Weekend Recipe: Summer Squash “Spaghetti” with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

Since pasta and canned tomatoes are not part of the paleo diet, this America's Test Kitchen recipe set out to develop an alternative to satisfy our craving for spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Our first goal was to develop an aromatic, deeply flavorful sauce. We decided to use cherry tomatoes as our base, since they are available year round and are of more reliable quality than their larger cousins. We halved and roasted them, which drove off extra moisture and intensified their natural sweetness. Tossing the fresh tomatoes with a bit of tomato paste before roasting encouraged caramelization and gave the sauce a deeper, more rounded tomato flavor. Thinly sliced shallot, minced garlic, fresh oregano and red pepper flakes, roasted with the tomatoes, provided an aromatic backbone for our sauce. Next, we focused on determining the right “pasta” to pair with this dish. Spaghetti squash seemed like a natural choice, but tasters weren’t impressed: No matter how long we cooked the squash, the strands had a raw, almost crunchy quality that didn’t resemble real spaghetti. Although zucchini worked fairly well, tasters ultimately preferred spiralized yellow summer squash; it had a soft texture and a pleasant chew similar to pasta, and its neutral flavor allowed our sauce to be the star. Roasting the spiralized squash and then transferring it to a colander allowed us to get rid of any excess moisture so our tomato sauce didn’t become watered down. Shredded basil sprinkled on top before serving added some brightness and peppery notes.

Summer Squash “Spaghetti” with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
America's Test Kitchen

Summer Squash “Spaghetti” with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
Serves 4


2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
1 shallot, sliced thin
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 pounds yellow summer squash, trimmed
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

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If possible, use smaller, in-season summer squash, which have thinner skins and fewer seeds. You can substitute zucchini for the summer squash, if desired.

1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss tomatoes, shallot, 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, oregano, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and pepper flakes together in bowl. Spread tomato mixture out over aluminum foil–lined rimmed baking sheet and roast, without stirring, on lower rack until tomatoes are softened and skins begin to shrivel, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, using spiralizer, cut squash into 1/8-inch-thick noodles, then cut noodles into 12-inch lengths. Toss squash with 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1 tablespoon oil on second rimmed baking sheet and roast on upper rack until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer squash to colander and shake to remove any excess liquid; transfer to large serving bowl. Add roasted tomato mixture and any accumulated juices to bowl with squash and gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

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