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Zucchini 'pesto' is the pasta dish for prolific squash

Gratitude for zucchini inspired my most recent column in the weekly food section with recipes for showcasing summer squash.

But now that temperatures are soaring and garden zucchini around the region are proliferating, it’s time for recipes that use up not one, not two, but three or more zucchini in a single dish. We’ve all got our sneaky strategies — breads, muffins, meatloaf and other fillings — for disguising zucchini. Here’s a dish that works on that notion, plus gives zucchini its due as a main ingredient.

“Pesto” made from zucchini also elevates fresh mint, touted in recent posts to this blog. Almonds make this sauce more affordable than the more classic pine nuts. And still-crisp chunks of zucchini lend a meaty texture to this pasta dish in the same manner that I described in my column.

The zucchini pesto may be made a day ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.

Spaghetti With Zucchini Pesto

3/4 cup blanched slivered almonds, divided

3 medium zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 pound favorite dry spaghetti or other pasta

1/2 cup fruity olive oil, divided

1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced

Generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano or good-quality Parmesan, plus more for serving

1/2 cup chopped mint, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast in preheated oven for about 8 minutes, until just golden. Be sure to keep an eye on almonds because they can easily burn. Remove almonds from oven, let them cool and then coarsely chop them. Reserve 1/4 cup for garnish. (Almonds may be toasted several days in advance.)

Meanwhile, run the zucchini under cool water. Cut 1 in half and cut half into matchstick-size pieces. Chop remaining zucchini into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

Bring water for pasta to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, for 1 minute. Add the chopped zucchini, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, for about 10 minutes. Scrape zucchini into bowl of a food processor and add 1/2 cup chopped, toasted almonds; pulse to combine. With machine on, slowly add remaining 6 tablespoons oil until combined but still slightly chunky. Season pesto with salt and pepper.

Scoop out 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta. Turn off heat, return pasta to hot pot with about 1/2 cup hot, reserved pasta water, the pesto, lemon zest, cheese and mint. Stir until well combined. Fold in zucchini matchsticks, being careful not to break them up.

Transfer pasta to bowls. Garnish with more mint and reserved almonds. Serve, passing additional cheese at the table.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from Food and Wine magazine, September 2015 issue.

Tribune News Service photo