~ Lemon-Pepper Pasta & Oodles of Zucchini Noodles w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmgiano-Reggiano~
Pasta and noodles. Noodles and Pasta. It's hard for most of us to resist either in any shape or form any time of the year. Both staples in the world's kitchens, over the years, on our travels, I've experienced myriads of cultural versions. To the best of my recollection, I've never encountered a pasta or noodle dish that I didn't like, and, I don't think I've ever observed anyone eat either and walk away in a bad mood. Pasta and noodles are quintessential feel-good fare.
What exactly is the difference between noodles and pasta?
The difference between noodle dough and pasta dough is: noodle dough refers to a product containing only eggs (or egg yolks) and flour, while pasta dough, which usually contains eggs (or egg yolks), also contains a liquid such as water or oil. Macaroni, which falls into the pasta category, contains no eggs or egg products. Both noodles and pasta get rolled to the desired thickness, then cut into flat, thick-or-thin strips of various lengths or into squares. Dried pasta just is what the name implies: it's laid flat or hung and dried prior to cooking. Fresh pasta, shortly after being rolled and cut (or extruded out of a machine) gets cooked and eaten immediately or covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days prior to cooking. Noodles are similar to fresh pasta, but, they're dropped into boiling water and cooked ASAP after being rolled and cut. Once drained, rinsed and cooled, noodles are eaten or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Recently, Americans have been captivated by "veggie noodles" or "veggie pasta", especially zucchini noodles. I wish there was a better word to describe them because, aside from their shape, taste and texturally, they're really nothing like pasta or noodles. They're surely not what I would call "hunger-satisfying comfort-food". They're a relatively quick-to-make, healthy and fun veggie side-dish. But, when tossed into real pasta or noodles, they are a neat way to sneak vegetables into your family's diet without too much resistance.
What exactly is the best method to make zucchini noodles?
Veggie noodles and pasta have become trendy because of inexpensive gadgets like hand-held spiralizers and julienne peelers. Both are great for soft, cylindrical vegetables like zucchini, but not-so-hot for hard root vegetables like carrots. Use the spiralizer for small, even-sized zucchini and the julienne peeler for large zucchini. I prefer to peel the zucchini first -- that choice is yours. I used the peeler on three medium-large zucchini today and have 1 pound uncooked zucchini noodles.
Zucchini noodles, get briefly-blanched, not cooked like any type of fresh or dried pasta. In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 2 1/2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt. In handfuls, sprinkle in the noodles. Using a fork to keep the noodles moving around constantly, cook until al dente or slightly less (your choice) 30-45 seconds. Drain into a large colander. Immediately run cold water through them to halt the cooking process. Gently place the noodles (they are delicate), on and in between layers of paper towels to absorb their excess moisture. Set aside to drain thoroughly while preparing the pasta.
Traditional fresh pasta + fresh veggie noodles = 1 fun side-dish!
Unless you have a source for high-quality, store-bought lemon-pepper pasta (I do not), you have to prepare it by hand, unless you own an electric extruder pasta machine. My Simac is the pasta-workhorse of my kitchen. In less than 30 minutes, 1 1/2 pounds of pasta is mixed, kneaded, extruded and ready to be cooked or refrigerated overnight.
To make lemon-pepper pasta, I'm following my recipe for ~ My Electric-Extruder Pasta-Machine Pasta Dough ~, substituting lemon-infused olive oil for plain EVOO and adding 1 tablespoon of black pepper along with the salt. To learn everything you need to know about making electric-extruder pasta dough, just click into Categories 12, 14, or 15.
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon coarsely-ground black pepper
5 whole large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon-infused olive oil
~ Step 1. Measure and have ready all ingredients as listed above. Add the flour, then the salt and pepper to the work bowl of the pasta machine. It isn't uncommon to find black pepper added to pasta. It adds a touch of zippy heat to pasta, and, it gives it a pretty appearance.
~ Step 3. Turn the machine off. The dough will not be grainy (which would mean it's to dry) and it will not have formed a ball (which would mean it is too wet). It will be a sort-of rough, lumpy mass.
Place a large flat tray or platter in front of the machine and get out a sharp paring knife too.
~ Step 5. Pull shutter out of side of machine and turn machine on. With shutter out, machine will feed dough down through the opening and extrude it out the front. It takes 1-2 minutes for the pasta to start appearing.
~ Step 6. Drain hot pasta into colander and add half of the zucchini noodles (I'm refrigerating the other half for tomorrow too). The room temperature zucchini will be heated by the hot pasta.
~ Step 7. Return still hot stockpot to still warm stovetop and add 4 tablespoons salted butter. When butter has melted stir in 1/2-3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. (Double this amount if cooking the entire 1 1/2 pounds of pasta.)
~ Step 8. Toss the pasta/noodle mixture to evenly coat it in the butter mixture. Add 1/2 cup of fresh basil chiffonade and 1/2 cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Toss again. Portion and serve immediately -- as in ASAP.
Garnish w/additional Parm-Regg, peperoncino & a basil sprig!
Lemon-Pepper Pasta & Oodles of Zucchini Noodles w/Butter, Basil, Pepperoncino & Parmigiano-Reggiano: Recipe yields 6-8 side servings (if you cook the entire 1 1/2 pounds of pasta and toss with all of the zucchini noodles, or, 4-6 servings (if you cook half of the pasta and add half of the cooked noodles.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; hand-held spiralizer or julienne peeler; kitchen scale; electric-extruder pasta machine; large shallow plate or platter; paring knife; 8-quart stockpot; colander
Cook's Note: My recipe for ~ Farfalle w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmesan (Basic Pasta al Burro con Formaggio w/Panache ~ can be found in Categories 3, 4,12, 14 & 20. Along the same lines as today's trendy side-dish, this classic Italian main-dish gets sauced with sweet-cream butter and cheese too!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)