I want to add a veggie pasta to our menu, but don’t have a good answer to the labor required. Can I get them precut? Or is there a machine that’s better than a mandolin?
– Chef, Philadelphia
Veggie noodles are a trend we are seeing more. They are not actually noodles, but rather thin strips of vegetables like zucchini, carrot, asparagus, cucumber or nearly any other vegetable cut to resemble a noodle. The result is a very low-calorie, nutrient-dense alternative to, or addition to, pasta. To fans of spaghetti squash this is hardly a new concept, but the labor required to produce them from other vegetables can be significant for an operator.
There are retail fresh-cut products available and I suspect we’ll see this more and more in the foodservice marketplace. Definitely ask your produce and broadline distributors.
If making the noodles in-house, it can be easily done on a mandolin; but, as you note, it is tedious. Mandolins are also notorious for nicks and cuts when not handled correctly, so be sure staff is trained and using the guards and/or cut-resistant gloves. Brian Lofink, executive chef of Sidecar Bar and Kermit’s Bake Shoppe in Philadelphia, suggests going beyond the mandolin by exploring other pasta shapes. For example, he does a vegetable “pappardelle” with paper-thin slices of zucchini and summer squash on a meat slicer.
To go the mechanized route: If this is a core menu item prepared in-house, try a shoestring potato cutter, which can be used not only for french fries but other shapes that can get you closer to the noodle you are looking for.
More on veggie noodles here.