My mother-in-law grew a massive zucchini this summer. Or rather, she couldn’t keep up with her zucchini (as is always the case with those prolific plants) and before she knew it, she found this behemoth hiding in the vines.
This baby measured 20 inches in length and weighed in at almost 5 pounds! When zucchini gets to this size, I typically reserve it for soup (like my favorite, Curried Zucchini Soup). But this time… Why not make something a little different that will also put my bumper crop of tomatoes to use? I think this recipe is the perfect send-off for summer, utilizing the last bits of our warm-weather crops before the cool-weather greens start to roll in.
I turned this monster into a mountain of zucchini “noodles,” long ribbons of zucchini that give you a rich and satisfying pasta-like feel without the resultant food coma. You can easily make zucchini noodles with a julienne peeler, the julienne blade of a mandoline, or this nifty contraption: the spiral vegetable slicer.
A friend gave me a spiral slicer several months ago as he thought it would be fun for my Garden Betty recipes. Though it’s insanely handy for breaking down large amounts of vegetables into less intimidating strips and slices, it’s not something I used often because a peeler or mandoline fits most of my (two-person household) cooking needs. But for zucchini noodles, the spiral slicer is amazing — though I’ll also show you how to use a good ol’ fashioned peeler if you don’t need to make a mound of them.
Add slow-roasted tomatoes to this dish and it becomes a really lovely lunch. If your end-of-season tomatoes aren’t quite ripe yet, or a little bland on the tastebuds as the plants start to wither, roasting them is a wonderful way to concentrate the flavor and bring out their natural sweetness (as well as the sweetness of the garlic). You can use larger varieties of tomatoes if those are all you have, but you’ll need to roast them for a little longer.
Store-bought pesto works just as well as homemade, but if you still have some basil hanging in there, throw those into a blender and make your own for a truly end-of-summer meal.
Lastly, don’t worry about trying to grow your own 5-pound zucchini; I scaled down this recipe so it’ll make a manageable amount of food (and not one that’ll feed the Duggar family!).
Zucchini Noodles With Roasted Tomatoes, Pesto, and Pine Nuts
Makes 4 servings
1 1/4 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds zucchini, julienned or spiral sliced
1/2 cup pesto (check out my Nasturtium Pesto as a base for making your own!)
4 tablespoons pine nuts
Shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a large bowl, toss the tomato halves with garlic, olive oil, and a generous dash of sea salt and black pepper until they’re evenly coated.
Spread the tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut sides up (try not to overlap them too much), then lay the sprigs of rosemary and thyme on top.
Roast the tomatoes for 1 hour, or until they’re softened and starting to shrivel.
Now let’s talk zucchini. I peeled mine since it was very mature (and tends to have thicker skin), but if you’re using supermarket-size zucs, you can keep the skins on (I actually like seeing a little green in the noodles).
With a julienne peeler, simply peel the zucchini lengthwise for the long strips to form. Keep peeling until you get to the soft and seedy inner part, and do this on all sides.
With a spiral slicer, stick that baby in there and turn, turn, turn! You’ll have a beautiful mound of zucchini noodles in no time.
Pour the zucchini into a colander and let it drain while your tomatoes are roasting.
When the tomatoes are just about done, combine the zucchini and pesto in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes. Divide the zucchini evenly among four plates.
If you want to toast your pine nuts before serving, spread them in a small baking dish and put in the oven for the last 5 to 10 minutes of the tomato roasting time. Be careful not to burn them; toasted pine nuts should have a golden-brown color.
Remove the tomatoes (and pine nuts, if toasting) from the oven and discard the dried herbs. Top each plate with a generous heaping of tomatoes (garlic and juices included!) and a spoonful of pine nuts. Add shaved Parmesan cheese, if using.