As we say farewell to summer, there’s still time to enjoy a refreshing bowl of zucchini pasta with sweet cherry tomatoes. Pair with a creamy avocado sauce to keep things extra light. Why not enjoy one last summer meal before the fall comfort foods roll out?
Cherry tomatoes are in full swing with the end of summer near. Look for sun gold or yellow pear cherry tomatoes to add brightness to this otherwise green dominating dish.
Although this recipe calls for the tomatoes to be cooked, you could leave them raw too.
I debated whether or not to save this zucchini pasta recipe for next spring, the time when asparagus makes its seasonal debut. But as summer winds down, asparagus continues to be plentiful and has yet to disappoint taste-wise.
How to Buy and Store Asparagus
If you’re newly introduced to asparagus, you may be wondering how to select and store this unusual vegetable.
Below are tips for optimizing the freshness of asparagus. These methods will keep the vegetable fresh for at least 3 days or more.
How to Select Asparagus:
- Asparagus should be consistent in color, preferably bright green, without any dark green or brown discolorations. The tips of the spears should be green, sometimes with purple undertones.
- The spears should feel firm, from the tips to base. If you can bend the stalk without it snapping then the asparagus has gone limp and is not fresh.
- The pretty tips of the spears should feel dry and crisply intact. Avoid ones that are soft, wilting or discolored.
- Don’t forget to smell! Asparagus should have a very mild and pleasant odor, if any at all. You’ll know when its gone bad as it will have a distinctly foul smell.
How to Properly Store Asparagus:
- Handle asparagus as you would a fresh bouquet of flowers but with one exception. You’ll want to keep the rubber band intact that secures the stalks together. This will make it much easier to keep the bundle upright.
- Fill a jar with at least an inch of water or enough to submerge the base of all the stalks. I find a jar works best for stability but you could get by with a bowl. Just make sure the bundle can stand upright.
- Loosely cover the asparagus (including the jar) with the plastic produce bag that you used to bring it home or a gallon-sized ziplock bag will do.
- Store in the refrigerator and use within 3 days for optimal freshness. Keep them towards the front on a refrigerator shelf as the back may run colder.
For a crunchy texture, garnish the pasta with toasted pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas. It only takes 3-4 minutes to toast the raw seeds, changing their texture from chewy to an airy crunch.
Be sure not to skip on the pumpkin seeds! Otherwise you’ll miss out on their nutritionally diverse content, such as protein, iron, minerals, and zinc.
For this recipe, I used shelled Australian pumpkin seeds. This variety is much darker in color than another variety known as La Pluma pumpkin seeds. The La Pluma variety is also shaped differently, with a more oblong structure. Either kind will work though.
Pepitas or pumpkin seeds can usually be found in the aisle with other seeds, nuts or dried fruit.
But if you can’t find them, raw and unsalted sunflower seeds are an excellent substitution. Prepare sunflower seeds in the same fashion but cut toasting time in half due to their smaller size (see note section of recipe card below).
How to Make Zucchini Pasta
Now, onto those noodles! Using a spiralizer is the easiest and fastest method for obtaining equally sized zucchini noodles. It takes only minutes to spiralize an entire zuke!
I always keep the zucchini skin on before spiralizing but you could peel them too.
Once spiralized, roughly chop the curly pile to create more manageable strands. Or leave the noodles longer (with just a few chops) so you can twirl them with your fork!
If spiralizing isn’t an option, you can make them by hand using a vegetable peeler. To do this, peel as you would a carrot, using light pressure from one end of the zucchini to the other.
Once you’ve peeled to the seedy core, flip to the other side of the zucchini, repeating the same steps. These noodles will be wide and flat but still equally delicious!
Although the title of this recipe suggests using zucchini, you can substitute the zucchini pasta with a more traditional pasta if you prefer.
One of my favorites is a brown rice and quinoa fusilli pasta. The ridges really grab the creamy sauce!
Creamy Avocado Sauce
This zucchini pasta wouldn’t be complete without a creamy sauce. To make the vegan and oil-free creamy avocado sauce, use a high-powered blender or food processor. I used my trusty 4-cup mini food processor which I find incredibly handy for whipping up sauces, dips, and dressings.
I always run the garlic through the processor first before add the remaining ingredients.
To make this vegan, I swapped out the typically used parmesan cheese for white Cannellini beans. Great Northern beans would also work well.
The beans add an extra layer of creaminess on top of the buttery avocado.
I prefer a thicker sauce, especially when paired with zucchini noodles. But if you find the sauce too thick for your taste, simply thin it by adding a tablespoon of water at a time.
Let me know if you made this recipe!Print
Zucchini Pasta with Creamy Avocado Sauce
Zucchini pasta or zucchini noodles serve as the base of this healthy, veggie zucchini loaded pasta dish. Pair with a creamy avocado sauce to keep this pasta light.
Produce | Zucchini, Garlic, Avocado, Lemon, Fresh Basil, Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes
Pantry | Cannellini Beans (or Great Northern), Raw Pumpkin Seeds
Spices & Oils | Fine Sea Salt, Freshly Ground Black Pepper, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 15
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 2 large servings or 4 sides
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Cooktop
- Cuisine: Vegan
- One large sized Zucchini (approx. 2 main servings)
Avocado Bean Sauce (makes about 1.5 cups)
- One clove of Garlic
- One medium ripe Avocado
- 1 cup of Cannellini Beans (or Great Northern) from a 15oz can, reserve remaining beans, rinse and drain
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice, plus more to taste
- 2 packed cups Fresh Basil
- 1/4 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds (or Pepitas)
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Oil of Choice
- 8-10 Asparagus spears, woody ends removed and cut into 1″ long pieces
- Half a pint (8 ounces) Cherry Tomatoes, halved
- Reserved Cannellini Beans
- Spiralize the zucchini and transfer to a large mixing bowl. If the zucchini pasta appears watery, pat dry with a paper towel. Cover and store in the refrigerator while you make the sauce and toppings.
Avocado Bean Sauce
- In a food processor, add the clove of garlic and process until chopped finely. Next, combine all remaining sauce ingredients and blend until you have a creamy sauce. Scrape down the sides as needed. If the sauce is too thick, thin the mixture by adding one tablespoon of water at a time. Adjust seasonings to taste and add more lemon juice if necessary.
- Toast the Pumpkin Seeds: Over medium heat, add pumpkin seeds to an oil-free large skillet. Stirring frequently, toast the seeds for 3-5 minutes or until the seeds start to pop or give off a fragrant smell. Once toasted, transfer to a bowl.
- Sauté the Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes: Reusing the same large skillet, warm 1-2 tablespoon(s) of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and sauté for 4-6 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes to the asparagus and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes or until the asparagus is crisp-tender and tomatoes slightly wilted. (If you prefer the cherry tomatoes raw, total cook time for the asparagus is 5-8 minutes or until bright green and crisp-tender.) Note: reduce cooking time for asparagus that is super thin.
- Add the sauce to the spiralized zucchini bowl and gently mix until well combined. Or hold the sauce and add last, on top of the final dish. Sauce amount per preference (see note below for storing leftovers). Transfer to wide serving bowls.
- On top of the zucchini pasta, layer the sautéd asparagus, cherry tomatoes, toasted pumpkin seeds and reserved beans. Serve immediately.
- Store Leftover Sauce: Although best when fresh, you can refrigerate leftover sauce for the next day. Store leftovers in a jar to minimize the amount of sauce exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the top of the sauce before screwing on the lid. If the top of the sauce turns brown, just scrape it off to reveal green underneath. Stir well before serving.