Zucchini Noodles Aglio et Olio Inspired by 'The Gifts of Imperfection'

Zucchini Noodles Aglio et Olio Inspired by 'The Gifts of Imperfection'

Wednesday, 8 January, 2020

Food and drinks are some of the easiest ways — and the most fun— to vicariously experience another culture. When you add a great book to the mix, you've got the makings of a perfect evening. In Food+Fiction, we recommend a delicious read and a related recipe so you can try the taste of different destinations in your own kitchen.

This post is part of our Food+Fiction series.


In her 2010 book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown shares anecdotes from her own life to show how we can cultivate the good stuff in our lives: gratitude, joy, courage, calm, and creativity — without making ourselves nuts or judging ourselves too harshly in the process.

It’s a friendly little book packed with plenty of actionable advice. If it could be summed up in one easily understood and repeatable phrase, it would be ‘go easy.’ Others’ expectations can tie us up in knots that destroy our well-being. This book is a reminder to breathe deeply, dance awkwardly, treat ourselves kindly, and go easy.

Similiarly, this recipe for slinky, garlicky noodles is about as laidback and relaxed as it gets: a couple of humble zucchini are turned into something slightly magical and very flavorful. The resulting bowl of happiness is light, healthy, and — perhaps, most importantly — all-together comforting.

This is the kind of food you make while wearing pajamas and losing yourself in an excellent book. The zucchini barely registers as a vegetable, so complete is its transformation into noodle, thanks to the olive oil, garlic, and almond flour crumbs. Warm, tender, familiar… a hug in a bowl.

zucchini noodles in a bowl

Zucchini Noodles Aglio et Olio

Serves 2. Prep 5 minutes. Sweat 20 minutes. Cook 3 minutes.


  • 4 zucchini or yellow squash (or both)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ghee or butter
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper



Sweat the noodles. Use a julienne peeler or spiralizer to turn the zucchini into noodles. Place the julienned zucchini in a colander or wire strainer and toss with the salt until the strands are lightly coated. Allow the zucchini to sit for 20 minutes to remove excess water. Rinse with running water, drain well, and pat dry with paper towels. (You may be tempted to skip this step; we strongly advise against it. This step ensures tender, rather than watery, noodles.) While the zucchini does its thing…

Prep the crumb topping. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add the ghee, and when it’s melted, add the almond flour and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the flour is toasty brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer the almond dust to a plate to cool. (As it cools, the fat will solidify and make ‘crumbs,’ so don’t worry if it’s just brown dust when you take it out of the pan. Press the powder together into a pile and trust the process.)

Cook the noodles. Return the pan to the medium-high heat and add the prepared zucchini noodles. Sauté them in the dry pan until just tender, about 1-2 minutes. Push the noodles to the side of the pan, and reduce the heat to low. Add the olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper, stirring until the garlic is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Push the zucchini noodles into the oil and stir gently until they’re coated. Turn off the heat and mix the parsley and black pepper into the noodles. Taste and add salt, if necessary.

To serve, sprinkle the noodles with the almond flour crumbs. Slurping and ridiculously big bites are heartily encouraged. You might also add some grated parmesan cheese if that’s your thing.

This recipe is from our cookbook Well Fed, and it’s packed with other easy-to-make and crazy-delicious recipes from around the world.

I’m not at all sure that this work is about self-help. I think of it as an invitation to join a Wholehearted revolution… Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance.” — Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection

by Brené Brown

You probably know Brené Brown from her TED talks and her best-selling books on vulnerability, courage, and belonging. Although her success has exploded in recent years, this book from 2010 remains our favorite because of its clear, actionable guidelines for wholehearted living. This slim book is like concentrated detergent that scours from your brain the thoughts that don’t serve you. We’re all bombarded on a near-constant basis by messages urging us to be better, faster, stronger, thinner, smarter, richer — more perfect. Brown’s resounding message is that by letting go of others’ expectations — while practicing gratitude and cutting ourselves some slack — we can find peace and happiness. {more}

This helpful handbook (160 pages) was published in August of 2010 by Hazelden Publishing. The book takes you to the place you know yourself. Melissa read The Gifts of Imperfection and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are


Top image courtesy of Umberto Del Piano.

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