Grain-Free, Vegan Variation, Paleo-Friendly
Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND
This recipe highlights vegetables that are in season right now—zucchini and tomatoes—as well as a popular kitchen tool—a spiralizer—that turns them into noodles. Vegetable noodles are a healthy alternative to pasta made from processed flour. They are full of fiber and free of gluten and the refined carbohydrates that raise blood sugar and insulin levels and promote inflammation throughout the body. Diets high in refined carbohydrates increase for the risk for deadly chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Even small elevations in blood sugar can greatly increase the risk of developing cancer and dying from cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.1
This zucchini noodle bowl is a gluten-free, grain-free, paleo-friendly version of shrimp scampi. With a good quality spiralizer, it takes seconds to make the noodles and they cook in just a few minutes, so you can get food on the table fast. Zucchini noodles release water while they cook and reduce in volume by about half, so use twice as much as you think you’ll need. Because large zucchini have a lot of seeds and small zucchini can be difficult to spiralize, I use medium zucchini about two and a half inches in diameter and about seven inches long.
Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, an antioxidant shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer.
While it’s not traditional in shrimp scampi, I used a tomato to add color, flavor, and antioxidants to this dish. Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, an antioxidant shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular disease.2 Orange tomatoes looked best at the farmer’s market this week, so I used one of those, but you can use any variety of tomato you like.
If you don’t have or don’t like shrimp, calamari is a good substitute. When you cut the tentacles in half and the body tubes into rings, it cooks just as quickly as shrimp. For a dairy-free variation of this dish, substitute an equal amount of cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil for the butter. To make it vegan, also substitute sliced mushrooms or cubed tofu for shrimp. If you’re not avoiding dairy, grated or shaved Parmesan cheese makes an excellent finishing touch.
This recipe yields two large main course portions. Increase the amounts of ingredients as needed if you’re feeding a crowd.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 2 medium zucchini, spiralized into noodles
- 2 large cloves garlic
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 12 medium shrimp
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoon parsley leaves
- Grated or shaved Parmesan cheese to garnish (optional)
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a ceramic-coated skillet.
- Add the shallot and tomato and cook until soft, about five minutes.
- Grate the garlic and zest the lemon directly into the skillet. Stir in the red pepper flakes, shrimp, and zucchini noodles.
- Cook until the zucchini is crisp-tender and the shrimp become firm and opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not over-cook.
- Transfer the mixture to a serving dish (a shallow bowl works well to capture the sauce) and garnish with parsley. Top with Parmesan if you wish. Serve immediately.
Sarah Cimperman, ND is the author of the new book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Sugar Cravings. She graduated from NCNM in 2002 and has a private practice in New York City. Her expertise has been featured on Fox News and Huffington Post and in Natural Health magazine, Whole Living magazine, and the Well Being Journal, among other publications. Dr. Cimperman also writes two blogs, A Different Kind Of Doctor and The Naturopathic Gourmet.
1 Jee SH, Ohrr H, Sull JW, Yun JE, Ji M, Samet JM. Fasting Serum Glucose Level and Cancer Risk in Korean Men and Women. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2005;293(2):194–202.
2 Rao AV and Agarwal S. Role of antioxidant lycopene in cancer and heart disease. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2000;19(5):563-9.