zucchini pasta

Looking for wheat-free or gluten-free pasta? You’ve probably tried gluten-free noodles made from rice, or quinoa, but what about the noodles that aren’t actually pasta at all? These three pasta-free pastas are all-natural and all-delicious. And best of all, you can use them in pasta recipes both raw and cooked, making them perfect for spring and summer cooking. Here’s to healthy pasta recipes without the pasta!

Zucchini Squash

Zucchini squash, also called summer squash, is commonly used in raw recipes for pasta, as it makes tender, fettuccini-like noodles when sliced lengthwise very thinly.

To use zucchini squash in place of fettuccini in your recipes, it’s easiest to use a mandoline to slice it into paper-thin lengths. If you don’t have a mandoline, simply use a paring knife and slowly shave off the slices going from tip-to-tip lengthwise. You can peel the squash beforehand if you want the noodles to be completely white-colored, but the green and yellow skins left on will actually yield really beautiful slices.

You can use your zucchini noodles raw for your pasta dishes, even if the sauce in the recipe is cooked. If you’d like softened but still raw zucchini noodles, sprinkle them with salt and let them drain in a colander or bowl for about 30 minutes before using them in your recipe. The salt draws out the moisture and will help soften them a bit, making for flexible, toothy noodles.

Alternatively, you can steam or gently sauté the sliced zucchini noodles until just-tender for a softer noodle. The choice is up to you whether you like them totally raw or slightly cooked.

Try your zucchini noodles with our Raw Summer Pasta Sauce recipe for a cool, refreshing dish, or in our Grilled Zucchini Bake with Homemade Ricotta for an indulgent comfort dish—all pasta-free.

Spaghetti Squash

When my high school sweetheart’s mom first introduced us (at the time) crazy vegans to the wonders of pasta made with spaghetti squash, it blew my whole-foodie mind. Spaghetti squash gets its name from the fact that, when cooked, the innards scrape out into delectable spaghetti-like strands. And while squash innards don’t sound like the most appetizing thing in the world, they actually almost are. And pasta-free, nonetheless.

To prepare this pasta-free spaghetti, slice your squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake until very soft, typically at 350°F for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the size. When cooked, scrape out the inside strands (carefully—hot!) with a fork into a large bowl. Toss with your sauce of choice and serve.

Spaghetti squash works great with a number of pasta recipes: chunky marinara or ragu sauces; thin olive oil and herb-based sauces; or Mediterranean olive and feta cheese style recipes. And since the spaghetti squash is always prepared by cooking first, the warm noodles can complement any warm sauce you choose to pair it with.

Sea Vegetable Noodles

Typically made from kelp, sea vegetable noodles are a gluten-free cook’s dream. They are also wonderful for raw recipes, as they don’t usually need to be cooked at home. These all-natural sea vegetable noodles are similar in appearance and texture to the Korean sweet potato glass noodles used in japchae. They are translucent jelly-like noodles with a very mild flavor and work well in virtually any spaghetti recipe.

Read the package of the sea vegetable noodles you bring home as to whether or not they need to be cooked before you use them. Then, get to using them in your recipes. They’re an obvious choice for traditional pasta dishes, but they’re also great in stir-fries, as they hold up to the heat without falling apart. Try them as a pasta-free lo mein or as an alternative to your fave pad Thai.

Stay in touch with Kimberley on Twitter @GreenGourmetKim

Image: SummerTomato