Seasonal Pantry: Swap pasta for savory zucchini noodles

If you have a mandoline tucked in the back of a kitchen cupboard, now is the time to get it out and brush off any cobwebs. If you don't have one, you might want to consider heading to your local cookware store.

The mandoline is mechanical, not electrical, and relatively inexpensive, between $20 and $90. It's a good idea to spring for one with changeable blades of varying widths. Those that sit on a work surface are more efficient than hand-held mandolines.

The mandoline is an invaluable kitchen tool during zucchini season. Among the tasks you will perform easily are cutting round slices of zucchini for bread and butter pickles, making wide, thin slices for salads, and making a variety of “noodles,” including pappardelle, fettuccine and spaghetti.

Noodles made of zucchini have become enormously popular in recent years, in part as a response to the demonization of all things that contain gluten and in part because of the popularity of “keto” diets, which eschew most foods rich in carbohydrates.

And then there's zucchini in midsummer: It grows while your back is turned, and it can be impossible to keep up with it. Making noodles is a great way to at least try.

Once you have zucchini noodles, you can use them in place of noodles made from wheat or rice. Those cut into fettuccine make an excellent Alfredo and spaghetti-sized noodles can be dressed with Bolognese sauce or a simple marinara.


Here is a very simple salad that is light, delicate, and fragrant.

Zucchini Noodle Salad

Makes 3 to 4 servings

1¼ pound zucchini, ends trimmed

- Kosher salt

3 tablespoons best-quality extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon

1 garlic clove, crushed

8-10 large basil leaves, cut into thin julienne

- Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

- Black pepper in a mill

2-3 small basil sprigs

Using a mandoline fitted with its wide blade, cut the trimmed zucchini into thin noodles and put them into a medium serving bowl.

Season lightly with salt and set aside for about 20 minutes. Drain off any liquid that has collected in the bowl.

Drizzle the olive oil over the zucchini, followed by the juice of the lemon. Add the garlic and basil leaves and toss very gently.

Transfer to a serving platter.

Scatter the cherry tomatoes and cheese on top of the zucchini, season with salt and several turns of black pepper, garnish with basil sprigs, and enjoy right away.


This salad has the bright, spicy flavors of many Southeast Asian salads and is inspired, specifically, by green papaya salad. You can adjust the heat if you like by adding more chiles or by omitting them entirely.

You may also use roast chicken or roast pork instead of the shrimp.

Vietnamese-Inspired Zucchini & Shrimp Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1¼ pound zucchini, ends trimmed

1 medium carrot, trimmed and peeled

¼ cup lime juice, from 2 to 3 limes

2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons sugar, plus more to taste

1 garlic clove, minced

1-2 Thai chiles or 1 serrano, minced

8 ounces Oregon baby shrimp, rinsed and drained

3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Using a mandoline fitted with its smallest julienne blade, cut the trimmed zucchini into noodles and put them into a medium serving bowl.

Use your fingers to fluff the noodles and make sure they are separated into individual strands. Cut the carrot similarly and put it into the bowl with the zucchini. Set aside.

Put the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and chiles into a small bowl, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding more fish sauce and more sugar if it seems a bit flat.

Add the shrimp to the bowl and pour the dressing over it.

Use two forks to lift and drop the vegetable noodles several times to distribute both the dressing and the shrimp. Do not mix vigorously as you don't want to break up the noodles.

Scatter the peanuts and cilantro on top and enjoy right away.


Zucchini and basil are seasonal siblings; they both love the sun, and they both welcome garlic. They are delicious together, too.

This dish is best at room temperature and should be allowed to sit a bit before serving, so that the pesto and the zucchini mingle.

However, if you prefer, you can plunge the zucchini in boiling salted water for 1 minute and drain it thoroughly just before adding the pesto.

Zucchini al Pesto

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds zucchini, ends trimmed

2 cups fresh small basil leaves, loosely packed

4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, leaves only

3 ounces Parmigiano- Reggiano, Estero Gold, or Vella Dry Jack, grated

1/2 cup best-quality extra- virgin olive oil

¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted (see Note below)

Using the julienne blade of a mandoline, cut the zucchini into thin noodles. Put into a large metal or glass bowl, use your fingers to fluff them and separate any strands that are stuck together, and set aside.

Next, make the pesto. Do not wash the basil; brush off any dust or dirt. Remove all stems and tough central veins.

Tear gently into small pieces.

Put the garlic and salt in a mortar, and using a wooden pestle, begin to grind in a circular motion, pounding gently now and then to break up the garlic.

When it has been reduced to nearly a paste, begin adding a few basil leaves at a time, grinding in a circular motion after each addition until the leaves are completely broken up and reduced to a very fine texture.

Continue until all of the basil and all of the parsley have been incorporated into the paste.

Add the cheese, mixing thoroughly. If necessary, use a rubber spatula to scrape the pesto from the sides of the mortar.

Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, mixing continuously. Taste and correct for salt.

Add half the pesto to the zucchini noodles and use tongs or two forks to gently lift and turn the noodles to coat them thoroughly.

Cover with a tea towel and let rest for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Divide among individual bowls, top with a dollop of the remaining pesto, scatter pine nuts on top, and enjoy right away.

Note: Try to find pine nuts that are not from China.

China uses two varieties of pine nuts that are not recommended for human consumption.

They can cause what is known as pine mouth, a bitter, persistent taste that can last for weeks, in some people.


On a hot summer night, when you can almost hear the zucchini growing, this dish, based on the classic Spaghetti Carbonara, is fast, re

freshing, and delicious. Serve a sliced tomato salad as a first course and ripe peaches or Santa Rosa plums as dessert.

Zucchini Carbonara

Makes 3 to 4 servings

1¼ pound medium zucchini, ends trimmed

2 large eggs, preferably from pastured chickens, at room temperature

4 ounces Vella Mezzo Seco or similar cheese, grated

- Black pepper in a mill

3 ounces pancetta or bacon, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

- Kosher salt

2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

Using the julienne blade of a mandoline, cut the zucchini into thin noodles. Transfer to a large bowl, use your fingers to fluff and separate the strands, and set aside.

Put the eggs into a large metal or glass bowl and use a whisk to beat them until smooth. Add the cheese and several generous turns of black pepper.

Put the pancetta in a medium sauté pan set over medium low heat and cook until almost crisp; add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Increase the heat to high, add the olive oil and the zucchini and use tongs to gently lift and drop the zucchini, turning it a bit as you do, so that it picks up the pancetta and garlic.

Cook like this for 2 minutes, until the zucchini is very hot.

Season with salt and several very generous turns of black pepper and tip into the bowl with the eggs. Use the tongs to continue to lift and drop the zucchini until it is evenly coated with the egg and cheese minutes.

Transfer to individual pasta bowls, season with a bit more salt and pepper, top with Italian parsley and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.

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