Low-carb dinner for pasta lovers
This quick and versatile low-carb dish is packed full of nutritious veggies, fresh flavors, and bright colors. With a delicious homemade pesto you can whizz up in seconds, the whole thing can be ready in under 20 minutes.
Using zucchini instead of a traditional pasta is a healthy way to create a filling meal without overdoing the carbs. Just add your sauce of choice – this version is topped with salty bacon and a rich garlicky, cheesy, basil pesto, which turns this light weeknight treat into the perfect comfort food.
Health benefits of zucchini
Zucchini ‘linguine’ is an ideal low-carb, gluten-free alternative to wheat pasta. It is low in calories and sugar, which makes it perfect if you’re watching your weight. This is aided by its high water and fiber content, which makes you feel full. It is also a great source of antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese, and potassium, which are vital for general health and protecting against disease and infection. A lesser known benefit of zucchini is that it’s a good source of specific phytonutrients (plant-based micro nutrients) which promote prostate health in men.
The veg count is topped up with bright yellow peppers and sweet cherry tomatoes, and homemade pesto is a great way to add some extra fresh vegetables. Basil is anti-inflammatory and is said to help combat stress by acting as an adaptogen and lowering cortisol. Pine nuts and parmesan provide the satiating fats. Topping with crispy bacon adds some extra dietary fat and protein, creating a very tasty and filling dish.
Alternatively, how about trying a rocket and brazil nut pesto? Simply swap out the basil and pine nuts for rocket and brazil nuts. For a delicious vegan pesto, try a basil and walnut combo and leave out the parmesan.
How to make zucchini ‘pasta’
Using a spiralizer is the best way to create zucchini pasta. If you haven’t used one before, it’s really quite simple. The zucchini is pinned against the blade and when you turn the handle, it forces the zucchini to turn, pushing it against the blade and quickly turning it into long strands.
Experiment with different settings on your spiralizer – the ribbon setting creates beautiful curls of zucchini, which look impressive and hold a lot of sauce, but slender spaghetti-like spirals work just as well.
You’re not limited to zucchini either: this recipe can be adapted for carrot or squash spaghetti too.
If you don’t have a spiralizer, a vegetable peeler will work effectively, as will a mandoline slicer. Even a sharp knife can be used to cut the zucchini into long slices and slice again long ways until you get the desired dimensions.
Zucchini Linguine with Basil Pesto and Bacon (serves 2)
For the linguine:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large zucchinis
1 yellow pepper, chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 rashers of bacon
For the pesto:
A handful of fresh basil
Half a cup of pine nuts
1 Tbsp grated parmesan
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp olive oil
A pinch of salt and pepper
- Put all the pesto ingredients in a food processor. Whizz for about 20 seconds. Set aside until the linguine is ready.
- Cook the bacon, either by frying in a pan or grilling. Set aside.
- Use a spiralizer to create long ribbons of zucchini.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the zucchini spirals and allow it to cook through for a few minutes. Add the peppers and tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes at a medium to high heat.
- Chop up the cooked bacon and add to the linguine.
- Stir in the basil pesto and mix thoroughly.
- Once the bacon has cooled slightly, using scissors to cut it will be easier than using a knife.
- Take care not to overcook the zucchini. It has a high water content and can easily turn mushy if cooked for too long. You want it to be al dente, like a regular pasta, don’t add salt to it while it’s cooking.
- Mix in some traditional pasta if you want to add some extra carbohydrates.
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