Zucchini Noodle & Mushroom Marinara

in Recipes

If the weathered old faces of the Italian women hailing from Orvieto, Italy could see me now…they would be horrified.

Let me back that up and explain. Once upon a time, I studied abroad in Orvieto, Italy – the most magical of Italian towns situated in Umbria among rolling hills speckled with vineyards and old farmhouses. A town filled with old money and older traditions, the people who lived there were staunch Italians and lived life in the most Italianissimo way possible. Espresso, (pronounced with a sharp S – god forbid it be pronounced like expresso) pasta with freshly grated black truffles, all things pork and cured meats, and the freshest & lightest white wines were ways of life. New food fads, anything American-like, and all things fast-food were squashed mercilessly like bugs under the pointy pumps of the Orvieto residents.

Obviously this pasta, (made of zucchini, mind you) would horrify even the most lenient of Italian people hailing from the Umbrian countryside. For one, it’s absolutely wheat-free, egg-free, and free of anything else that would normally make homemade fresh pasta, pasta-like. Instead of white pasta, stripped of all its nutrients and beneficial fibers, we are using gorgeous little zucchinis, which have been spiralized into long nutritious and fiber-rich noodles. Along with that goodness, you’ll reap some Vitamin C and other antioxidants from the zucchini zoodles.

Oh how the restaurants of Orvieto loved topping each and every pasta with copious amounts of meat! I’m changing that up and using mushrooms instead of meatballs, pork, and any other meaty substance. Hooray for funghi! These lovely little mushrooms get sautéed in a delectable combination of olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes for the most scrumptious taste. When they’re mixed into your zucchini noodles and tomato sauce, they’re exactly the hearty texture you’re looking for in a big, nourishing bowl of pasta.

Yes, this recipe is a radical departure from anything traditionally Italian and/or marinara-like. But, you should still give it a try for lunch or a warming dinner in these colder months when you want to tuck into a big bowl of noodle goodness. If the thought of eating zucchini noodles is just too bizarre, mix in some organic whole-wheat pasta to the zucchini party. Pump up the protein content by adding in some white cannellini beans or some good quality organic turkey-meatballs if needed. Of course, if you want to freak out the Italians even more, top your zucchini noodle pasta with nutritional yeast for a hint of B Vitamins and cheesy flavors.

Even though the old Orvieto women might turn up their nose on this one, I promise you its delicious and completely amazing. Faux-Italian has never tasted so good!

Zucchini Noodle & Mushroom Marinara

Serves 2

Zucchini Marinara:
2 zucchinis, spiralized or peeled into thin slices with a vegetable peeler
2 cups homemade marinara sauce*

1 cup mushrooms, sliced (white button or cremini mushrooms are great)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
A dash or two of red pepper flakes
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground sea salt & pepper

Start with the mushrooms. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add in chopped garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until garlic is golden, about 2-3 minutes. Add in sliced mushrooms and let sauté for 1-2 minutes more. Add balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper to pan. Let mushrooms cook on medium-low until all balsamic vinegar is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

While mushrooms are cooking, spiralize your zucchini with a spiralizer or vegetable peeler. Let the zucchini sit on paper towels to absorb some of their moisture while you finish up cooking the mushrooms and sauce.

When everything is ready, divide the zucchini into two bowls. I find that because the sauce and mushrooms are so warm, there’s no need to heat up the zucchini. If you have cold zucchini, simply sauté them in a pan over low heat with a bit of olive oil for a minute or two to warm up. Top each zucchini bowl with a loving dollop of marinara sauce and a scoop of mushrooms. I also like to throw on extra red pepper flakes and a bit of nutritional yeast! Serve immediately and enjoy.

*If you don’t have any homemade marinara sauce simmering on the stove – don’t fret. A store-bought option is OK when the package contains no weird additives and ingredients. A great option is an organic marinara sauce with 10 or fewer ingredients.

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