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The confident cook

Recipe: Thin rounds of zucchini in this lemony spaghetti are never cooked — and they’re delicious

Lemon spaghetti with zucchini and mint
Lemon spaghetti with zucchini and mint(Sally Pasley Vargas for the Boston Globe)

The summer vegetable garden usually brings a glut of zucchini — and cooks who have run out of ideas. This quick spaghetti dish will use up some young squash and let you get a meal on the table in less than half an hour. The zucchini is mixed with mint and lemon, which are soul mates for the bland squash.

The zucchini here is never cooked. It doesn’t go into a steamer, or a skillet, or a hot oven, so the slices don’t turn watery. Use slender, young zucchini because they’re sweeter and drier than large squash, which have a high water content. Slice the zucchini into thin rounds with a mandoline, if you have one, or a good chef’s knife. Coat them with a little olive oil so they retain some of their crispness when tossed with spaghetti right out of the pot. To keep things super-fresh, add half the zucchini and mint to the spaghetti at first and then top each bowl of pasta with the rest of the rounds. Toasted pine nuts add just enough richness to this summer pasta, which you can serve hot or at room temperature. The dog days of summer just got a lot better.

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Sally Pasley Vargas

Lemon spaghetti with zucchini and mint

Serves 4

¼cup pine nuts
2small zucchini (about 12 ounces total)
tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Finely grated rindand juiceof 1 lemon
3tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slices
12ounces (¾ pound) spaghetti
½cup packed mint leaves, torn into pieces
1lemon, quartered (for serving)

1. In a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pine nuts, stirring often, for 3 minutes, or until they are lightly browned; set aside.

2. With a mandoline or a sharp thin knife, slice the zucchini into thin rounds. In a bowl, toss them with olive oil, using your hands to coat the slices. Sprinkle with salt and toss again.

3. In a large bowl that will hold the pasta later, combine the lemon rind and juice and butter.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook for 10 minutes, or until it is tender but still has some bite. With a heatproof measuring cup, scoop out ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water; drain the spaghetti into a colander but do not rinse it.

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5. Add the reserved ¼ cup pasta water to the bowl of butter and lemon, and whisk until the butter is mostly melted. Add the hot pasta to the bowl and toss to coat the spaghetti. Add plenty of salt and pepper, half the zucchini slices, and half the mint; toss again.

6. Divide the spaghetti among 4 shallow bowls and top with the remaining zucchini, mint, and pine nuts. Serve hot or at room temperature with lemon wedges. Sally Pasley Vargas


Sally Pasley Vargas can be reached at sally.p.vargas@gmail.com.