The vegetable noodles that go best with each of your favourite traditional pasta sauces

Sweet potato carbonara, zucchini bolognese… plus all your spiralizing and veggie noodle problems solved.

Sweet potato carbonara, zucchini bolognese… plus all your spiralizing and veggie noodle problems solved

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

While you're probably familiar with zucchini noodles, there are oodles more marriages to be made between your favourite pasta sauce and produce. Try a carbonara sauce on sweet potatoes for instance, or spiralized butternut squash with pesto.

This veg-forward way of cooking comes with other benefits that go beyond health too. A spiralizer speeds up prep work, turning vegetables into noodles that are really very pretty. And you can skip the side salad when you're in a rush. One-pot meals! Excited about veggies in the dead of winter? You will be!

If you want to work ahead, spiralize the vegetables the night before and store them under a damp paper towel in an airtight container in the fridge. Then all you'll have to do the next day is cook them quick and make the sauce.

If you're new to spiralizing, you may run into a few frustrations. Many factors affect your experience. The type of machine you have and the size, texture, and moisture content of your produce will influence your success rate. But practice makes perfect and you'll get the hang of it.

These are some of most common problems people encounter when cooking with vegetable noodles and how to fix them.

Common veggie noodle problems

The problem: Soggy sauces.

The fix: Roast your veggies in the oven first or cook them separately in a skillet with a bit of oil instead of in the sauce. Vegetables are made up mostly of water which they release when heated. Not all will pose a problem, but things like zucchini can make sauces especially wet. Whatever vegetable you're using, take precautions. Drain any excess liquid after cooking and serve immediately. For zucchini and other summer squash, plate the noodles first and top with the sauce.

The problem: Shrinking veggies.

The fix: Prepare for that moisture loss. You'll be left with a lot less cooked noodles than you started with raw— almost half! The general rule is to spiralize 1/2 lb of produce per person, and up to 3/4 lb per person if you're working with zucchini and other summer squash. Consider not even cooking the noodles when you can get away with it. Raw produce like cucumber is delicious as a cold "noodle" salad, but we'll get to that below.

The problem: You're getting little half moons when you spiralize.

The fix: Stop spiralizing and re-centre the vegetable. You're getting those moons because the vegetable isn't properly aligned, although a handful of moons is totally normal. They'll probably go unnoticed thrown in with the longer strands, or you can roast them separately to crisp them up and scatter them on salads or even the pasta dish that you're making.

The problem: Some vegetables don't fit in your machine.

The fix: Buy the right size or cut them down. They should be between 1-1/2 and 3 inches in width for the best results. If the neck of your vegetable is too thin, chop it off and use it for something else. If the vegetable is too long, cut it into more manageable lengths.

The problem: You're left with too many scraps.

The fix: Make soup! Save all your leftover bits and brunoise them into cute little cubes at the end of the week. Sweat them in oil, add veg or chicken stock, and simmer until perfectly tender. Throw in some chopped kale near the end, along with red or white beans and cubed bread if you wish. A couple sprigs of fresh tarragon, a squeeze of a lemon, and a liberal seasoning of salt will make good use of your discarded goods.

The problem: The vegetable noodles are just so….long!

The fix: Cut them with kitchen scissors over a bowl before cooking. Don't worry about getting them into even lengths. Just try to make them more manageable.

The problem: Your spiralizer is hard to clean.

The fix: Get started on the job right away before the vegetable bits dry and stick. Keep a toothbrush or round brush with a long handle near the kitchen sink so you can quickly clean the blades and crevices of your machine while keeping your hands stay safe.

Sauce and veggie noodle pairings

Now that we've covered the most common frustrations, let's get to the sauce and "noodle" pairings. Find a recipe on the internet for your favourite sauce below and swap in our suggested veg noodle for the pasta.

To do this easily, look at the amount of servings the dish makes and use our calculations above for how much veg you need to spiralize. For example, if a pasta dish says it serves four, you'll need two pound of vegetables, or almost three pounds if you're spiralizing zucchini or summer squash. You'll get the hang of it. Let's go!

Pair parsnips with butter and sage. Most recipes call for around 30 fresh sage leaves per two tablespoons of butter. Respect that and know it wilts down. Spiralize the veg into medium-sized noodles and pre-cook them before tossing with the sauce once the butter starts to brown. Make sure you cook the parsnips fully, making sure they're extremely tender to draw their maximum sweetness out.

Pair celeriac with parmesan, anchovy, garlic, and olive oil. Spiralize the celeriac into ribbons and shave the cheese into a similar shape too with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Skip the anchovies if they're not your thing and add some crushed chili flakes instead, perhaps? Or in conjunction with, if you're feeling bold.

Swap daikon for the egg noodles in chicken soup. Look for a recipe with Asian influence, possibly containing mushrooms and definitely a dash of fish sauce for umami in the broth. Spiralize the daikon into extra-fine noodles and drop them in at the end to preserve a little of their crunch.

Serve shrimp scampi over yellow summer squash. Use the blade that makes medium-sized noodles and look for sustainably-sourced shrimp from our Canadian waters. Finish the dish with a generous sprinkling of fresh parsley and lemon juice.

Top zucchini with a tomato-based sauce like bolognese, or a vegetarian version made with lentils. We've also got a recipe for Zucchini Pasta Puttanesca, which uses sundried tomatoes instead of saucier fresh or canned tomatoes, so you're able to cook the zucchini right in the pan and make use of their extra water. Like summer squash above, we suggest the medium noodle blade, but you can go ribbons if you like.

Pair potato with rapini and sausage. Spiralize them into the thinnest noodles you can and roast them to crisp them up as a texture contrast to the soft rapini. Consider blanching the spiralized spuds before roasting to speed up their time in the oven. Toss them at the last minute with the sauce.

Pair cucumber with a simple sesame sauce. Since cucumber noodles are better left raw, make the sauce first and let it cool down. Once you've tossed the dish together, eat it fast. Cucumber contains even more water than zucchini. Use the fine or medium noodle blade.

Experiment with kohlrabi topped with a sauce of gently softened apples and radicchio, goat cheese, and walnuts. Throw some chicken in there too, if you wish. A rotisserie one from your butcher will be the fastest. Spiralize the kohlrabi into ribbons.

Spiralize sweet potato into medium-sized noodles and make a veg-forward carbonara. Cook the sweet potatoes first with a little oil in a skillet, adding a splash of water to help them cook along. They're done when they're al dente, which should take around 10 minutes over medium-high heat.

Top broccoli stem noodles with a beef and broccoli sauce. So much broccoli, so good for you, plus you'll be reducing your food waste by not tossing the stems out! Save them up to make this and when you've got enough, spiralize them into fine noodles. Cook them quickly on the stovetop, top them with the sauce and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Toss medium-sized noodles of butternut squash with pesto. Buy the pesto or make your own. Either way, it's a quick dinner fix. Include some chicken if you want, or white beans and breadcrumbs to keep it veg. The neck will probably be too thin to spiralize, so cube it up and roast it and use it up in a grain salad another day.

Now that you've got some ideas to start you off, try them out and keep experimenting. When you land on a pairing too good to keep to yourself, share a photo and tag us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Or share your tips in the comments below. We love it when you make us hungry too.

Jessica Brooks is a digital producer and pro-trained cook and baker. Follow her food stories on Instagram @brooks_cooks.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.