If you love pasta but want a healthier alternative, look no further than the produce section.
Spiralized vegetables, or veggie pasta, can be made from a variety of produce — from broccoli to zucchini — and you can even use a spiralizer on certain fruits.
In addition to getting more veggies in your diet, replacing regular noodles with ones made from fresh produce can also save you time in the kitchen.
And because spiralized vegetables have a similar texture and consistency to pasta, you might find you don't even miss those carb-heavy dishes.
What's a spiralizer?
These kitchen devices create thin ribbons of vegetables, and depending on which spiralizer you use, the blade can be changed to create different sizes of noodles.
Handheld spiralizers are the cheapest option. They work much like a large pencil sharpener and typically don't come with exchangeable blades.
If you're looking to get more output with less effort — and are willing to spend a little more — you can purchase a spiralizer that holds the vegetable in place while you turn a handle.
This type of spiralizer comes with either a vertical hold or a horizontal hold, and it has multiple blades. It also works better with bigger vegetables, and it’s typically less wasteful because it doesn’t leave as much of the core behind.
There are also ways to make veggie pasta without a spiralizing device. It'll take a little more time and effort, but you can use a knife, vegetable peeler or Julienne peeler.
Cooking with spiralized veggies
You can often leave the skin on and simply cut off the ends of the vegetable, unless the recipe specifically calls for a peeled vegetable. If you're using a spiralizer and dealing with a longer type of produce, cut it in half for better leverage.
Spiralizing a vegetable often results in very long noodles, which can be difficult to serve or eat, so be sure to cut them before you cook or dress them.
Once you have your noodles ready, pat them down to get rid of excess moisture. Vegetables contain a lot of fluid — cucumbers and zucchini are more than 90 percent water — which can lead to a runny sauce.
How long you cook the noodles — or whether you cook them at all — depends on your recipe and what kind of fruit or vegetable you're using.
While it may seem wrong to make veggie "pasta" without boiling it, you don't always have to cook your noodles.
If the recipe instructs you too cook them, it'll typically be for only two to three minutes. Often though, you can simply pour warm sauce over the noodles, and that'll do the trick.
For cold salads, you probably won't cook the noodles at all.
How to avoid a watery sauce
Cooking vegetables will make them even more watery, which can lead to runny sauce.
To keep your pasta dish as close to the real thing as possible, you can pat them dry again after cooking before adding sauce.
If you're making your own sauce, make it thicker than you normally would for regular pasta. When you add your spiralized veggies, they'll help change the consistency.
Also, avoid mixing your sauce and veggies until you're ready to eat so there will be less time for water to seep out.
If you're preparing several meals ahead of time, you can spiralize your fruits and veggies and store them separately in the fridge or freezer.