Food & Drink

To shake up the vegetable routine, use your noodle

Many vegetables are easily noodled: Spaghetti squash, once cooked, forms tender, thin strands you can twirl onto your fork; zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise, becomes long, wide ribbons. With the help of one of those “as seen on TV” spiral slicers, just about any root vegetable, from beets to turnips, can take the shape of pasta.

It’s a fun and practical way to shake up the vegetable routine. Raw vegetable noodles cook in minutes, thanks to their increased surface area. You can prep them a day in advance, so they make an easy weeknight dish.

You can’t go wrong simply sauteing them with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a handful of fresh herbs or a squeeze of lemon for extra flavor.

Or you can take the pasta concept more literally and toss cooked vegetable ribbons with tomato sauce or pesto. You also can combine vegetable “pasta” with regular noodles for a heaping main course that’s more healthfully balanced than the typical pasta dinner.

Asparagus is easily “pasta-fied” with a vegetable peeler. Inspired by of one of my most-craved spaghetti dishes, I toss the quickly cooked ribbons with garlicky toasted bread crumbs for a vegetable side dish that has decadent richness and unforgettable appeal.

Contact Ellie Krieger:

Asparagus ‘Pasta' With Garlicky Bread Crumbs

1 slice whole-grain bread (1 1/2 ounces)

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 bunches thick asparagus spears (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Tear the bread (including the crust) into pieces, letting them fall into a food processor. Pulse to form fine crumbs. Transfer to a medium skillet, along with the garlic and 1/2 tablespoon oil. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the crumbs are browned and crisped a bit. Season with half the salt; remove from the heat.

Cut off and reserve the asparagus tips. Hold an asparagus stem by its woody end; resting the stalk on top of a cutting board, use a vegetable peeler to shave the tender part of the stalk into long, thin strips. Discard the woody stem. Repeat with each asparagus stalk. (The asparagus may be prepped up to a day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.)

Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the shaved asparagus and the tips; cook, stirring gently, until slightly wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and the remaining salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and parsley; toss and serve right away.

Per serving: 120 calories, 4 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

Yield: 4 servings.