Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
Here we have a rare gem of a dish: Not only is it fast and easy, but you can load up your plate because it’s also quite healthy. I love pad thai, but some take-out versions can be packed with calories, fat and sodium. Swapping veggie noodles in for rice noodles lightens the dish in one easy move while giving it a nutritional boost.
I typically make my own veggie noodles at home with a spiralizer; however, certain vegetables can be harder to work with. For speed, I opted for store-bought noodles made from butternut squash, perfect for the transition into fall, as their earthy sweetness is a nice complement to the sweet-savory pad thai sauce. To suit your tastes and the season, you can try this with other squash or root vegetables.
As for the sauce—based on tamarind paste, fish sauce and palm sugar or brown sugar—I also purchased it pre-made for weeknight convenience. (Check the ingredients label to keep an eye on the dish’s total calorie count and sodium content.) But if you have a favorite homemade pad thai sauce recipe, that’s even better.
Pad thai can be customized with add-ins and toppings to your heart’s content. I picked a few items—chiles, bean sprouts, green onions, peanuts, cilantro and lime—but other nuts, bell pepper strips or scrambled egg would all be great options.
On the wine front, I would typically reach straight for an off-dry version of an aromatic white like Riesling or Gewürztraminer to pair with a dish that has a combination of sweet, sour and savory flavors and a touch of heat. However, I thought I’d use this occasion to explore some dry whites: a Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc and a white blend from Côtes du Roussillon in the south of France.
The Sauvignon Blanc’s notes of green apple, bell pepper and lime fit right in with the flavors of the dish and made for a refreshing pairing. The fleshier Roussillon white—a supple blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Macabeu and Marsanne—had notes of melon, golden apple, flowers and spice. While its profile worked with the warm nuttiness of the squash pad thai, the food brought out mineral notes and a crisper texture in the wine. Ultimately, the match brought an extra layer of complexity that made it our favorite of the day.
Butternut Squash Noodle Shrimp "Pad Thai"
Pair with a white Rhône-style blend such as M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon White Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2016 (90 points, $15).
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Approximate food costs: $29
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 24 ounces (about 4 1/2 cups) butternut squash noodles
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 serrano chiles, seeds and ribs removed
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 6 ounces pad thai sauce, store-bought or homemade
- 3 to 4 green onions, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup peanuts, crushed (optional, for garnish)
- 1 or 2 limes, quartered (optional)
- 1/4 cup lightly chopped cilantro (optional, for garnish)
- canola oil or peanut oil
1. Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté until cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Set aside.
2. If needed, wipe the pan and/or add a little more oil. Add the garlic and chiles to the pan, cook for about 30 seconds, then add the squash noodles. Cook for about 7 minutes over medium to medium-high heat until the noodles are nearly tender, tossing frequently. Add the bean sprouts and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shrimp back to the pan, then add the pad thai sauce gradually, stirring gently until all the noodles are sufficiently coated to your taste and everything is warmed through.
3. Serve the noodle mixture in bowls and garnish with the green onions, cilantro, crushed peanuts and lime quarters, if using. Serves 4.