cardamoms, serrano chilies, and ginger slices.
Stir them around for about 1 minute then add in the shallots.
Saute everything together for a few minutes until the shallots start to turn a light brown.
Add in the tomatoes, paprika and nutmeg.
pour in 1 cup of water.
Bring everything to a boil, then put a lid on the pot and turn it down to a simmer.
Stir it occasionally. (I used canned tomatoes because I've eaten all our fresh ones and I find a good canned tomato is better than a mediocre fresh one.)
The idea is to get the tomatoes soft and pulpy and the sauce should decrease in volume by half. You are cooking this down.This takes about 20 to 25 minutes.
When the sauce has reduced turn off the heat and let it cool a bit.
Take the cooled sauce and either run it through a food mill, (I don't have one) or a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl.
Press the tomato sauce through the mesh leaving the pulp and the whole spices behind.
Pour the reduced sauce back into the skillet or kadhai.
...the dried fenugreek leaves (methi)...
...and the cream. I used 1/2 a cup but you can use up to 1 cup if you find you need it.
Rewarm the sauce, blending in the new ingredients. Watch the temp as you don't want this stuff to curdle!
Simmer it gently and then set it aside. Time to make the zucchini pasta.
Take a couple of large zucchini and wash them well. Cut off each end, then cut the zucchini in half.
Place it on the spiralizer using the noodle blade and turn.
Now you can take this pasta and heat it in a bit of butter to soften it...(we tried it that way.)
It only takes a minute or two....or...
You can also use the thinly sliced zucchini noodles raw, which we also did.
Actually we preferred the vegetable pasta raw as it gave the perfect al dente feel to the dish.
Set a serving of pasta up in a pasta bowl, and drizzle the warm spicy tomato sauce over it.
This is a great substitute for a grain pasta, as it's gluten free and not at all heavy.
My pasta loving husband wolfed this down, and said he couldn't believe he was actually loving this unpasta pasta. My next experiment with this dish will be to try the sauce vegan style using coconut milk instead of cream, and coconut oil in place of butter. I think this should work beautifully.
Either way, this is a lovely quick dish, guaranteed to please. You can make the tomato sauce ahead of time and warm it up when you're ready to serve. You can't beat that. Try it on your pasta lovers and see what happens. That dang spiralizer is the best thing I've bought in ages... and kids love to watch the veggies go round and round, an absolute win win recipe. Coming up next...sweet sweet preparation for the Holdiays. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori