Summer Squash Spaghetti

zucchini pasta

Several years ago I bought a Benriner turning slicer. It is a ridiculous (but fun) tool that sits in my cupboard 364 days a year. To justify hanging on to it, I pull it out every year, just once, at the start of zucchini season, when I set out to make one of my favorite spaghetti recipes, the very dish that inspired its purchase.

I had read about the turning slicer in Michael Chiarello’s Tra Vigne Cookbook, which extolled the tool for its ability to cut vegetables into long spirals, perfect for making cucumber salads or for preparing potatoes for the deep fryer or for turning out zucchini slices for this very spaghetti recipe. That sounded like fun, I thought, and I ran out to Fante’s to see for myself.

While the gadget works beautifully and while it, unlike some of my other slicers, poses no risk to my fingers, my experimentation has extended no further than this single recipe. Truthfully, I prefer the shape of the long thin wisps created by a mandoline.

While neither tool is required to prepare this pasta recipe, having one helps. The beauty of the dish lies in the delicateness of the zucchini and summer squash strands, which cook in the final minute of the assembly process while they’re being tossed with the just-boiled spaghetti.

The sauce for this pasta is simple: extra-virgin olive oil heated briefly with minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Lemon zest and lots of chopped basil and parsley add a touch of freshness. Grated Parmigiano Reggiano is a must.

I love this pasta. It’s simple and summery, and it always inspires me once again to unearth such a promising gadget. Maybe this summer will be different? Maybe we’ll take to feasting on whimsical cucumber nest salads and carrot and daikon radish slaws? Maybe we’ll grow accustomed to sliding our grilled steaks onto beds of crispy potatoes? It’s unlikely, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

benriner turning slicer

sliced zucchini

zucchini & summer squash

Love my Benriner mandoline:
benriner mandoline


adding the parsley & basil

Zucchini Spaghetti
Adapted from Michael Chiarello’s The Tra Vigne Cookbook
Serves 2 to 3

Notes: The original recipe called for 3/4 lb. spaghettini, 3/4 lb. zucchini and 1/2 cup olive oil. I have reduced the amount of pasta and olive oil, but essentially kept the amount of squash the same. I also added lemon zest, which goes nicely with zucchini and adds a touch of brightness. Also, don’t be confused by the photo with the halved lemon and reamer — I don’t actually add any lemon juice, though I can’t imagine a squeeze would do too much damage. Your call.

1/2 lb. spaghetti
kosher salt
1/2 lb. or more zucchini or yellow squash (I used 11 oz. weighed after being trimmed sliced)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (or more or less)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
zest of one lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup finely chopped parsley (optional — sometimes I just use basil)
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
freshly ground pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a big pinch of salt. Meanwhile, using a mandoline or Benriner turning slicer, cut the squash into long thin strips. Alternatively, cut the squash with a knife as thinly as you are able. Place the sliced squash in a colander in your sink. Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid (though you might not even need it — I never seem to with this dish).

2. Place the oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a small skillet and turn heat to high. When the oil and garlic begin to sizzle, turn off the heat. (If you have an electric burner, as I do, remove pan from the heat source if the garlic begins to brown.)

3. Drain the pasta over the colander containing the squash, then transfer pasta and squash to a large bowl. Add the garlic-red pepper oil to the bowl. (Note: I add all of the oil at once, because I like the pasta to be nicely coated, but I could see how some people might find it too oily. If you are wary of oil, add about half of the oil to start, then add more as needed.) Add the zest and the herbs. Add the Parmigiano. Toss. Taste. Season with kosher salt (if necessary — I add a lot of salt to the pasta water so I usually don’t have to add any extra salt) and pepper to taste. If necessary, add some of the reserved cooking water (I didn’t need any), more olive oil (didn’t need it) or salt and pepper.

Have a nice weekend.
graham & ella


  1. says

    Ali, those are the loveliest little zucchini curls I have ever seen! Plus, you’ve solved two problems – first, what to do with the abundance of zucchini in the summer. Second, which mandoline I should buy! I’ve been wanting to purchase a mandoline but couldn’t choose one. Thanks!

    And those little munchkins. Oh, my goodness.

    • says

      Darcy! Just a warning about the mandoline — it doesn’t have a stand, so it helps if you have a cutting board with a back upper lip or if you have a wall or something to secure it against. Does that make sense? I don’t want you to slice off your finger or your wrist after a recommendation from me!

  2. says

    I ran across your blog a few weeks back, LOVING it. I especially enjoyed this post, I use my Benriner mandolin all the time and have been trying to come up with a good excuse to buy the spinner – if nothing else, they are a blast to use! You’ve inspired me to buy one, I’ll try to get it off the shelf more than once a year though :)
    The recipe looks amazing!

    • says

      Thanks, Kelly — since posting this recipe, I have in fact used my turning slicer more than once. I might have to do a re-post where I take everything I’ve said back :) No seriously, I think for some people, the turning slicer is a really nice option — you can’t cut yourself!

  3. says

    Oh yes, the little necessary gadgets that never get used! I like the addition of basil together with the zucchini. Another for my files since i eat a ridiculous amount of pasta. I´m always looking for new things to add. Your kids are adorable!

  4. Dee G says

    Love my mandoline…and use it with no fear after purchasing kevlar gloves from Amazon. I could never make the pushing thing work for me and always used my fingers…a dangerous proposition. Those gloves are simply fantastic! And you really only need one, so buy a pair and share with a friend. I promise you’ll use that mandoline much more often!

    • says

      Dee — your idea is brilliant! I think I’m going to purchase a pair myself. I received an email from a reader asking for video guidance on how to use the mandoline — she purchased the Benriner mandoline online — and I am so worried she is going to slice her fingers off. I think your kevlar gloves are the solution! They would also make a fun giveaway. Thanks so much for the great tips!

  5. Joan says

    Made this recipe tonight and LOVED it. (Used my ancient ol’ mandoline without cutting off my finger for those who care.) LOVED that the squash cooked in the colander. LOVED that I was able to make it all in one pot. I made the garlic/pepper/lemon oil mixture (I used 2 T butter and olive oil) in the pasta pot while the spaghetti drained and then returned the pasta to the pot and tossed in the cheese, lemon zest, basil and parsley. So fresh and lovely for summer. I adjusted the salt and pepper to taste after it was all tossed and the cheese had melted. LOVED walking out to the garden to harvest the basil and parsley minutes before I served dinner. I have a house of men that get confused when there’s no meat on the table, so I served some leftover roasted chicken on the side. Cut it up on a wooden board and put it in the center of the table. LOVE eating like this. Thank you so much!

    • says

      Joan — thank you so much for your nice comment. 1. So happy to hear you still have all of your fingers. 2. LOVE the idea of adding a little bit of butter — I bet that adds a really nice flavor. 3. Very jealous of your herb garden! Mine is not thriving. 4. My house of men (man, really) also is similarly confused when no meat is present… renewed hunger sets in shortly after dinner and, in turn, cabinets get scavenged for nuts and cans of small fish. 5. SO happy that the recipe was a success. Really, nothing makes me happier.

  6. Jackie says

    Looks like a great summer recipe! Wonderful for using up farmer’s market zucchini and herbs. Interesting gadget, as well. I’d never heard of it before!

  7. Aileen says

    Ali, I made this recipe and it was such a hit! And I’m so glad you introduced me to the mandoline- I bought it for the recipe and it’s awesome. I also used it to cut fennel for an orange and arugula salad to go with the pasta and it worked perfectly. Thanks so much!!! And give my love to the family :)

  8. Jennifer Tellepsen says

    I used a WMF julienne peeler from William Sonoma and it works great on squash & zucchini. We loved this recipe, especially the addition of the lemon zest. This will be on our family summer menu.

  9. Lauren says

    Hello! I know this post is from awhile ago, but I was curious if you know of a way to freeze the zucchini spaghetti?

    Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Lauren! Sorry for the delay here! I’ve been out of town for a week. I think you could freeze the cooked zucchini spaghetti just as you would any pasta, but I worry a little about it turning to mush especially since both the spaghetti and zucchini are so fine. What do you think? Have you had success freezing spaghetti in the past? I have to admit I am not the best freezer.

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