Saturday, May 18, 2013

Red Pepper Tomato Meat Sauce over Zucchini Ribbons (Paleo Friendly)

I have this weakness for pasta. It has this hold over me, one may say I'm crazy for it.

I can't say exactly why I have this undying love for pasta. Perhaps it's the way I feel so (un)flatteringly full after a large plate of it. Or maybe because the carbohydrates comfort me like no man could.

Because I put such an emphasis on pasta dishes in my food life, I'm always so impressed by people who are on low- or no-carb diets and aren't in some kind of carbohydrate deprived depression. For example, I know many people who have tried or are still on the Paleo diet--which is a diet high in fats, vegetables, and protein. Read more about it here.

This delicious recipe can easily be catered to my friends and family out there who are on such a diet but need some kind of "pasta" fix--and believe it or not, it doesn't involve cheating on your diet and actually eating pasta!

I prepared a Red Pepper Tomato Meat Sauce and served it over blanched Zucchini Ribbons. A heaping pile of crisp zucchini topped with a sweet and smokey homemade sauce. I packed my sauce with fresh herbs and bright lemon juice for a flavorful, rustic feel. Making a quick homemade sauce can be especially important if you are on a diet because you know exactly what's going into the pot, and therefore you can control the flavor and salt content while eliminating any preservatives.

Disclaimer -- I am not a dietary or nutrition expert. This is most likely not a TRUE Paleo recipe, but I am sure that it can be catered to that diet. And even if your not on a diet but just watching your carb intake, this quick and tasty meal can cut out days worth of calories! This meal was the perfect weeknight dish that really got me over the mid-week hump.

To make the zucchini ribbons, use a traditional vegetable peeler to "peel" the zucchini down to the seeds. I did not use the core of the zucchinis as they carry a lot more moisture. Place in a colander in the sink to drain slightly.

Meanwhile, gather up your sauce ingredients.

In a large, heavy bottomed skillet, lean ground turkey is browned and crumbled then removed from the pan using a slotted spoon. Next, a vidalia onion is sauteed in a bit of butter and olive oil. Garlic joins this party soon after.

A can of crushed tomatoes, a jar of roasted sweet red peppers, and a small can of tomato paste become quick friends in this sauce. Use a little bit of chicken broth to thin out the mixture. I flavored my sauce with chopped fresh thyme and parsley, along with some dried oregano.

Next, grab your handy dandy immersion blender and pulse the sauce until the tomatoes, peppers, and onions become smooth and combined. Very few lumps should remain.

Add the juice of one lemon, a few teaspoons of sugar (or other natural sweetener for Paleo), salt and plenty of cracked black pepper. Boil the sauce. Reduce to simmer. Stir in the turkey and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes until thickened. Take in how good it smells.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the zucchini ribbons and remove after 1 minute with a slotted spoon. Run under cold water to stop the cooking and keep the zucchini crispy. The crispiness of the zucchini is what makes you forget about that whole pasta thing.

Plate the zucchini and top with a GENEROUS helping of the sauce. And, I still couldn't resist freshly grated Romano cheese on top. It's totally optional.

Quick tip -- if you are cooking for someone who is not on any sort of dietary restrictions, you can use the water that you blanched the zucchini in to cook them up a box of pasta. Top the pasta with a few zucchinis and your red pepper sauce. After all, this sauce is delicious on top of anything!

Here's what you need for Red Pepper Tomato Meat Sauce over Zucchini Ribbons (Print Recipe!)

3 medium to large zucchinis, sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey (or other ground meat of your choice)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 vidalia onion, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 6-ounce jar tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup chicken broth (may not use all of it)
2 teaspoons sugar (optional for Paleo)
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Here's what you do

Strain the zucchinis in a colander to remove any excess moisture. Set aside.

In a very large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown and crumble the ground turkey. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reduce heat slightly then melt in the butter. Saute the onion until slightly browned and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook one minute more, stirring constantly.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes, red peppers, and tomato paste. Cook until the tomato paste starts to melt. Add in the parsley, thyme, and oregano. Turn off the heat and pulse the mixture with an immersion blender until completely smooth (you can also do this in batches in a regular blender).

Turn the heat on to low and add the lemon juice. Add as much chicken broth as you want until the sauce is at the consistency you desire. Stir in the sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the zucchinis, cooking for one minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

Serve the zucchini topped with lots of sauce, adding additional chopped parsley for garnish and Parmesan cheese if desired.

Freeze any leftover sauce, as it will last for a few weeks when frozen.


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