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5 ingredients. 10 minutes. How to cook pasta in a flash.

5x10 zucchini pasta

I’m really excited to announce a new weekly segment on stonesoup.

While I try and apply my minimalist home cooking principles to all the recipes I share with you. Some, shall we say, are more minimal than others. So to keep me honest, and to make sure things around here are as simple and as quick as possible, I’ve decided to feature a weekly recipe that has 5 or fewer ingredients and can be prepared in 10 minutes or less.

To make things a bit easier I’ve decided not to include salt and pepper in the ingredient count, which I’m sure you’d agree is reasonable. On the more controversial side, I’m thinking of discounting olive oil if it’s 2 tablespoons or less used to oil a pan. My sister thought this was a bit dodgy but she spends way more time skiing than going anywhere near a kitchen so I thought I’d open it up to you guys. Should oil be included in the ingredient count? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Our maiden recipe in the 5 ingredients 10 minutes journey is zucchini ‘surprise’ pasta. You may be wondering where the ‘surprise’ comes from. Actually the name was inspired by the older sister of a uni mate of mine. Years ago when my friend’s sister was backpacking she got a job cooking in an English country pub. She wasn’t much of a cook but decided to give it a go. Apparently one of her least popular dishes was a special called ‘tuna surprise’. And the surprise? That there wasn’t any tuna.

But I digress, in this case – it’s that I’ve used fresh hokkien noodles instead of pasta. Surprise (!) – No pasta. If that seems too weird, by all means take the time to boil up some spaghetti or linguine but you’ll be well over the 10 minute mark by the time you’re done. Although I guess some fresh tagliatelle would meet the time constraints but it’s still more effort than my solution.

The beauty of fresh Asian noodles is that they just need heating up and they’re ready to eat. A soak in some boiling water from the kettle while you’re preparing the sauce is all that is required.

The other surprising thing is that with Italian sauces the noodles don’t taste Asian at all. The texture is slightly different to al dente pasta but still has that homely comforting feeling that we know and love in our pasta. I haven’t yet tried rice noodles Italian style but will put it on the menu next time I’m visiting my dear-old-gluten-intolerant-Dad and report back.

how to cook pasta in a flash
i. boil the kettle
ii. pour boiling water over fresh hokkien or similar noodles
iii. stand for 2 minutes or a bit longer
iv. drain & sauce like your favourite pasta

5x10 zucchini pasta

[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
zucchini (courgette) ‘surprise’ pasta

serves 1

This is one of those recipes that can scale up really easily so I’ve given the quantity for one. If you’re cooking solo you can freeze the leftover noodles for another day. I’d recommend dividing them into single serving portions first.

If you’re not in the mood for pasta I highly recommend cooking the zucchini like this and tossing through some basil or fresh mint to serve as a side dish. I made some to serve with steak for my carnivore Dad and brother last week and they agreed that it was very yummy and even gave it the ‘best zucchini ever’ wrap.

100g (3oz) fresh hokkien or singapore noodles
2 zucchini finely sliced into coins
1 egg yolk
1 handful parmesan cheese, grated + extra to serve
2 sprigs basil, leaves picked & torn

Boil the kettle and get a large frying pan on a high heat. Place the noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water.

Heat 1-2T everyday olive oil in a large frying pan over a very high heat. Add zucchini and reduce heat to medium high. Cook stirring occasionally and leave the zucchini to the ‘tenderness fairy’, as Nigel Slater calls it.

[I know, I know. I’m obsessed. I promise – no more references to my new favourite food scribe]

When the zucchini is lovely and tender, drain the noodles and return to the heatproof bowl. Stir through egg yolk, cheese, zucchini and basil and season. Stir again until the cheese is melted and the sauce is glistening and silky.


on eat|shop|drink
the green room – quay restaurant
hugh wennerbom in chippers

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{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Carolina 11 February, 2010, 7:35 pm

    I am so making this tonight – thanks for the inspiration.

  • jules 11 February, 2010, 8:19 pm

    I’m having it as well carolina – although it’s going to be a little cold as I took the photo about 5 hours ago – but good for summer

  • Joana 11 February, 2010, 9:24 pm

    everything in your blog looks so wonderful and delicious!
    i think i´ll start by trying this zucchini pasta.

    (and i don´t think oil should count as an ingredient)

  • Elizabeth 12 February, 2010, 12:21 am

    Beautiful recipe. I miss summer. It’s cold and snowy here in the US. Wish I could cut up some fresh squash and basil.

  • Conor @ HoldtheBeef 12 February, 2010, 12:42 am

    Lovely dish! I quite like the idea of the tenderness fairy, coming to work her magic on the zucchini :)

    I agree that olive oil shouldn’t be counted.

  • Jesse Bishop 12 February, 2010, 3:34 am

    This sounds delicious! And as far as counting olive oil as an ingredient, it’s a grey area… I trust your judgment, though. But I think it’s a given (as is the usage of salt & pepper) that you should more often then not, put a splash in the bottom of your pan. So taking it out is a-OK with me!

  • jennifer 12 February, 2010, 7:17 am

    Who hasn’t got olive oil in their pantry I’d like to know? It shouldn’t count!!
    Ditto to s & p. An essential flavour boost to the simplest of dishes.

  • ana 12 February, 2010, 8:03 am

    Refer to St Nigel as often as you like. Have you read his memoir of childhood, Toast? It’s wonderful. His original Good Food Fast is a bible of mine, literally falling to bits now. Love your posts.

  • kathryn 12 February, 2010, 8:24 am

    Good idea for recipes Jules, look forward to seeing what you come up with. I don’t think you should include olive oil in the 5 ingredients. Assume that we all have that. But if you’re using a different oil, then maybe it should be counted?

  • jules 12 February, 2010, 10:13 am

    thanks joana

    funny – I’m almost thinking it would be lovely to have a wintery pot of slow roasted lamb shanks.. but then again

    thanks conor and glad you agree with the olive oil – isn’t the tenderness fairy such great imagery

    thanks jesse – agree it’s a litte grey

    thanks jennifer

    st nigel. I love it! toast is on my list and so is the good food fast – so excited to have so many wonderful things to discover

    thanks kathryn. good point to include other oils. I was also going to include olive if the recipe needed a lot of it like in pesto

  • Chris O'Byrne 12 February, 2010, 11:59 am

    I’m going to love your weekly feature, what a great idea!

    Definitely do not include the splash of olive oil or any oil used just to grease the pan.

    • jules 13 February, 2010, 9:20 am

      thanks chris
      I’m so glad I asked the question – can’t wait to gloat to my sister ;)

  • Mark B 13 February, 2010, 8:17 am

    Happy valentines day – I love your musings!

    • jules 13 February, 2010, 9:14 am

      thanks mark
      hope you have a lovely valentines as well.
      I’m cooking dinner for 10 single mates. the best way to celebrate me thinks

  • Janet 14 February, 2010, 4:38 am

    I say, include olive oil as an ingredient–but up your ingredient list to 6. (You might like basic Spanish alioli, see http://mykitcheninspain.blogspot.com/2010/02/jug-of-olive-juice.html)
    Zucchini is one vegetable to cook in the microwave–cut in coins, like you say, add some olive oil, but no salt til cooked. Add to pasta, etc–

  • Mummy Zen 14 February, 2010, 7:50 pm

    Great idea for a weekly recipe feature and I think it’s fine to exclude the olive oil as one of the 5 ingredients. Looking forward to trying this one and others to come.

  • Simone (junglefrog) 15 February, 2010, 7:27 am

    I totally agree on not adding the olive oil as an ingredient. I don’t count it when I am checking on ingredients as it is something I always have and to me is like pepper and salt.. :) Great idea actually to use noodles for this dish, although I usually have more spaghetti in the house then noodles. I do have two zucchini’s in the fridge right now so I will be making this for dinner tomorrow! Great idea for a weekly feature. Looking forward to seeing more of this!

  • michelle 16 February, 2010, 12:04 pm

    looks lovely.

    i don’t think oil/salt/pepper/water should count.

  • Lisa 17 February, 2010, 3:23 am

    agreed. olive oil doesn’t count.

  • Glitterati 19 February, 2010, 9:22 am

    Oooh, I love a good carbonara mostly for the egg yolk. (okay, and the bacon, obviously, but if I had to choose, it’d be the yolk) Never thought to put it over a vegetarian pasta though! Genius!

    I agree with most of the others, I wouldn’t count olive oil. If it were a fancy oil that most people don’t have lying around (e.g., walnut oil, sesame oil, truffle oil), then I’d count it. But your basic neutral veg oil or olive oil, I’m pretty sure everyone has on hand.

  • catherine 23 February, 2010, 8:29 am

    Looks amazing and healthy too!

  • katkats kitchen 23 February, 2010, 8:31 am

    I added a few handfuls of fresh spinach to mine for the last few seconds.

  • jules 23 February, 2010, 3:43 pm

    thanks for the zucchini tip janet. I don’t have a microwave but sounds like a nice simple way to get the tenderness fairy to visit

    thanks mummy zen & simone

    I know it’s hard to go past a good cabonara (I have a soft spot for bacon too) and agree that I’ll include any exotic oil requirements.

    thanks catherine

    katkat. great idea to add some spinach.

  • Anita 27 February, 2010, 1:18 am

    Do you have your recipe for simple veggie laksa? It is linked to this page from Tastespotting, but no Laksa here…

    THANKS! :-)

  • jules 27 February, 2010, 7:48 am

    hi anita

    sorry. not sure why the tastespotting liks to this post. I actually wrote about simple laksa on zen family habits – http://www.zenfamilyhabits.net/2010/01/5-ingredients-5-minutes-5-meals-simple-noodles/

    it’s really yum.


  • Tyjana 29 December, 2010, 4:06 pm

    This looks delish, do you think anything else (vegan) would work in place of the egg yolk?

  • jules 29 December, 2010, 8:50 pm

    hey tyjana
    If I were going to cook a vegan version of this dish I’d cook the zucchini with lots of olive oil and some garlic and finish it off with the basil and toasted pinenuts.

  • Britt 18 June, 2011, 4:00 am

    Olive oil should never be counted as an ingredient- unless in excess of 0.5 cup or 1 cup. I have a few ‘low ingredient count’ cookbooks and olive oil is never counted as a rule. However: Exotic oils or non-conventional oils should count against the limit- peanut, sesame, chili, etc. I also think that the microwave- though quick and easy should be used as sparingly as possible, if not completely eliminated from the recipes. Many of us are trying to avoid its use for health reasons. Thanks for the great recipes!

  • jules 20 June, 2011, 10:04 pm

    thanks britt
    I agree with the microwave thing

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