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Zucchini Butter Spaghetti Recipe

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by T. A. Rose (subscribe)
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Published July 15th 2021
Green vegetable dish is a culinary trendsetter for 2021
Zucchini butter spaghetti
Courtesy of author 2021

Described mid-calendar year as 'the dish of summer,' this is a recipe I have had much fun experimenting with but I am going to demonstrate a classic version of the recipe with only a few adjustments such as adding lemon juice and reducing the portions slightly. Zucchinis are very healthy and are good value at present in Queensland - supplied all year round in Australia, and being based on grated zucchini, you don't have to use the 'best of the bunch' for this simple yet stunning recipe. The photos look less green, which I attribute to using less basil in my photographed version - which is an interesting point, as the basil is quite a powerful flavour. It's a fairly economical dish, so you can experiment with it a bit.

Although it is winter in Queensland, it's a great energy food, a great way to keep up with the global trends, and, you can always add more zucchinis with butter in a more buttery winter version. All I've really done is modelled my recipe on recipes and advice from three websites, one is the and the and the review of the dish at on I found when practising with dried ingredients instead of fresh (even though I bought premium fresh ingredients in the photographed dish) that a hint of lemon was amazing, and gave the zucchini butter sauce a good type of piquancy. When required to cook this for photos, I've weighed and added about 20 per cent more butter and 20 per cent less zucchini to my photographed dish, which is good, because it's nice to see it done similarly but still a bit different to

Recipe Below:

(25-30 minutes)

Required grocery items
The main ingredients are in this photo.

Ingredients (serves two)

Half a kilo of coarsely grated zucchini and dried off with a paper towel

200 grams of dry spaghetti

A quarter of a small lemon

Five tablespoons or 70 grams of unsalted butter

Four teaspoons of fresh minced garlic

A quarter cup of fresh basil leaves cut into thin ribbons

A half-cup of grated fresh parmesan cheese

red chilli pepper flakes (optional) (1/4 teaspoon is recommended)

One teaspoon of salt for sauce and extra for pasta water

200mls of the Pasta Water (just less than one cup)


Measuring cups and spoons

Bowls for chopped items

Strainer and a large bowl for spaghetti

One saucepan and one frypan and spoons, tongs, wooden spoons

Teaspoon for tasting


1. Boil spaghetti in well-salted water, saving a cup of cooking water when complete, - but please note, I made the useful mistake of forgetting and just made some pasta water substituted from a teaspoon of salt and 200mls of boiled water in a cup, and that tasted great. Meanwhile, drain the spaghetti, place in bowl or back in an empty pot, stir occasionally if time permits during making the sauce to separate the strands (I found it helped to add a slight dash of water, just enough to separate the strands yet not enough to really wet the spaghetti).

2. Grate zucchini into a container or bowl, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and stir around so the grated zucchini is lemon flavoured, and then place in a paper towel and dry the mixture. You don't really have to add the lemon juice prior to cooking, as long as you reduce the mixture down in step three, you'll get the desired effect. Again, you can just add a generous squeeze of lemon to the pan, you don't need much lemon but it somehow balances the flavours superbly.

Zucchini butter spaghetti, step 3
Last phase of step three.

3. Melt butter in pan or saucepan on low heat, you need enough saucepan space for about two grated zucchinis and the spaghetti and room to stir the mixture, so select pan size with that in mind. Add garlic to butter and very gently fry without browning.

Zucchini butter spaghetti, step 4
Step four cooking zucchini mixture photo.

4. Add grated zucchini and the teaspoon of salt, cook zucchini mixture till it loses half its remaining water content, reducing heat when needed to stop mixture browning, better to not let the zucchini get too crisp nor browned, so reduce heat markedly when needed. It should appear and feel spreadable when made adequately. It's fine for this cooking process to take a while, such as 12-15 minutes - it is a maximum of 15 minutes but can be much less and the zucchini mixture will be concentrated and soft (spreadable).

Zucchini butter spaghetti, step five
Step Five - adding the water.

Zucchini butter spaghetti, step 5
Step 5 phases from top to bottom, left to right.

5. Add and stir in cooking water, and unstick any ingredients and add pasta cooking for two minutes and letting the entire dish thicken, pulling the spaghetti up with tongs to coat the pasta in zucchini and let the pasta reheat adding and stirring in thoroughly the parmesan and basil thus signifying the end and then the transfer to serving bowl finishing/garnishing with remaining basil and parmesan, as an added option a sprinkle of black ground pepper on top for a more personalised touch. In the photos the parmesan is shaved, shaved or grated are both okay for this, just have slightly different effects but both melt in.

Substitutions and Supplementary Notes

Due to the prestige associated with such a worldly recipe, I wanted to demonstrate a classical version. Adding more grated zucchini to the recipe definitely doesn't adversely affect the dish and is a personal taste option. Using dried substitutes still yields a pretty good result, but I found if trying that (e.g. with dry parmesan and dry garlic) then don't use the pasta water, just reduce the zucchini with the garlic in some olive oil or butter, and then add the remaining butter, and the dry parmesan blends wonderfully with the melted butter. That is like the dry ingredients version. My favourite between the classical way and the dry substitutes version is the classic but not by all that much, with the classical (the demonstrated version) one far more practical for dinner parties while the dry ingredients version is good for a meal for one or a fun snack.

Plated zucchini butter spaghetti
The plated and garnished meal ready for consuming.

Substitutes include different pastas, e.g. it worked with penne, another idea is omitting the lemon juice and red pepper flakes, adding different spring vegetables, adding dried Italian herbs in a small amount, and fresh shallots. Working on the sauce and pasta components together is possible but when learning, it's good to make pasta first then the zucchini butter sauce, to learn the most efficient way to cook the water off the zucchini without overcooking the zucchini. The photographs are done with boiling pasta first and when done, then working on the sauce.

Photos courtesy of author 2021.
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Why? Make the 'recipe of summer 2021' in the Northern Hemisphere.
When: When zucchinis are in season, such as now in Brisbane for instance.
Where: Everywhere.
Cost: In a Brisbane major supermarket, zucchinis were a dollar each, fresh parmesan is $3, garlic was $3.50, basil is $3 and lemon juice, salt and butter negligible, so, $20 is for eight serves.
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