zucchini butter spaghetti – smitten kitchen

I am a little bit obsessed with this spaghetti. If we’ve spoken recently, I didn’t let you not asking me about it keep me from going on about its simple summer dinner bliss. I have been fixating on the idea of this spaghetti for two delicious summers and I am almost sad that the recipe is done, as it now transfers into the category of Things I Already Know How To Make, which always gets bumped when there are so many Recipes That Aren’t Done Yet for a little manuscript due at the end of this summer.

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It started with a zucchini butter recipe I once spied on Food52, but was traced back to Julia Child’s Grated Zucchini Sautéed in Butter and Shallots. Over rounds of tweaking, I eliminated several things, not because they weren’t good, but because they didn’t suit my needs here: the shallots (added too much sweetness), the partial addition of olive oil (I was promised butter, after all), salting, draining, and wringing the zucchini (so much work, all for a shriveled pile of zucchini that dragged in the pan), adding a little more butter (it helps when stretching it across a big bowl spaghetti), and a not insignificant amount of garlic, pepper flakes, basil, and parmesan and I realize that this now relates to Julia Child’s zucchini butter about as much as I relate to being a morning person, but this paragraph is about about what set the idea off, and this next one is about where I hope it goes:

grated zucchinibutter, garlic, magiczucchini butter, the beginningzucchini butter, getting closerzucchini butter, almost therezucchini butter

Everywhere. The result is the kind of pasta I hope you make every summer, forever (and me, too, when I get to make old things again). I’ve kept the ingredient list as short and impactful as possible, so you could even scrounge it together in an unfamiliar kitchen this summer. I live for the moment when the garlic hits the butter in the pan and every person in the vicinity looks up from their devices in unison and says, “That smells nice. What are you making?” — don’t you?

zucchini butter spaghetti


New: Have you checked out the new SK YouTube channel? There will be new recipe video every Wednesday morning through the end of July. If you subscribe to the channel, you won’t miss even one. Here are the first three episodes; I hope you enjoy them:


6 months ago: Gingerbread Yule Log
1 year ago: Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars
2 years ago: Simplest Spaghetti a Limone
3 year ago: Linguine and Clams
4 years ago: Stovetop Americanos
5 years ago: Strawberry Milk and Corn and Black Bean Weeknight Nachos
6 years ago: Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes and Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Pie
7 years ago: Valerie’s French Chocolate Cake
8 years ago: Espresso Granita with Whipped Cream
9 years ago: Broccoli Parmesan Fritters
10 years ago: Dobos Torte
11 years ago: Mushroom Crepe Cake, Braided Lemon Bread and Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint
12 years ago: Lemon Mint Granita, Pickled Sugar Snap Peas and Springy Fluffy Marshmallows
13 years ago: 10 Paths to Painless Pizza-Making and Pistachio Petit-Four Cake
14 years ago: Gateau de Crepes and Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad

zucchini butter spaghetti

Zucchini Butter Spaghetti

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for pasta water, and to taste
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • 1 cup (235 ml) pasta water, reserved
  • 1 1/4 pounds (570 grams) zucchini, trimmed, coarsely grated
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) grated parmesan
  • Handful fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Boil your spaghetti in well-salted water until it’s 1 minute shy of fully cooked. Before you drain it, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and set it aside.

Melt butter in your empty pan over medium-high heat and add the garlic, stirring it into the butter for one minute before adding the zucchini, salt, and red pepper. Cook the zucchini, stirring from time to time, for 13 to 15 minutes. It will first let off a puddle liquid, the liquid will cook off, and the zucchini will become soft and concentrated. If the zucchini begins to brown, reduce the heat slightly. Stir frequently for 2 more minutes, chopping it down into smaller bits with the edge of your spoon or spatula, until it reaches an almost spreadable consistency.

Pour in 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and stir up anything stuck, then add drained pasta, and cook together for 2 minutes. Use tongs or two forks to pull up the zucchini butter sauce into the pasta strands, tossing frequently, and adding some or all of the remaining pasta water as needed to loosen. Toss in half of the parmesan and basil and mix, then transfer to a serving bowl. Finish with remaining parmesan and basil.

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