spelt spaghetti with zucchini

A piping hot plate of pasta... what could be better?
A piping hot plate of pasta… what could be better?

I have a slightly alarming ability to consume vast quantities of pasta. I love every second of the dance; twirling golden strands into thick ropes around your fork, feeling the pile unravel in your mouth, the moreish, al dente bite against your teeth and the explosion of juicy flavours. Oh, God. It’s deeply satisfying, and I never want it to be over.

But the passionate love affair burns brightly until every last morsel is gone, and then I’m left bereft and alone, faced with the inevitable post-consumptive regret that is pasta bloat.

spelt and zucchini
Simple, tasty and on the table in ten minutes.

I mean, it’s definitely worth it. After all, what’s a little digestive discord in the grand symphony of the perfect pasta dish? If the measure of love is what you’re willing to sacrifice, pasta and I would make a Mills and Boon novel blush.

But recently I discovered something wonderful, life-affirming and joyful, so naturally I must share it with you. It’s spelt, it’s delicious, and it’s much kinder to your digestive system.

Spelt pasta loves you back.

 

This ancient grain is a species of wheat, but has a different molecular structure to the common modern classifications and thus is digested differently. It’s not safe for coeliacs, mind, because it still has gluten. But those with wheat sensitivity often find that they can tolerate spelt – excellent news for the wheat-challenged amongst us!

Spelt is high in fibre and a great source of complex carbohydrates as well as providing a wide range of nutrients like vitamin B2, niacin, copper, iron, zinc and magnesium, all of which contribute to the healthy function of the body’s nervous, cardiovascular and immune systems. And for what it’s worth, in my very non-clinical trial I found that pasta bloat was not a problem with spelt.

Spelt is kind of wonderful.
Spelt is kind of wonderful.

Spelt pasta has a gentle nutty flavour and a smoother texture than wholemeal pasta, so it’s a perfect option for those who dislike the grainy mouthfeel of brown pasta. Cooked here with subtle strands of zucchini and lit up with lemon, garlic and chilli, it makes a fantastic ten-minute supper. Dive in – twirl away – enjoy!

Spelt spaghetti with zucchini (serves two)
200g spelt spaghetti
1 medium zucchini
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp Chiu Chow chilli oil or chilli flakes
Zest of a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
Parsley, to garnish

Put the spelt on to boil but be careful not to overcook it. You want to stop it before it’s quite done as it does keep cooking when you drain it and again in the pan later.

Meanwhile, shave the zucchini into strips using a vegetable peeler.

Reserve one cup of the spelt cooking liquid and then drain the pasta.

In a pan, heat the olive oil and zest the lemon into the oil.

Gently fry the garlic over a medium heat without letting it colour. You can add salt to stop the garlic from browning.

Add the chilli oil and half the cooking liquid.

Add the zucchini and heat through, then add the pasta and toss well. If it looks a little dry, add some more of the cooking liquid so it forms a creamy sauce.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.

spinach and ricotta courgetti

Zucchini

This is a zucchini.

It’s a zucchini, it has always been and will always be a zucchini, but today I will concede to the French because courgetti sounds so much better than zuchetti.

A while back, when I was investigating low-carb meals (that was a hoot), I came across the notion of using vegetables as alternatives to pasta and rice. There was the mysterious as-yet-unseen spaghetti squash (a pumpkin that turns into noodles when you cook it?? What?!), cauli-rice, cauliflower mash, and of course, courgette spaghetti.

At the time I thought nothing of it – but after watching Nigel Slater methodically clean his fridge by getting creative with his leftovers, I was inspired. I had half a bag of dangerously green spinach, a handful of plum tomatoes and a sliver of smoked salmon lying around. And so with a renewed creative burst I made the tastiest supper I’ve had in a long time, and I’m going to share it with you on the condition that you understand that I haven’t been disloyal to my Australian roots by calling it courgetti.

A myriad of flavours and textures. Just perfect.

Spinach and ricotta courgetti with smoked salmon
1 courgette
2 garlic cloves, sliced
Half a bag of spinach (about three handfuls)
1 small slice of smoked salmon, pulled into pieces
1 tablespoon smooth ricotta
6 mini mozzarella pearls (you can use one ball and slice it if you like, but I think the pearls are adorable)
6 plum tomatoes, sliced
Balsamic vinegar

In a pan, place the garlic and a good slug of olive oil and some salt to stop the garlic burning. Keep over a medium heat, being careful not to let the garlic colour, whilst you prepare the courgetti.

Take a vegetable peeler and run it down the length of the vegetable, as if you were going to peel it, but keep peeling in the same direction to form strips. I always, always find that peelers aren’t big enough to accommodate the full width of the courgette, so I peel until it starts to become a problem and then I turn it over and do the other side until the same thing happens. At this point, I slice the zucchini in half lengthways and continue with the peeler.

Once you’ve gotten to the point where no more noodles can be made, just chop the remaining chunk of courgette and add it to the pan with the garlic, which should be sizzling nicely by now.

Let the chunky courgette cook until soft and then add the spinach. When it starts to wilt, add the courgetti and move it around the pan. The courgetti really only needs about two or three minutes to warm through and take on the taste of the garlic.

Add the smoked salmon, then remove the pan from heat and dab in blobs of the ricotta. If you’ve bought smooth ricotta, it basically melts to form a creamy, garlicky sauce, but I imagine regular ricotta would be lovely as well.

Arrange on a plate and top with the mini mozzarella pearls, the plum tomatoes and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. The mildness of the courgette is the perfect base for the creaminess of the cheese and the sharpness of the tomatoes and vinegar, set off nicely by the zingy garlic. Bliss.