This Vegetarian Soup Is Officially the Best Way to Eat Zoodles

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Like many health-minded people circa 2016, I used to be obsessed with zoodles. They were the thing that convinced me that I like zucchini. Much to my then-boyfriend's chagrin, we began eating a lot (and I mean a lot) of zoodles. I put them everywhere—in salads, under pasta sauce, as pad thai noodles. I basically worshipped at their altar, and for a while I was able to ignore the fact that no matter what I did, they would always get soggy. (It is so like me to ignore red flags.)

But at a certain point, there's only so much runny, watery pasta sauce that one can reasonably tolerate. Four years after my initial fling with zucchini noodles, I've been replacing them for spaghetti squash or chickpea pasta because I was just so sick of soggy dinners. But on the third episode of Cook With Us, Well+Good's new cooking show, holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque convinced me to break out my spiralizer once again by putting zoodles in soup.

On the episode, LeVeque made a vegan Italian "meatball" soup with zoodles in place of noodles. While making a soup from scratch seems daunting and difficult, LeVeque's take was relatively simple. She made her plant-based meatballs first, then whipped up a simple broth using vegetable stock, diced canned tomatoes, and sautéed onions, celery, and herbs. As the broth came to a boil, she added in her zoodles and cooked them until they were al dente. With normal pasta, this would take up to 10 minutes; with zoodles, this took barely two or three.

The result: a warming, hearty soup that came together in under 30 minutes, with "noodles" that enhanced the final quality of the dish rather than detracting from it. Because it's a soup, you don't have to worry about the zoodles making your meal runny. They also add a nice, slightly crunchy vegetable texture to the rest of the dish.  Plus, thanks to the zucchini, you're getting an extra dose of fiber along with vitamin C, antioxidants, and disease-fighting phytonutrients. What's not to love?

"I truly never would have thought to put zoodles in a soup," Cook With Us host Jessie Van Amburg admitted at the end of the video. "I never knew zoodles could taste so good." Well now, you know. Keep reading for the recipe.

Kelly LeVeque's vegetarian meatball zucchini noodle soup


For the meatballs:
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils, cooled
1 1/2 Tbsp dried Italian seasonings
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
5-6 Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese (plus more for coating)
1/4 tsp Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp of almond flour

For the soup:
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup celery, diced 1/4 inch
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups vegetable broth
2 (14.5-ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 rosemary sprig
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp minced fresh basil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 zucchinis, zoodled
Pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Sauté garlic and shallots for meatballs in 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan.

2. Pulse lentils, 1 tsp olive oil, sautéed garlic and shallot, Italian seasonings, flax meal, parsley, and tomato paste. Roll into balls and dust with almond flour.

3. Sauté balls in a frying pan with remaining 1-2 tsp olive oil until golden brown, 6-8 mins. Set aside while making the soup.

4. To prepare the soup, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and saute until tender and fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes.

5. Add the broth, tomatoes, rosemary, bay leaves, basil, and parsley. Cover, bring to a simmer over medium-high, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.

6. Remove the bay leaves and rosemary. Add the meatballs and zoodles, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, until the meatballs and zoodles are heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

This story was originally published on March 9, 2020. It was updated on February 19, 2021. 

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