Monday, July 27, 2009

Zucchini and Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Pesto and Fresh Tomatoes

(pictured: raw zucchini spaghetti)

Julienned zucchini is something that I have been doing for a few a years now. Sometimes I make it with pasta and sometimes I make it without pasta as a side dish. It is a wonderful dish to make in the summer time when the zucchini are plentiful. It is also a great way to use up large zucchini. The bigger zucchini give a much better “spaghetti” yield since the flesh of the zucchini is the only part you need for this dish.

Zucchini is mostly water, like all vegetables, and will release the water and become very limp if cooked for too long. The zucchini spaghetti is better if it is cut using a larger julienne setting (if you have that option) on your mandoline. If you use the really fine setting the texture isn’t quite as nice.

This pasta has a hint of a spicy undertone from the red pepper flakes, but is not what I call hot. The most dominant flavor in this dish is the basil and then the garlic. The fresh tomatoes add a nice fresh burst of flavor. I also like the coolness of the tomatoes compared to the hot pasta.

Zucchini and Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Pesto and Fresh Tomatoes
Serves 6


2 large zucchini (approximately 4 pounds)
16 ounces of whole wheat spaghetti
6 quarts of water, filtered
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 cup of packed fresh basil leaves (more would not be bad if you have it)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, sliced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so the allicin will develop)
¼ teaspoon of oregano, dried
¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of fresh tomatoes, diced


Use the julienne blade for your mandoline and slice the zucchini into “spaghetti”. Stop when you get to the seeds in the center turn the zucchini a quarter turn and slice again until you get to the seeds. Continue until all the zucchini is julienned. You can save the zucchini seeds for soup, or throw them away.

You can use a vegetable peeler to make zucchini pappardelle if you don’t have a mandoline and it works just as well. If you use a vegetable peeler I would pair the zucchini with a thicker pasta like a fettuccini or pappardelle. Ultimately you want the pasta shape and size to be similar to the zucchini.

Bring the water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Add the whole wheat pasta to the boiling water and stir for the first two minutes to keep the pasta from sticking together. Many people will tell you to add oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, but this does work and causes other problems. The reason the pasta sticks is the starch that is released into the water as the pasta cooks. If the starch is not disturbed by stirring it will cause the pasta to form a lump.

If you add oil to the water you will lightly coat the pasta exterior with oil when it is drained which will keep if from absorbing the sauce as well. Sorry for the rant, the oil on pasta issue is a hot button for me. Every time I hear someone on TV recommend adding oil to the pasta water it gets my Italian up. If you have any Italian friends, you know this isn’t good.

Process the basil, olive oil, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes in your food processor, blender or until the basil and garlic and thoroughly pulverized.

When you pasta is almost cooked (you have a minute or so remaining on the timer). Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the basil mixture. If the basil starts to dry out add a little of the starchy pasta water (now more than a ladle or two). When the pasta is cooked add it to the basil pan and toss to coat. Taste the pasta for salt and pepper before adding the zucchini. You want the zucchini in contact with the hot pasta for the shortest time possible.

Add the raw zucchini threads to the pasta pot and toss to evenly distribute it into the pasta. Turn off the heat. Add the chopped tomatoes just before serving.

You can garnish with a few basil leaves, whole or julienned if desired.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 269.29
Calories From Fat (12%) - 32.66

Total Fat - 3.79g
Saturated Fat - 0.58g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 415.41mg
Potassium - 962.62mg
Total Carbohydrates - 52.18g
Fiber - 6.49g
Sugar - 7.28g
Protein - 12.17g


This is a good refreshing summer pasta dish. You could make it with all zucchini and warm it quickly in the pan and leave out the pasta altogether. I wanted this to be a one dish meal so I added the pasta. If you weren’t watching your fat as closely as we are it would be great with a few toasted pine nuts on top or a few sprinkles of almond feta on the top. It would also be great with a few olives in the sauce or on top the pasta.

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