Choose Raw Zucchini For A Hydration-Boosting Pasta Night

Zucchini noodles or 'zoodles' are the answer to pasta night when looking for a hydration-boosting meal, especially as the temps continue to soar. The vegetable, which is technically a fruit, contains only 3 grams of carbohydrates per cup compared to pasta, which can have 37 to 43 grams of carbs per cup, depending on the variety.

Spiralized zucchini noodles can be enjoyed at any temperature. However, to take advantage of the veggie's high water content, keep them raw and replace all or some of the spaghetti, fettuccine, or linguini in your favorite pasta dishes. Consuming it raw also provides a greater vitamin C level than cooking it. Since the skin contains most of its nutrients, avoid peeling zucchini when preparing recipes. 

Although available year-round, May through August is the peak time for thin-skinned, fewer-seed, local options. Try to buy organic when you can and thoroughly wash the veggie before consuming, especially when raw, to remove harmful bacteria. Spiralized vegetables can be purchased in many supermarkets but can easily be made at home for much less.

How to make zucchini noodles

A chef's knife is the only essential tool needed to prepare raw zucchini noodles, although a vegetable peeler, mandoline, or spiralizer will enable you to create more "pasta" shapes. With a bit of patience and skill, home cooks can mimic their desired shape, substituting zucchini in most of their pasta recipes.

Begin by trimming off the ends of the cleaned zucchini. Use a knife, vegetable peeler, or mandoline to slice the zucchini into long strips. If you're making wider noodle shapes like pappardelle, try cutting the zucchini as thin as possible, which is where an adjustable mandoline comes in handy. Vegetable peelers can also give you a thin slice but tend to dull quickly, which will chew up the veggie.

Once the zucchini is sliced into strips, use a chef's knife to julienne the pieces into matches or cut them lengthwise into quarters if you prefer a thicker noodle like linguini or fettuccini. The wide noodles can also be used to make lasagna.

You'll need a gadget for curly noodles like those prepared at the supermarket. Spiralizers are available as attachments for stand mixers and make quick work of vegetables. However, less expensive hand-cranked models perform just as well but take longer.

Zoodle dishes

Zucchini noodles can be tossed with vinaigrettes, creamy dips like guacamole, or your favorite pasta sauce. Serving the noodles with a hot pasta sauce will keep them 'al dente,' but warm the zoodles through to remove some of the veggie's snap.

Raw zoodles will initially be crunchy but soften and release moisture after being dressed. Leftover raw zucchini noodles that have been dressed may get watery and need to be drained and reseasoned the next day.

If you're concerned that you can't sell the concept to the entire family, start by swapping out half of your favorite pasta with similarly cut zoodles. It will give you all the comfort of a bowl of pasta with benefits. 

Hearty meat and even cream sauces are delicious with zoodles and feel decadent. Unlike pasta which can leave you hungry later, the high water and fiber content keeps you full longer.

When the weather is warm, try replacing traditional noodles with zoodles for a lighter take on the classic cold sesame noodles by combining julienned carrots, cucumbers, and red cabbage with a peanut sauce made with ground ginger, soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, and fish sauce. This is the perfect recipe to use up the dregs in an almost empty jar of peanut butter.