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Lemon Spaghetti with Zucchini and Mint

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14037 168th Ave NE Woodinville WA 98072 This lemon spaghetti with zucchini and mint is inspired by my trip to Capri and the Amalfi coast. This is an area of traditional dishes where the menus are remarkably similar in every restaurant, with small flourishes created by the individual chef. Similar traditional dishes appear over and over -- Pasta al Limone (lemon spaghetti), Fiori di Zucca Ripieni (zucchini blossoms), Parmigiana di Melanzane (eggplant parmigiana), Spaghetti alla Nerano (zucchini pasta) and of course pizza, calzone, focaccia and Amalfi lemon sorbet.

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From my personal observation, perfecting a traditional recipe is valued more highly than recipe experimentation and innovation. This seems to me to be a key cultural difference between Italian and American cooking. So to my traditional Italian friends, please forgive me for trespassing on tradition. While I love and respect food traditions, I also love to experiment with food and meld tradition with creativity. Lemon Spaghetti with Zucchini and Mint | Something New For Dinner
I add blistered tomatoes and used orecchiette pasta in this version
This recipe is a mashup of two traditional Amalfi Coast recipes: Spaghetti al Limone and Spaghetti alla Nerano. I think it is the perfect summer pasta that is delicious served hot, or at room temperature and is also not bad as leftovers straight out of the fridge. I break many traditions with this pasta.
  • Lemon pasta, or Pasta al Limone, is usually a simple dish made with nothing more than pasta, lemons, olive oil and parmigiano reggiano. Some recipes do call for butter and cream, but it is not necessary.
  • Spaghetti alla Nerano is a separate pasta dish that is typically made by deep frying zucchini disks, letting them rest, and then returning them to the pan to make the sauce.
  • Parsley or basil are the typical herbs for these two traditional pastas. I add mint to freshen it up and because I have a ton of it in my yard.
  • Italians are masters of simple ingredients. There is notably one main ingredient in Spaghetti al Limone and Spaghetti alla Nerano. I, on the other hand, do not hesitate to use more ingredients. For this recipe I use lemons, zucchini and sometimes add spinach, blistered tomatoes, pine nuts, shredded chicken, shrimp or canned tuna.  I add more plants to help hit my weekly goal of 30 different plants a week and sometimes add protein to make it more satiating and suitable for a one-dish meal.
  • Dried spaghetti pasta works wonderfully for this dish, but I sometimes mix it up. I've used orecchiette or other pastas that have nooks and crannies that help the sauce cling to pasta.

Inspired by My Amalfi Coast Trip

All wall art prints can be purchased at our website. South Capri with View of the Amalfi Coast | Something New For Dinner
South Capri with View to the Amalfi Coast
Last fall I joined a group of great friends and headed for Capri and the Amalfi coast for 10 days of fabulous dining, hiking, cooking and sightseeing. The cuisine on this fabulous rocky coast is very simple, typically comprised of olive oil, lemons, fresh vegetables, pasta and seafood. Priano Ocean Tiled Seat | Something New For Dinner
Priano Ocean View Tiled Seat
I took a cooking class at The Amalfi Lemon Experience, which was a lot of fun even though we were cooking in an outdoor kitchen during torrential rains. The class is held in the middle of a hillside lemon farm that has been owned and operated by 6 generations of the same family. We had a blast making homemade pasta and pizza with the family in their outdoor kitchen.


Lemon Spaghetti with Zucchini and Mint | Something New For Dinner Zucchini is on most menus in Amalfi. The mature vegetable is usually served sliced and fried, sometimes alone and sometimes as the star ingredient in a pasta.  The young blossoms are served stuffed with cheese, dipped in batter and fried. Lemon spaghetti with zucchini and mint | Something New For Dinner This Lemon Spaghetti with Zucchini and Mint recipe was inspired by Pasta alla Nerano, which was made famous by Stanley Tucci in his BBC series Searching For Italy. Traditional Pasta alla Nerano is made by deep frying zucchini in sunflower oil, using half the deep fried zucchini to blend into a sauce and adding Provolone del Monaco cheese. For this recipe I shallow fry the zucchini in olive oil and use parmigiano reggiano cheese. I also toss the fried zucchini with a splash of white wine vinegar to brighten it up. Lemon Spaghetti with Zucchini and Mint is not a traditional recipe, but has been inspired by one.

Invest in a 14" Frying Pan

I highly recommend investing in a 14" frying pan. This oversized pan is great when you need to brown a large number of vegetables or sear lots of protein and is very handy when cooking for a large number of people. I bought my 14" pan at Costco some  20+ years ago, but here are a couple I found on Amazon that are reasonably priced and highly rated: . a non-stick restaurant 14" pan and a ceramic 14" pan.
Note: When you purchase something through our links we make a small commission which helps us cover the maintenance cost of running SNFD. We appreciate your support.

Simple Ingredients

Lemon Spaghetti with Zucchini and Mint | Something New For Dinner
Simple ingredients: spaghetti, zucchini, white wine vinegar, lemon, garlic, fresh parsley, basil or mint, parmigiano cheese
If you don't count the kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, this recipe has only 8 ingredients. The sauce is made by gently sauteeing crushed garlic in olive oil, herbs, lemon zest and juice together, then adding pasta water and grated parmigiano. Add barely al dente cooked pasta and fried zucchini to the sauce and more pasta water if needed as you gently mix together. And you are done; dinner is ready!

Can Be Made in Advance

Like Spaghetti alla Nerone, this lemon Pasta with Zucchini and Mint can be made ahead of time. In traditional Spaghetti alla Nerano the zucchini is deep fried and then sits for about 8 hours. You can fry the zucchini up to a day in advance and then putting this dish together takes little more time than it takes to boil the pasta. It also holds up remarkably well and is delicious the next day.  

More Prints From Capri and the Amalfi Coast

Capri Sunset Essence | Something New For Dinner
Capri Sunset Essence
Here are more prints available on our website from this beautiful Italian coast. If you can't get to Amalfi anytime soon, what is better than hanging an inspirational print on the wall and whipping up a dish of this delicious Lemon Pasta with Zucchini and Mint! More prints coming soon. Capri by Helicopter I | Something New For Dinner
Capri by Helicopter I
  South Capri and Little Boats II | Something New For Dinner
South Capri and Little Boats II

Lemon Spaghetti with Zucchini and Mint

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This Lemon Spaghetti with Zucchini and Mint is a mash up of two traditional Amalfi Coast recipes — Spaghetti al Limone and Spaghetti alla Nerano. It is the perfect way to use up your summer crop of zucchini and can be served hot, room temperature or even as leftovers cold out of the fridge. You can make this pasta as is, or create endless variations by adding various vegetables and protein, as well as changing up the type of oasta you use.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 - 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Italian, New American



For the zucchini:

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 34 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 11 1/2 T white wine vinegar
  • 12 T fresh mint, chopped

For the pasta: 

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti or fettuccine
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, well mashed
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon — about 1/4 cup juice, or more to taste
  • Red chili flakes and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 ounces of grated parmigiano reggiano, plus some for garnish
  • Handful of fresh parsley and/or mint


For the zucchini:

  1. Put olive oil inn the largest frying pan you have (I use a 14″ frying pan) and heat to medium high. Working in batches, fry zucchini on both sides, seasoning with kosher salt and pepper as you go. It will take a couple minutes on each side. Fry until nicely browned and then flip. Remove and spread on a paper towel covered baking pan.
  2. Once drained and cool, toss with kosher salt, pepper, red chili flakes and white vinegar. This step may be done up to a day ahead of time. Store in refrigerator until ready to finish recipe.

For the pasta:

  1. If zucchini are refrigerated, remove from fridge and set out on counter to come to room temp.
  2. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook to package directions until just barely al dente. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water and drain spaghetti.
  3. While pasta is cooking add olive oil to same large pan that you fried the zucchini in and bring to medium heat. Add garlic, lemon juice and zest, and half of the fresh chopped herbs. Cook briefly until garlic has softened, a minute or two. Add about 3/4 cup of pasta water and parmigiano reggiano cheese, whisking together.
  4. Add cooked pasta and zucchini to sauce and use a pair of tongs to gently combine, adding more pasta water if needed. Season with remaining fresh herbs, red chile flakes and fresh ground pepper. Garnish with more herbs and parmigiano reggiano if desired.


In Amalfi, pasta is typically made with few ingredients to allow the individual ingredients to shine. Americans often like more ingredients in their pasta. While this pasta is delicious as is, there are several additions that can be made to mix things up a bit. I sometimes add more plants to get to my 30 plants a week goal or some protein to make it a more complete meal. Here are some additional ingredients you might add:

  • Fresh spinach. Stir in when pasta is finished, but before you remove it from the pan.
  • Blistered cherry tomatoes. Finish the pasta and put it in a serving bowl, and add a pint of cherry tomatoes to the hot pan, cook a few minutes to blister, then tossing with the finished pasta.
  • Handful of toasted pine nuts.
  • Shredded chicken.
  • Grilled shrimp.
  • A can of drained tuna.

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