This recipe was adapted from a recipe from Cooks Illustrated. I added extra cheese, because who doesn’t like more cheese? Plus double the basil for a fresh herbaceous flavor. I’ve made a vegan version of this recipe that is hands-down undetectable as vegan.


  • 12-ounce package spaghetti
  • 2 pounds of zucchini, about 3 zucchini, peel on, sliced into 1/8- or 1/4-inch rounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegan butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, about 20 leaves, chiffonnade
  • 4 ounces Provolone cheese, shredded or vegan alternative
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese or vegan alternative, plus more for serving


  1. Rinse, trim, and slice the zucchini. A mandolin works great for this job.
  2. In a large microwavable bowl, add the zucchini, 1/4 cup water, a pinch of salt, and mix. Cover and microwave for 6 minutes. Pull from the microwave, stir, and microwave for 6 more minutes.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oi. When the olive oil is glossy, add the zucchini, stir to coat, and then spread the zucchini into an even layer.
  4. Cook the zucchini, stirring every couple of minutes, flattening as you go and until the zucchini is very tender and slightly browned, about 10 min. If the zucchini starts to stick add 1-2 tablespoons of water. Do the first 4 steps ahead to save time on busy weeknights! (If you made the zucchini ahead of time, be sure to take it out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature or microwave it for 1-2 minutes before continuing.)
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add enough salt to have it taste like the sea and add your favorite spaghetti. Gluten-free works great here too. Cook according to the package instructions and until al dente. Important: Before draining, reserve 2 cups of the pasta water.
  6. Drain well and return the pasta to the pot. Pop the pot back under the stove on low heat.
  7. Add 1 cup of the pasta water, the zucchini, butter, basil, and pepper to the pot. Stir vigorously as you pull the pasta up away from the bottom of the pot. Do this for about 1 minute.
  8. Pull the pot off the stove and add the cheese. Stir to fully incorporate, adding small amounts of additional pasta water until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
  9. Pop into a bowl, drizzle with additional olive oil, salt, lots of freshly cracked black pepper, and additional Parmesan cheese, and serve while hot.