September 3, 2012

Late-Summer Zucchini with Spaghetti, Walnuts and Herbs

I always love the what to do with all this zucchini?!!? hysteria that happens in August and stretches through the first bright days of September. I find the predictability of this annual quandary comforting: here we are again, once again.

This year, my go-to zucchini solution came from the one cookbook I allowed myself to take with me to Massachusetts for the month of August. Simple food was just what I wanted to cook during those long evenings, and simple food was just what I carried in glass tupperware over to my sister’s third-floor apartment most nights. The best and easiest grilled chicken, a quinoa salad so good it was requested a second time. Simple became the guiding principle of the month. The pleasures were simple (bike rides, ice cream cones, swimming holes), the rhythm was simple (wake-write-work-ride-cook-sleep), my role as a dinner-delivering mother’s helper was simple and all the sweeter for it. It was the first time in a long time I can remember feeling truly needed. And so I unloaded the dishwasher and held the baby during bathroom breaks and watched House Hunters late into the night with a kind of joyful purpose I haven’t ever felt. It was simple.

And this recipe, while perhaps not quite as sweet and simple as two sisters sitting in easy chairs with a newborn passed between them, is one I’ll return to. Just like I hope I get back to the evening nook in that third-floor apartment, clearing the empty plates off the table, depositing them in the dishwasher, and quietly closing the door behind me just before midnight.

This might not sound like much, but trust me, it’s wonderful. I sprung for a specialty tool for this dish, and my new julienne peeler is my favorite kitchen gadget right now.

Spaghetti with Summer Squash, Walnuts and Herbs

adapted from the Art of Simple Food
Serves 4

1/4 cup walnuts
1 pound summer squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped marjoram, basil or parsley
3/4 pound spaghetti

Toast the walnuts in a small skillet set over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Let cool and coarsely chop.

Trim the ends from the zucchini and julienne. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the julienned squash and sauté, tossing the squash in the pan until tender and lightly browned. Season with salt, fresh-ground black pepper, and the chopped herbs.

Meanwhile, cool the spaghetti until al dente in salted water. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Toss the noodles with the seasoned squash, a splash of the cooking water, and the toasted walnuts. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding more pasta water if needed.

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  • Geek+Nerd: Mmm that looks delicious! The Art of Simple Food is one of my favorite cookbooks.3 years ago

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams: I love the images of sweet simplicity in this post. And that recipe sounds delicious.3 years ago

  • Monday's Nugget-Lana: I made this last night, and as always, I was skeptical about pasta with no sauce. Hubby and I found it very tasty, though, and it will be one that we make again, for sure!!3 years ago

  • Woo-hoo! Winning over skeptics!3 years ago

  • Annie: I have been following your blog for some time but not sure if this is my first comment :) I just love reading your posts. You are a gifted writer. Your style to me is lyrical. I am always happy when I check in and see a fresh post. The fact that you don’t write one everyday makes me appreciate them when you do write them –sort of like getting to eat that special dessert during the holiday season or going to a favorite aunt’s house and getting that special treat only she doles out. Thank you for not giving up on blogging!3 years ago

  • Hope Johnson: Loved reading this! And Annie’s above comment really summed it up perfectly. Thanks for helping make my morning!3 years ago

  • Oh, thanks so much Annie and Hope!3 years ago

  • Laura: I love this pasta! Such a great summer go-to. Even my carnivorous mid-western boyfriend finds it satisfying (I think it’s the meaty walnuts). The first time I tried this, I took to the internet to see if others had discovered this gem of a recipe – interestingly, the post I found was also about a woman looking back on a meaningful time with her sister ( Must be something about this time of year.3 years ago

  • Alexa J: Thanks for this lovely (and timely) post! I just had a baby myself 2 weeks ago, and when I return to the kitchen, one of the first recipes I’ll try is the Summer Squash and Red Quinoa recipe that you mentioned. I have nearly all of the ingredients already and it seems like the perfect easy dish for a new mother (or father) to tackle.3 years ago

  • end of season pasta with…or without sausage | butter poached: […] Fedelini with Summer Squash, Walnuts, and Herbs (The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters. The link here is from Pink of Perfection, which means it comes with a great story, too.): I made this recipe a few times this summer and was repeatedly surprised by how the simple ingredients and techniques could yield so much flavor. One trick here is to make sure your pasta water is good and salty. […]3 years ago

  • Summer Happy Hour: Bourbon Cures What Water Can’t « Pink of Perfection: […] So after the bike ride, after the evening dip, and while I’m throwing together a meal with zucchini and basil that practically cooks itself, there is a drink. Last summer it was a classic daiquiri. […]2 years ago

  • Southern Ontario Menu Plan – July 8-12 | The Local Kitchener: […] Pasta with Summer Squash, Walnuts and Herbs (from The Art of Simple Food) […]2 years ago

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There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.
- Thomas Wolfe