zoodles tossed into a garlic-infused olive oil with lemon & loads of summer vegetables. topped off with shrimp, grated cheese, and a good sprinkle of crushed red chili, these aglio olio zoodles are going to be your new favorite this summer!
guys! it’s officially summer! happy summer solstice 2017!!! *raises both hands & does a happy dance*
i honestly could not be happier about summer’s arrival this year. our days in minnesota are longer & sunnier, the weather is getting better & better, & after what was a seriously crazy spring, our calendar is slowing down a little.
it’s not that i don’t love a crazy schedule every now & then. i mean, we went to hawaii, my bestie got married, one of chris’ best buds got married too, our puppy grew & grew & grew some more into a young little dog (i now call him my 75-pound man child dog…make it stop!), i got to spend time with my niece & nephew, & the work i’ve been doing for the blog has given me such a sense of purpose & fulfillment. lots of good stuff going on, right?!
at the same time, to be completely honest with you, springtime this year felt like a flat out sprint, in more ways than one. all of the busy joy & serious hustle is culminating into a very exciting announcement that i can’t wait to share with you on thursday. =)
(umm…is that just as suspenseful as a cliffhanger ending to an episode of the bachelorette, or what?!)
in the meantime, though, to celebrate summer’s arrival, i have for you today my favorite summery dish: aglio olio zoodles with summer vegetables and shrimp.
first things first, do not (i repeat DO NOT) let the fancy schmancy name of this dish intimidate you.
aglio olio (pronounced, “ahh-leo oh-leo”) is a quintessentially italian classic pasta dish. in true italian fashion, it calls for the most humble ingredients (aglio = garlic, olio = oil), when combined they combine to amount to something that is greater than any of the individual components. in aglio olio’s case, a good amount of freshly grated garlic gets simmered away in a nice olive oil before getting tossed into a pile of warm noodles & mountains of freshly grated cheese.
yup…garlic + olive oil + noodle piles + cheese mountains. how is that not a winning combination?!
i first encountered aglio olio pasta at the italian restaurant i worked at as a server right out of college. most notably, it was the least expensive item on the menu. after my 50% off shift meal discount, i could eat a big ol’ bowl of aglio olio with my post-shift glass of wine for less than $6.
& if i threw the line cook a wink & a nice smile, he would gladly toss in a generous handful of whatever veggies & herbs he had hanging out in his prep station. (kind of joking, but not really…a little flirt will take you a long way in a restaurant kitchen!)
to this day, once this time of year rolls around, i still get very specific cravings for that post-shift aglio olio loaded with veggies. i’ve since reimagined it a little, swapping out the pasta for a pile of swirly, perfectly cooked zoodles, but i still load it up with any & every veggie i have hanging out in my fridge.
& that’s the beauty of aglio olio zoodles: it’s totally customizable. you can use whatever veggies look the best to you at the store or farmer’s market (or go ahead & grab whatever is on sale). this dinner takes almost no time to throw together, it reheats well, & it’s totally healthy.
plus, aglio olio zoodles are perfect for dining al fresco! invite over some your favorite people. serve up the zoodles on a big platter with a nice side salad. or some crusty bread. yes! crusty bread would be perfect! add to it a bottle of good white wine (sauv blanc for the win!) & a good playlist?
that, my friends, is summer perfection.
a couple of tips for aglio olio-ing like a boss at home:
1. prep everything in advance! timing is super important here. aglio olio zoodles is the kind of dish that comes together very quickly. once you start cooking, there’s very little room for error. chopping your veggies, spiralizing your zoodles, grating your garlic, & grabbing your chili flakes from your spice rack will help you to have everything in an arm’s reach just when you need it. (ahem, & will help prevent you from torching the garlic or overcooking the zoodles! – i speak from experience!!)
2. carefully cook the garlic. garlic can be so finicky! in a matter of seconds you can go from perfectly perfume-y to bitter, blackened little bits. avoiding the latter isn’t difficult – it just requires a little bit of patience & attention. i heat my olive oil on medium heat for 2 minutes or so before dropping the heat to medium low & adding in a handful of grated garlic. once you add in the garlic, you need to stir it quickly into the oil. just as you start to smell the garlic (it gets really deliciously fragrant!), toss in your veggies & zoodles. the veggies help shock the olive oil & drop its temp just enough to allow the garlic to continue to cook with the veggies without scorching.
3. lemon! it’s not traditional, but i loooooooove the way the brightness of lemon cuts right through the richness of this oil-laden dish. i find these aligo olio zoodles to be much more balanced with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
4. pick a protein (if you must). while i’m happy eating a big bowl of garlicky veggies & zoodles, i have a hard time convincing chris that aglio olio zoodles is a real meal without some sort of protein. i like to add in a handful of quickly marinated shrimp for him (#bestwifeever). i marinade the shrimp in some oil, lemon zest, & chili flakes because i love how they take on the flavor of the simple marinade so quickly. you could also totally do chicken or italian sausage here too! make it your own!
5. don’t skimp on the garnishes!! a sprinkle of chili flakes, chopped fresh herbs, an extra squeeze of lemon, or a mountain of freshly grated cheese goes a long way in making aglio olio zoodles a seriously great dish. choose one or two of your favorite toppings & run with it…or if you’re anything like me, go with all 4!
so tell me…have you ever had aglio olio pasta before? what did you think? what’s your favorite summery dish, or what’s something that makes your mouth water every year once summer rolls around? i’d obviously love to chat…let me know in the comments below! xx
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- 1 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined (16-20 ct)
- 3/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon crushed red chili, divided,
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 small eggplant, peeled & diced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 bunch asparagus, chopped at the bias into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup grated garlic (from about 6-8 cloves)
- 3 medium zucchini, spiralized
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- to garnish: grated parmesan cheese, extra crushed red chili, fresh herbs of choice, etc.
- Place the shrimp in a bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon crushed red chili, lemon zest, and a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Set aside.
- Coat the bottom of a large skillet or pan with a bit of olive oil and sautee the veggies over medium heat, seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste as you go. The goal here is to parcook them before you cook the zoodles, so use your judgement as to what will take the most time versus the least. I sauteed the eggplant for about 5 minutes before adding in the chopped asparagus for another 3 minutes and the tomatoes after that for another 1-2 minutes. Place the vegetables into a large serving dish and set aside.
- Return the large skillet to the stove over medium heat and add in 1/2 cup olive oil. Heat the olive oil for 1-2 minutes. Drop the heat to low and add in the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic just becomes fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of crushed red chili and the zoodles and toss, so the garlic-infused oil coats everything. Add the lemon juice and cook for 2 minutes, tossing frequently. Transfer the aglio olio zoodles into the serving dish with the cooked vegetables and toss until everything is combined.
- Return the large skillet to the stove over medium heat and add in the shrimp & its marinade. Cook about 2-3 minutes per side, until the shrimp is opaque.
- Top the aglio olio zoodles and veggies with shrimp, chopped herbs, cheese, & some extra crushed red chili. Enjoy!