We love our new spiralizer, which turns vegetables into pasta-like ribbons so you can make low-calorie, gluten-free versions of your favorite pasta dishes. For more ways to make healthy meals with the machine, we turned to Ali Maffucci, the creator of Inspiralized, a blog devoted to all things spiralizing: nutritious recipes, tips and tricks, and new ideas for home cooks.
Here, we ask Ali all about how she discovered the spiralizer, how it’s changed her diet, and her favorite ways to use it in the kitchen. She also shares an original recipe created just for Taste. Read on, and get inspiralized!
How did you first start using the spiralizer? What interested you about it, or what were some of your goals in trying it out?
My mother was actually in a restaurant in Florida and ordered an “Asian Zucchini Noodle Salad,” not knowing what zucchini noodles were. She loved it, found out about the spiralizer and made me a dish with it one evening, a couple months later. I was so amazed by how it tasted just like regular pasta that I literally took her spiralizer back to my apartment that night. It still stuns me every time — the consistency is unbelievable!
I was interested in the spiralizer because, like many, I’m constantly looking for ways to eat smarter. I’ve always been into healthy cooking and as an Italian American, I’m a big lover of pasta, but not the refined sugars, carbohydrates, calories and gluten that come with it! For me, the spiralizer was a healthy and light way to eat my favorite pasta and noodle dishes.
In the beginning, I started spiralizing for dinners and lunches at home. Honestly, at first, I had no immediate goals — it was just a blast, new way to cook healthy, without sacrificing flavor. It wasn’t until the encouragement starting pouring in from my friends, family and boyfriend that I decided to make something of my spiralized cooking. I just really wanted to spread the message that eating healthy doesn’t mean giving up the good stuff and restricting ourselves — it just means eating smarter and making better choices! The spiralizer allows us to do all of that, while having fun in the kitchen.
What changes have you noticed in your diet and eating habits since you started using the spiralizer?
Spiralizing encourages you to think of vegetables in an entirely different light. Instead of viewing them as the sidekicks, they’re the superheroes! Zucchini, sweet potato, butternut squash and others become the focus of the dish, while the proteins and grains are the “add-ons.”
Since spiralizing, I prep my meals much more than I ever did before. Spiralizing is so quick that you can prep a whole week’s worth of zucchini noodles in less than 5 minutes. Thus, I make healthier decisions during the week, because half of the work is already done and I no longer have the excuse, “I just don’t have the time to make dinner!”
Most importantly, I’ve noticed the health benefits of eating more vegetables in my mind and body. I’m more focused with work, my skin is clear, I’ve slimmed out and I have more energy to work out. And of course, I’m more motivated and happier than ever! Vegetables are truly nature’s medicine.
Using the spiralizer to create noodles out of vegetables and fruits is tremendously helpful for those who are gluten intolerant or Paleo. Those who adopt a Paleo diet or those who are diagnosed with Celiac’s disease cannot consume gluten, so noodles made of vegetables gives them the ability to eat bowls of noodles and pasta again.
Also, those who are diabetic will find spiralizing to be extremely helpful in regulating their blood sugar levels, since vegetables are very low in sugar and many are low in carbohydrates.
Raw vegans can use the spiralizer to make noodles by spiralizing vegetables such as beets, zucchinis, carrots, cucumbers, jicama and daikon radishes and using them uncooked — they’re still delicious, especially with the right sauce, like a pesto!
Other diets that benefit from the spiralizer are those that include consuming foods that are low-fat, low-sugar, low-carbohydrate and unprocessed. For example, the 21DSD and Whole 30 diets. Pretty much, the spiralizer is helpful for everyone — even kids! Children love watching the spiralizer magically turn vegetables into noodles. It’s touching to see young children spiralizing vegetables and creating healthy meals with their parents.
Tell us about the many dishes you’ve created with the spiralizer over the years. What are some new and creative uses you’ve discovered?
When I first started out, I set out to recreate my favorite pasta and noodle dishes, using zucchini noodles. I made Spaghetti & Meatballs, Pesto Pasta, Shrimp Lo-Mein and Pad Thai. Very basic dishes.
As soon as I started blogging, my creative juices were flowing, because I really wanted to learn with my readers and show them that the possibilities truly are endless. Once the summer ended and fall and winter began, I had to think outside the box, since fresh zucchinis were out of season and it’s important to eat seasonally to support your local farmers and get out of a veggie rut. While I still use zucchinis regularly, I started to experiment with butternut squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets.
Most recently, I discovered (by accident!) that if you spiralize a tougher vegetable and then put those noodles in a food processor, they turn into rice-like bits and can be cooked just like rice, using a broth to cook and add flavor to the vegetable bits. I’ve made a Spanish Rice with Ham & Olives, Stuffed Peppers with Rice and a Parmesan Risotto. Now, I’m dreaming of Plantain Risotto, Fried Rice and even sushi! Mmm, I’m hungry.
I use my spiralizer every day. On average, I make two spiralized meals per day. If you do the math, that’s about 400 spiralized dishes made (just since I started blogging!) Prior to starting my blog, I probably made about 30-40 dishes in total. I was hooked after the first one!
What are some of your favorite recipes on your blog, and what do you love about them?
Miso-Ponzu Zucchini Noodles with Tofu & Veggies: I love the use of the raw zucchini noodles here, because they soften as they absorb the miso-ponzu dressing. Plus, I just feel refreshed eating this — and it’s packed with such great savory flavor!
Turkey Zucchini Noodle Bolognese: I call this my Bikini Bolognese. Who ever thought we’d be able to eat a giant bowl of bolognese (meat sauce) pasta and be able to go for a workout 20 minutes later? This is a classic example of a carb-heavy favorite Italian classic becoming Inspiralized. I make this regularly at home.
Spanish Butternut Squash Rice with Ham & Olives: My boyfriend is Latin American, so I whipped this up one day on a whim and it made the blog solely based on his reaction: “It tastes just like Spanish rice!” I love how the sweetness of the butternut squash plays up with the saltiness of the broth, olives and ham. Altogether, a surprisingly satisfying-yet-light spiralized dish.
Ham & Cheese Sweet Potato Noodle Sandwiches: As a healthy alternative to the ramen burger, I first created the “Inspiralized Bun” using sweet potato noodles in place of ramen. From that, I created these ham & cheese sammies, which are unbelievably delicious — again, the sweetness of the sweet potato creates a delicious flavor with the cheese and salty ham. Just an unprocessed way to make a sandwich!
Ginger Scallion & Egg Drop Zucchini Noodle Soup: This was my attempt at fusing a classic takeout favorite (egg drop soup) with the mouth-watering flavors of Momofuku’s ginger scallion noodle bowl. It’s the most comforting, filling and tasty bowl of soup you’ll ever eat — plus, it’s light on the hips and fills your kitchen with the gorgeous smells of cooked ginger.
What are your favorite ingredients to spiralize?
You never forget your first love, so I’d say zucchini. It’s not as versatile as the butternut squash or sweet potato (it can’t be made into rice or a noodle bun), but the consistency is unbeatable and the light dishes that can be made are limitless.
Also, I recently started boiling carrot noodles. They taste just like whole-wheat spaghetti! I love them with a tomato sauce or butternut squash sauce. Also, roasted beet noodles with a pesto sauce are so flavorful. I love all vegetables (except the ones with pits or hollow cores — they can’t be spiralized!)
Any special tips for people using the spiralizer at home?
Keep it Clean. Buy a round palm brush and keep it just for the spiralizer. Not only is it important to keep the spiralizer clean (it’s not sanitary to have food stuck in the blades), but it’s a very sharp tool, so you don’t want to nick your fingers or ruin a sponge trying to clean the blades. Plus, the cleaner you keep it, the longer it’ll last! I had my first spiralizer for 10 months before I finally had to replace it (the suction cups loosened) and I spiralized hundreds and hundreds of times!
Familiarize Yourself. When you first receive your spiralizer, spiralize a large zucchini. Then, toss it in a skillet over medium heat with a 1/2 tbsp of olive oil, 1/4 tsp of garlic and a tiny pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss it in the pan for 2-3 minutes (or until the noodles begin to wilt), drizzle with the fresh juices from half a lemon and plate with a sprinkling of black pepper. Taste that and get a feel for zucchini noodles. Then, your palate will register the consistency and flavor and you’ll know what sauces, other veggies, proteins and grains might go with it. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the process before you make a full recipe. Also, you’ll notice that zucchini releases water as it cooks, so knowing that, make sure you compensate when cooking sauces (no one likes a watery bowl of pasta!) More on that here.
Prep the Vegetables Correctly. I recommend that you evenly slice off the ends of the vegetable and then, if it’s large (longer than 3.5-4 inches), chop it in half. It’s important to do this to give yourself better leverage when spiralizing. If the vegetable is off-center, it will wobble and won’t spiralize correctly. Making sure that both ends of the vegetable are flat is important for perfect spiral noodles.
Creamy Vegetable Thai Red Coconut Curry with Sweet Potato Noodles
Time to Prepare: 10 minutes
Time to Cook: 15 minutes
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp peeled & minced ginger
2-3 tbsp red curry paste
1 cup small cauliflower florets
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 handful of snow peas
1 can coconut milk (about 14 oz)
1/2 cup vegetable broth*
3 sweet potatoes (300g), peeled, spiralized using Blade C
1.5 tbsp roughly chopped cilantro
Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add in the coconut oil. Once oil heats, add in the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Then, add in the curry paste, stir to combine and add in the vegetables.
Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then, add in the coconut milk and bring to a boil.
Once the broth boils, add in the sweet potato noodles. Cover, bring down to a simmer and let cook for 5-7 minutes or until sweet potato noodles are cooked to your consistency preference. When done, add in the cilantro, stir and then ladle into bowls to serve immediately.
New Yorkers, take note: Ali will be demonstrating how to use the spiralizer in our Columbus Circle store from 1-3 p.m. EST on February 16th. Stop by to see her in action!