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Recipe List for Zucchini

© 2009 Culinary Concepts, Inc., Boulder CO

A delicious twist on basic spaghetti:  Baking it with spinach, sausage and cheese melds the flavors deliciously and creates a one-dish meal that’s almost as good as lasagna—without all the work.  Use a smaller or larger amount of meat, as desired, or omit completely for a vegetarian version.

BBQ Chicken Pasta

BBQ sauce on pasta?  Actually, it’s not so odd, considering that BBQ sauce is tomato-based, just like all other marinara sauces.  The flavorings are just not standard Italian–which is what makes it fun.  Corn pasta makes for an even better taste combo–not to mention that it gets another whole grain into the diet.  



8 oz. corn pasta spirals (or spaghetti, broken in half before cooking)

Cook Pasta  Cook according to package instructions, then drain and return to pasta pot.

1 lrg. yellow onion, sliced ¼”  thick, then cut into 1” lengths

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Saute Onion  While waiting for pasta water to boil and pasta to cook, prepare the topping:  In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat until fairly hot (i.e., a piece of onion will sizzle when dropped in.)  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until just begin to turn brown, about 10 minutes.  Remove to a large bowl.     

1 ½ to 2 lbs. zucchini (about three med. 8” squash), cut in half lengthwise, then sliced about ¼” thick

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 Tbsp. olive oil  

Brown Zucchini  After removing onion from pan, add half the olive oil and heat over medium high heat until fairly hot.  Add half the zucchini and spread out evenly over saute pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Keep heat on medium high and allow zucchini to brown nicely (about 2-3 minutes) before turning with a spatula.  Cook and turn like this until zucchini is browned on most sides.  Remove to bowl with onions.  Repeat process with other half of zucchini and remove to bowl when done.    

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 lb.), trimmed of excess fat, cut in 1” cubes

Brown Chicken  Add chicken to same saute pan and lower heat to medium.  Cook and turn, as with zucchini, until browned on most sides.  Remove from heat.  

¾ cup favorite BBQ sauce

¼ cup broth or water

Add Sauce  Stir water and sauce into chicken, scraping bottom of pan to incorporate any browned bits from chicken, then pour mixture into pasta pot with cooked and drained pasta.  Add onion and zucchini and stir gently to combine everything thoroughly.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer about 5 minutes so flavors can meld, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Turn off heat and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes, if possible.  

¼ to ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro, to taste

1-2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, to taste

1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, to taste (optional)

Serve and Enjoy  Serve topped with cilantro, lime juice and cheese, as desired.  

Serves:  4

Browning in Batches

Why is the zucchini being cooked in two batches?  So it browns better.  If too much zucchini gets crowded into a pan, it ends up being steamed, rather than browned.  While this wouldn’t ruin the dish, it would diminish the tastefulness of the dish somewhat, since browning is one of the best  for zucchini.

Besides promoting flavorful browning, cooking in batches prevents any one ingredient from getting overcooked by the time the entire dish is finished.  This is why the onion is removed before sauteing the zucchini.  The onion flavor stays brighter and fresher, which is better for this dish than the mellower flavor that develops over a longer cooking period.  

Vegetarian Option

For the chicken, substitute ½ to ¾ of a tub of tofu, crumbled and browned as directed for chicken.  Alternatively, substitute 1 to 2 cups black or pinto beans, drained.  Simply add to cooked pasta along with onion and zucchini.  

Ingredient Notes

1. Corn Pasta It’s a little unusual, but it goes really well with BBQ sauce, not to mention that it’s also a whole grain and one other than wheat, helping us to get more variety into our grains.  My favorite brand of corn pasta is Mrs. Leeper’s, but Orgran makes a nice rice-corn variety (the tortelli shape is particularly good for this dish) and Ancient Grains makes a corn-quinoa pasta that is good as well.

2. “That’s a Lot of Zucchini!”  Don’t worry that this dish will be overloaded with zucchini.  As described in the cooking section, zucchini cooks down a lot.  Once cooked, it will be very reasonably portioned for this dish!  

3. BBQ Sauce  I almost hesitate to call for ready-made BBQ sauce because it’s so hard to find a healthful brand.  As Brian Henderson put it on BBQ Sauce Reviews,

To sum up this sauce [Sticky Fingers Memphis Original Barbecue Sauce], it’s yet another mass produced “looks like it’s from a small mom and pop store but actually it’s from a fairly large corporation” variety.  And that’s not always horrible.  It’s when the sauce is loaded up with ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, MSG, and artificial flavors - that is what turns me off.  The flavor is overly sweet and the consistency is thin.

I have switched to Annie’s Naturals Original BBQ Sauce which contains nothing artificial and is sweetened primarily with brown rice syrup, rather than high fructose corn syrup.  Be sure to read the ingredient label before you buy any brand.  

If you have a little extra time, the most healthful and least expensive option is making your own sauce.

I have done this before and was pleased with the results.  

Slicing and Browning Zucchini

BBQ Chicken Pasta with a quick side salad of lettuce, red peppers and cucumbers.  Annie’s BBQ sauce is pictured in the background.       

Cut squash in half lengthwise, lay the halves on their flat sides, then slice into half moons, about ¼” thick.   

Once oil is hot, put just half of zucchini slices into pan.  Then there is plenty of room to spread them out and leave a little space around each piece.      

Allow slices to cook 2-3 minutes, without turning so they have time to brown.  Flip and allow the other sides to brown for a couple minutes, then remove to a bowl, making room to brown the second batch.      

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