recipe: spiralized zucchini pasta

If you know me as a cook, then you know that I don't often cook pasta. Leafy greens, always. Spice-centric meat or fish dishes, occasionally. Rice or alternative grains, all the time. But pasta? It's a rare, maybe monthly indulgence. So let me start by saying that I find it very amusing that I'm posting two back-to-back pasta recipes on the blog.

That said, this second recipe isn't actually pasta as you know and love it. I'm jumping on the already well documented spiralizer trend with a recipe that you can eat like pasta, but, you know, sans the grains.

Being that I'm a pretty healthy cook, you're probably thinking, "Oh, she avoids gluten." Well, that was more or less true once upon a time, but these days the only thing I avoid is processed, industrial foods. Find me a crusty loaf fermented with old-school starter and I will always dig in.

Then why the spiralizing? It's simple: I despise using more pots and pans than absolutely necessary. Regular pasta involves boiling water, cooking the pasta, simultaneously making a sauce, etc. Doing it well isn't actually as instantaneous as mainstream food culture makes it out to be.

Which is why spiralized zucchini pasta is genius, because you can literally just throw it right in the pan on top of some oil, slivered garlic and spices. No boiling water, no need for two burners. Not to mention that the "noodle" texture didn't turn to mush the way I expected.

I'll stop rambling now and share the recipe—but seriously, just imagine what else you can do with a spiralizer. And if you proud omnivores need to assure yourself that you're not following the trends set by "those crazy paleo people," well, you can just sop up the remaining juices with some good ol' crusty bread.

Spiralized Zucchini Pasta

Ingredients (serves two as an appetizer, one as a entree)

  • 1-2 tbsp grapeseed oil or butter (I used a mix of both)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • tsp rosemary
  • tsp herbes de provence
  • 1/2 tsp red flake pepper
  • 2 large zucchini (or other oblong summer squash), spiralized 
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan (or grana padano, nutritional yeast, etc.)
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

Heat large sauté pan (I prefer cast iron or other non-stick for this recipe) and add your oil or butter. Slice garlic thinly and add to pan along with spices. As garlic just starts to brown, add spiralized zucchini noodles. Add a pinch of salt and occasionally toss noodles in pan, using a pair of cooking tongs. Once they're heated through, add your yogurt and parmesan and toss to create a sauce. Once noodles and sauce are heated through, remove from heat and serve immediately. (The sauce is delicious, so I advise toasting yourself some sopping up bread.)

eater's digest: al di là

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

One of the great misconceptions that people often have is that I've eaten at all the restaurants in my neighborhood. The truth is, if I'm near home, I'm usually cooking. Moreover, something nearby is no more likely of an edible destination than others, as I've never been shy about traveling far and wide for the perfect bite.

That said, moving to South Brooklyn has opened the flood gates to an entirely new world of local eats. Though I still spend a hefty chunk of my paycheck on groceries at the Coop, the unique culture of small business in this borough has inspired me to spend more time outside my kitchen. And so it was that on a recent weekend I arrived at Al Di Là.

Soup of the day.

Soup of the day.

Now, eating Italian food in restaurants is a tricky thing. Raised on la cucina della nonna, I typically opt to explore more obscure cuisines on my restaurant outings. To boot, if I'm dining with the discriminating palates of my parents and sister, the bar for a "pasta joint" is set pretty high. But as I've eaten in more and more of the excellent Italian establishments in NYC, I've come to appreciate the perfection of truly al dente pasta or the difference between everyday minestrone and a masterpiece.

In this ever-crowded genre of restaurant fare, Al Di Là inches ahead with grace and little fanfare. The dining room is a quirky spin on bistro chic, with a red/maroon and gold aesthetic that repeats in the wall paper, curtains and painted-to-look-vintage tin ceiling.  The dishes echo this unassuming - yet distinctive - charm, with slight details that consistently offer something more than expected.

Spaghetti carbonara.

Spaghetti carbonara.

A mild mandolined salad of white winter vegetables was refreshing, elegant and crisp. The soup of the day contained everything but the kitchen sink, and yet achieved a refined balance - in particular, the contrast of bright, just-wilted greens with the slow-built flavors of meat stock. The pastas, too, were an upgrade on the classics. The carbonara tasted distinctly grown-up, with pronounced, lingering notes of white wine and far-superior-to-your-average bacon. An indescribably delicious cavatelli with cauliflower ragu had me bartering "a-bite-for-a-bite" so often that I surely ate half of my sister's plate.

Cavatelli with cauliflower ragu.

Cavatelli with cauliflower ragu.

These are the meals that inspire me as a cook. The dishes that remind me that ingredients, timing and the tiniest dash of creativity are the difference between great and phenomenal. The days where we laugh ourselves silly, sopping up every last bit of sauce with our bread. The ones where we walk out of the restaurant not stuffed, but satisfied - knowing we've truly shared a meal.

Al Di Là
248 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718.783.4565

eater's digest: sorella

New York City isn’t lacking for good Italian cuisine.  Millions of Italians passed through Ellis Island, leaving behind a cultural and culinary trail of delights.  And while Little Italy may no longer be the tight community it once was, new champions of regional cuisines have taken up the mantle, pushing back against the Italian-American classics of spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, and fill-in-the-blank parmesan. That said, there’s more to the experience of Italian food than what’s on the table.  There are plenty of restaurants that will fulfill your Italian Mafioso fantasies - white table-clothed joints with tile floors and plates overflowing with red sauce.  But an intimate, cozy Italian cucina – one that evokes Slow Food moreso than the Sopranos – that, is a rare find indeed.

It was, appropriately, my sister who introduced me to Sorella, just east of Little Italy’s traditional borders.  She couldn’t stop talking about broccoli – not broccoli rabe but plain ol’ broccoli – which didn’t sound particularly Italian to me, but off we went.

The instant delight of Sorella is that it is completely unassuming.  Low-key customers mingle around wine and cheese in the front hall, while those lucky enough to grab a reservation will be led back to the back dining room – a sort of living room-meets-greenhouse space that seats maybe 20 people.  It is a refreshingly elegant, but simple space, with a slanted glass ceiling and soft, dangling lights.

The menu hails from Piedmont, a region known for its red wine, white truffles and rich traditional cooking, yet home to one of the most innovative culinary scenes in Italy.  Sorella follows suit, utilizing traditional ingredients, but updating them with a creative twist.

The first sign that Sorella is not your average Italian restaurant is the quality of the cocktails.  In fact, some regulars will tell you to head straight for the caramel-rimmed “honey pot” and forego the red wine.  But for the traditionalists among us, I can attest that my Valpolicella was excellent.

At this point, my sister’s raving about the broccoli fritto had reached a frenzied pitch.  So we ordered two broccoli fritto for our party of four – the bare minimum really, because we scarfed those surreal, crunchy, morsels of delicious so fast that we probably could have each eaten our own serving.  I’m a big fan of anchovies, so we also ordered the acciughe al verde, a lovely mild and nutty take on the notoriously briny fish.

For dinner, it was pasta all around.  Beef short rib agnolotti - tiny fresh pasta pockets of robust, savory meat.  Porcini & pancetta pici - absolutely heavenly (salty umami) but I'd struggle to eat a whole plate alone.  The special, venison and chestnut stracci with hen of the woods mushroom & brussel sprout leaves - a hearty dish, ideal for anyone coming in from the bitter cold.  And the pièce de resistance, impossibly fluffy pearls of gnocchi tossed with bright, sweet pears in nutty brown butter.

To have lived through two such gorgeous, surprising, and savory courses should be enough to make any diner content – but I couldn’t leave without trying the dessert.  Sorella makes gelato in-house, and the coppa di gelati does the restaurant proud.  My favorite scoop contained chocolate covered pretzels, a non-traditional but irresistible take on the creamy treat.  We also chose to share the ‘bicerin’, a light chocolate pudding topped with rich espresso fudge (and accompanied by homemade whipped cream).  As an adult who still fantasizes about the Jello chocolate pudding of my youth, this was a revelation – an elevation of simple childhood indulgence.

To say I am fond of Sorella is an understatement.  (In fact, I selfishly toyed with the idea of not writing about the restaurant, in hopes that there will always be an open table left for me.)  But as with all good things, Sorella should be shared – eagerly and often.  Except for the grissini (hand rolled breadsticks) that is.  You can get your own cornetto.