A yearning for pasta is a well-voiced complaint of many people making the move to clean eating. There’s something about a big creamy, steamy mama Italia style bowl of perfectly al dente noodles swimming in rich, generous flavour that’s hard to match. My husband is one of these people, and while he’s a very obliging diner in the face of my culinary experimentation, he’s also a stoic and dedicated pastaphile. Such was his level of faith in its gastronomic goodness that when we were first dating he made me his ‘guaranteed to get laid lasagne’. I have to admit that even for a non-pasta kind of girl it was pretty damn fine, but truth be told I was a sure thing, lasagne or not. Since then I’ve been gently trying to coax him toward the clean eating light, so when he not only devoured this dish, but also started requesting it I knew I was onto a good thing.
It’s kind of like the genetically blessed love child of fettuccini carbonara and pesto spaghetti. Y’know, when two impossibly beautiful people get together and produce a child so beautiful it’s just possible the universe might implode in the face of all the beautifulness (yes Ryan Gosling & Eva Mendes, I’m looking at you two)? This dish is the culinary equivalent, inheriting all the best bits of its parents in the rich creamy sauce, the perfumed freshness of the basil and the timeless combination of chicken, bacon and mushroom. Brought together it delivers all of the satisfaction of a hearty traditional pasta dish with none of the starchy processed carbs.
Before you do anything though, there is one vital piece of kit you’re going to need, and that’s a spiralizer to make your noodles. This isn’t like that stupid brûlée torch or fandangled posh zester that lurk in the back of the drawer not toasting brûlée or doing any posh zesting. This implement is fucking awesome for two reasons: 1. Owning one gives you the instant superpower to turn vegetables into noodles with the mere flick of a wrist and; 2. It’s uber fun to use.
I have one of these guys: http://www.amazon.com/GEFU-13460-Spirelli-Spiral-Slicer/dp/B0026RMEK4 but there are shitloads of different versions out there that all produce the same result. They’re usually pretty readily available at kitchen and specialty food stores (Nosh, Farro, Moore Wilson etc for the Kiwis) otherwise harness the power of the interweb, I’m sure I don’t have to explain how online shopping works to anyone – and if I do we’ve got bigger problems than zoodles here.
Get this stuff
1 batch of CauliGyver Better Than Bechamel Sauce (get the recipe here: http://wp.me/p4Ypof-P)
A big bunch of basil – approx. 40 grams
1 garlic clove
Cracked black pepper
2 large zucchini – approx. 500 grams
400 grams chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces
3-4 rashers of bacon chopped
200 grams button mushroom finely sliced
10-12 asparagus spears cut into 2-3cm pieces
4-6 sundried tomatoes
Do this with it
You’re going to prepare this in three elements that are all going to meet in the bowl in a beautiful collision of colour and flavour.
Bitchin’ Basil Sauce
Yesterday I made a batch of CauliGyver Better than Bechamel sauce which will now become Bitchin’ Basil sauce with the simple addition of a metric fucktonne of basil and a bit of garlic. If you’ve made the CauliGyver sauce in advance all you need to do is throw it in the blender with a garlic clove and decent handful of fresh basil leaves, about 30 grams or so. For the record I don’t usually piss around weighing my herbs but for you guys I made a special effort here so I could give you more helpful instruction than ‘heaps. You’re welcome. If you’re making the sauce from scratch now just follow the instructions for the Better than Béchamel and add the basil and garlic at the same time. Sauce done, put it aside for the moment.
Here’s your opportunity to play with your new kitchen toy. Grab your zucchini, shove, twist and zoodle yourself silly! I work on the basis of about 200 – 250 grams of zoodles per person, admittedly I’m a girl who’s not afraid of a decent sized dinner but I’m pretty sure this isn’t an excessive amount. Or maybe it is, shit I don’t know, but if it is you’ll be loving me tomorrow when you’ve got leftovers for lunch.
Now just like a perfect pasta dish your zoodles should be al dente not soggy slop and the trick to this is to steam them rather than boil or blanch them – trust me, I’ve tried. Once your zucchinis are zoodled place them in a steamer pot with a good grind of salt but for the love of grog DO NOT turn it on yet. These things take mere minutes to cook, you want to leave them right until then end so they go straight from steamer to bowl ready to eat.
Tasty chunky bits
Gently sauté the chicken and bacon in your choice of cooking fat – I like ghee for this dish. When the chicken is nearly cooked throw the mushrooms into the pan and get it all mingling together then lastly add the asparagus. And now, the magic… pour that Bitchin’ Basil sauce into the pan and watch it coat all the tasty chunky bits in fragrant green goodness.
All you need to do here is get the sauce heated through which will only take a few minutes so now, you can turn on the zoodles. Like I said, mere minutes for these guys, it’s mostly about getting them warm and slightly softened than so keep an eye on them and use a pair of tongs to rotate them a bit to keep them cooking evenly.
Get it together
And now, to serve. Portion the zoodles into two lovely bowls, pour the saucy, chunky, tasty bits on top and gently fold it all through. Finally the piece de resistance, a few chopped sundried tomatoes and a scattering of fresh basil on top. Mio dio, mamma mia, una magnifica pasto! There you have it, a pasta dish nothing like mamma used to make, it’s better, waaay better.