Oodles of new vegetable noodles added a splash of colour to the recent Canadian Produce Marketing Association expo in Toronto, highlighting one of the summer’s top food trends.
“Foodles (‘fun noodles’) are one of the hottest-selling items we’ve ever launched,” says Noel Brigido, vice president of Mississauga produce processor Freshline Foods, whose packaged veggie noodles are competing with heavy hitters such as Del Monte.
“We sold out at retail on the first day!”
This fresh, gluten-free and vegan “pasta” is perfect for people who, for whatever reason, don’t want to cook or eat traditional wheat pasta. It also offers a quick, easy way to add more vegetables to your life and sneak them into your kids.
You’ll find veggie noodles cut as long, thin spaghetti or wider fettuccine-style noodles of healthy, low-calorie carrots, zucchini, beets, butternut squash and sweet potato, ready to transform into soups, salads, pasta and stir-fries.
Brigido says zucchini is the favourite Foodle so far, and the line-up will change with the seasons.
“You can blanch them in boiling water and serve them cold,” he says, “and we see a big future for them in foodservice.”
In the past year, Freshline has seen a dramatic rise in the demand for fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.
“People want to cook,” says Brigido, “but they don’t have time and they’re looking for ingredients to make a quick meal or side dish.”
DIY veggie noodles
With a julienne vegetable peeler or a gizmo called a spiralizer (I love my little green Oxo) anyone can make fresh veggie noodles at home, though they may not be as long, sturdy or consistent as the commercial variety. There’s no need to peel zucchini before spiralizing them into zoodles.
Buy & Store
- Buy the freshest-looking veggie noodles in their 340 g (12 oz) plastic trays.
- Check the best-before date and use as quickly as possible. With no preservatives, fresh-cut veggies have a short shelf life.
- Use veggie noodles in any recipe that calls for wheat pasta.
- Boil them, bake them, simmer in broth or sauté in a little oil.
- Like dry pasta, cook just until al dente. Do not overcook.
- Keep zucchini noodles simple and don’t overload with a lot of ingredients or heavy sauces.
- For salads, use veggie noodles raw or throw in boiling water for a minute or two to blanch. Drain and refresh under cold water then continue with your recipe.
- Boil veggie noodles briefly then drain and toss with olive oil or melted butter and a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pesto: Toss blanched, drained zucchini noodles with a freshly-made sun-dried tomato and basil pesto.
- Mac’n cheese: Bake butternut squash noodles in a cheesy cream sauce sprinkled with breadcrumbs (GF if desired) and Parmesan.
- Pad Thai: Stir-fry sweet potato noodles with sautéd ginger, garlic, bean sprouts and green onions. Dress with a lime, chili and soy dressing and sprinkle with peanuts.
- Salad: Toss raw or blanched beet noodles with arugula, red onion, pomegranate seeds and crumbled feta. Dress with a balsamic- pomegranate juice vinaigrette.
- Soup: Simmer zucchini or butternut squash noodles in chicken broth flavoured with miso paste; garnish with cilantro. For a Thai soup, sauté cubed chicken breast and simmer with veggies in a ginger, lemongrass and coconut milk broth, adding sweet potato or butternut squash noodles at the end until just tender.
- Slaw: Add a package of butternut squash noodles to a coleslaw mix and dress with a lemony yogurt and cider vinegar dressing.
Along with veggie noodles, sweet little greenhouse-grown Ontario tomatoes were front and centre at the recent CPMA expo. New varieties include Mucci Farms’ Cherto, Del Fresco’s Mini Mixers and Cloud 9 from Pure Flavor, packed in a compostable tray made of tomato fibre.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pkg (12 oz/340 g) zucchini “noodles” or 1 large spiralized zucchini
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.
Add tomatoes and oregano, stirring to coat with oil. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften.
Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute or until fragrant. Add zucchini noodles, lemon zest and juice. Toss with tongs, mixing well, for 3 to 5 minutes or to desired doneness. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve immediately. Makes 2 to 3 servings.