My kids are really picky eaters. I find that I am having to get more and more deceptive about exactly how many vegies I am sneaking into their food. One of my recent inclusions are home made zucchini noodles. I bought this adorable little zoodle maker that looks like a giant crayon sharpener, but makes perfect zucchini noodles from fresh zucchini. I haven’t tries other vegies yet, but I bet cucumber would be nice in a salad in noodle form. Make sure you get medium sized zucchini if you are going to use this particular device as it will only accommodate small and medium.
I bought a container of zoodles from my local grocery store to see if I would like them before I invested in another kitchen gadget. Turns out I did! Tiny and I happened to be in a Hallmark store a few days later and stumbled upon this little guy. For only a few dollars, I can make my own at a fraction of the price. One 16oz container at the grocery store was about $5.00. Considering how much they cook down, that isn’t very much vegi for your dollar. For about 20 percent of that cost, I can have enough zoodles for the whole family when made at home.
Now for the good part – what to do with all of those freshly cut zoodles? My family loves pasta and all things Italian. They are fanatics about Italian in any form. So, I figured this would be the best way to see how they did. If you are truly trying to hide that they are vegies like I did, sauté them in a bit of salt, pepper and olive oil first. I also add a smidge of fresh minced garlic, but I add garlic to almost everything. On a medium high heat, sautee until tender and more like spaghetti shaped pasta. If you want more firmness skip that tip and bake directly in the oven in the recipe below. It is delish either way! For this bake, I made it more like a lasagna than traditional spaghetti. Papa Bear likes lasagna, the tinies like spaghetti best. So, we met in the middle.
For the Zoodle Spaghetti Bake:
3 medium zucchini
1 lb. ground beef – seasoned and browned
1 jar pre made pasta sauce
1 8 oz. container ricotta cheese (16 oz if you REALLY like ricotta – and yes, we do)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 medium onion
This recipe is so easy to put together. I sauté my zoodles to make them a bit softer and more pasta like. Drain the excess liquid that comes out of them and set aside. Thinly dice your onion and sweat until clear and soft. Add ground beef, and seasonings (salt, pepper, and garlic to taste) and brown. Drain and mix with pasta sauce. Begin layering ingredients as you would a traditional lasagna. Zoodles, thin layer of ricotta, sauce and repeat until you end with the top sauce layer. Sprinkle cheese on top and cook at 350 until the cheese is melted and golden. This is usually 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve with fresh parsley as a garnish. The first time I cooked zoodles, no one even knew it wasn’t pasta! I couldn’t believe it – I really thought that Papa Bear would bust me, but he didn’t. He did ask if it was a new kind of pasta, but liked it. I didn’t tell him for days that it was “vegi pasta.” In subsequent recipes, he has really liked it.
The great thing about zoodles is that you can make them ahead and store them in an air tight container in the fridge for about a week. You really want to go ahead and use them within a few days if possible, but if you are like me and like to meal prep and plan, it is a weeknight time saver to go ahead and have them prepared. Get your own zoodle maker here. Enjoy your lightened up Spaghetti Bake! Buen Provecho!