Spaghetti with Zucchini, Basil, and Mint

Saturday January 14, 2017

Once I had the combination of fresh basil and mint, I was hooked. Then I find out the partnering has a long tradition in Italian country food. This is a lovely summer pasta, satisfying for those nights when you want something light and vegetably. Remember to only pack the cup measure loosely with the herbs; there will be plenty to flavor the entire bowl of pasta. You will need at least a 12-inch sauté pan or skillet for this dish and it will be filled to capacity once you add the pasta. If your skillet is smaller, combine the zucchini and pasta in a shallow serving bowl.

Cooking Method: Stovetop
Cook Time: About 30 minutes
Serves 4


16-ounces semolina or whole wheat spaghetti

2-pounds small zucchini, cut into thin round slices on the diagonal

About 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 cup loosely packed finely shredded fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup loosely packed finely shredded fresh mint leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente (tender but still firm, not overly soft).

Meanwhile, heat half of the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the zucchini (you don’t want to crowd it) and cook, stirring frequently, until golden on both sides. Do not overcook. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl and add more oil and cook the remaining zucchini. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the basil and mint. Add the reserved cooked zucchini back into the skillet, then season to taste. Stir and cook for 1 minute to wilt the herbs.

Drain well in a colander and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the skillet and gently toss with the zucchini with tongs; add a bit of pasta water if it looks too dry, then taste for salt. Divide between four dinner plates, sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired, and eat immediately.

Pasta with Broccoli Sauce

While tomato sauce is the most recognizable all-round pasta sauce, there are many vegetables that end up being a base for sauces, such as eggplant, spinach, and my favorite, broccoli. Usually the broccoli sauce is chunky with broccoli florets, but here it is puréed and poured over, not tossed, and ever so wonderful. I had this sauce at a catered vegetarian birthday party for Patti, the vocalist of the singing duo Tuck and Patti. I went very crazy for the simple thick vegetable purée over pasta. Years later I tracked down the caterer to get the sauce and found out they had made it up on the spot for the party it was so basic a sauce. After over two decades of obsessing over the sauce, here it is. Simple and lovely, made in a snap too. Use fuselli or radiatore pasta in place of the linguine, if you like.

Cooking Method: Stovetop

Cook Time: About 30 minutes

Serves 4


1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds broccoli, cut into florets, and stems trimmed, peeled with a vegetable peeler, and sliced

3 strips of zest off 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium white onion, chopped, or 1/4 cup chopped shallots

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup heavy cream or plain yogurt

16-ounces whole wheat linguine, fresh if possible

3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook for 2 to 3 minutes only. The stems will cook a minute longer. In a food processor, pulse the lemon zest until finely ground, then add the parsley and process until smooth. Removed the broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer to the food processor. Add the vegetable broth and 1/4 cup of the olive oil; pulse to make a coarse purée. Add some broccoli water if you want it a bit thinner.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat and cook the onion or shallots until translucent, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour into the food processor and pulse a few times. The sauce will not be smooth. Pour the broccoli sauce from the food processor back into the pan. Place over low heat and season to taste with the salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Whisk in the cream or yogurt. Simmer 10 minutes.

Place the linguine in the water pot used for the broccoli. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente (tender but still firm, not overly soft). Drain well in a colander and divide between four dinner plates. Ladle over plenty of sauce, sprinkle with lots of Parmesan, then serve immediately.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Weeknight Cooking, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2008, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2017

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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