Beef and Kale Ragù with Aglio e Olio Zucchini Noodles / by Judy Kim

by Judy Kim

Beef and Kale Ragu with Aglio e Olio Zucchini Noodles

Yield: 4 servings

I've been challenging myself to create some healthy low carb, Paleo meals that are tasty and satisfying. So here's a play on spaghetti bolognese. Obviously the spiralizer craze is here to stay and does make a convincing noodle. (By the way, I use the Oxo handheld spiralizer, love that it fits in my kitchen drawer)  My only pet peeve is that zucchini noodles tend to be bland and mushy. So I'm making mine Aglio e Olio style with the noodles cooked al dente. It creates a nice texture considering these are gluten free noodles.

Now onto the meat sauce, who doesn't love the flavor of sausage? I associate fennel seeds with sausage, so I've added them and even toasted them to bring out the oils. If you want a spicier sauce, add some red pepper chili flakes, but since the noodles already have them I skipped it. Adding chopped kale was just a sneaky way to add more vegetables into this dish. Note: I made this dish dairy free, but otherwise I'd be showering this dish with fresh parmesan cheese.


5 medium zucchini

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon fennel seed

1 pound ground beef, preferably grass fed beef

1 onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely minced garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

28 ounces San Marzano whole tomatoes

1 pound kale, stems and ribs removed, leaves chopped

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Flaky sea salt

Freshly cracked pepper


  1. Trim one end of each zucchini and insert flat end into a spiralizer and turn to create noodles. Noodles will be extremely long, so I suggest to cut the noodles approximately to 7-inch lengths. Place noodles in a colander and sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt. Gently mix to ensure salt is coated all over noodles, which will help draw out and remove excess moisture from the zucchini. Set aside and let noodles drain over a dish.

  2. In a medium dry skillet over medium low heat, toast fennel seeds for a few minutes. Keep shaking the pan to prevent the seeds from burning. Remove from heat and set aside. (Optional: If you want even more flavor, crush seeds in a mortar and pestle to release the oils.)

  3. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté beef and fennel seeds, breaking meat apart using a wooden spoon for 5 minutes. Meat with begin to brown and fat will render out, about 5 minutes. Skim excess fat and discard.

  4. Add onion, carrots, celery, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and tomato paste. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Stir occasionally over 20 minutes over low heat. Squeeze whole tomatoes by hand into pot and with juice and chopped kale. Simmer on low for 10 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, drain zucchini noodles and pat dry with paper towels to remove as much water as possible. In the same medium skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic, chili flakes and noodles. Stir fry for 3 to 5 minutes until garlic is softened and noodles are al dente.

  6. Spoon ragu over noodles and garnish with parsley, sprinkle of flaky sea salt, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.