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This zucchini pasta recipe is lusciously creamy, flavored with Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, basil and lemon zest. A tasty simple dinner!
Got a bit of zucchini on hand? Here’s one way to turn it into dinner: this Creamy Zucchini Pasta recipe! It’s luxuriously creamy, coating the noodles in a silky Parmesan and Pecorino sauce. Add rounds of savory sautéed zucchini, garlic, lemon zest and a pop of herbaceous basil, and each bite is a symphony of flavor. We like to garnish with crunchy breadcrumbs for a pop of texture. This one was so satisfying, we couldn’t stop sneaking bites from the skillet before serving! Here’s how to whip up this summery recipe at home.
Ingredients for this zucchini pasta recipe
There are loads of ways to make a zucchini pasta dish, ranging from classic to creative spins. Of course, you can spiralize this green veggie into those popular noodles (yep, zoodles!). But for our spin, we prefer a more classic Italian-inspired vibe. This zucchini pasta recipe features thin rounds of zucchini, sautéed until juicy and savory, combined with a silky creamy sauce flavored with Parmesan and Pecorino. Toss in basil, garlic and lemon zest and it’s a party with the VIP ingredients of summer. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:
- Pasta noodles: We like long noodles like spaghetti or bucatini here. But it also works with short noodles like rigatoni or penne!
- Zucchini: Look for medium thin zucchini, which makes easy-to-eat rounds. If all you have is large zucchini, slice them into half moons.
- Olive oil
- Onion powder and salt
- All purpose flour
- Lemon zest
- Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese
- Basil leaves, for garnish
- Italian panko, for garnish (optional)
For the pasta: use short or long
This zucchini pasta works with any type of pasta noodle, making it endlessly versatile! We like it with a long noodle like spaghetti or bucatini because it gives a more elegant feel. But that’s not to say it’s not delicious with a short noodle. What not to choose? Don’t use angel hair: it absorbs too much of the sauce and gets clumpy. Here are some top choices for noodles for this zucchini pasta:
- Bucatini (hollow spaghetti: a top choice!)
- Rigatoni (our top choice for short pasta)
- Medium shells
- Fusilli (spirals)
- Farfalle (bowties)
Tips on making zucchini pasta
Ready to make this zucchini pasta? Jump down to the recipe below. Or, here are a few notes on the process to keep in mind while you’re making it:
- This recipe uses 3 pots: a large pasta pot, large skillet for the zucchini, and small or medium saucepan for the cream sauce. Don’t worry: it’s worth dirtying the 3 for the amount of flavor here!
- When sautéing the zucchini, flip the slices often so they all get evenly brown. It takes a little patience because you’ll have a few layers of zucchini. It doesn’t have to be perfect! Try not to overcook them or it can become mushy.
- The cream sauce comes together quickly. Plan to spend 5 minutes of undivided attention at the stove for the sauce.
Don’t forget the garnish
Keep in mind: this zucchini pasta recipe looks a little plain without the garnish! So don’t leave it out! It adds both flavor and visual style. Here’s what to do:
- Load the pasta onto a plate. Try to get a good mix of pasta and zucchini (which can be hard with long noodles!).
- Add chopped basil. This brings in the final fresh, herby flavoring to the dish. Bonus side note: basil turns brown in the fridge, so keeping it as a garnish helps the look of leftovers.
- Sprinkle with Italian panko if desired (or Parmesan cheese). We love the crunch of a little breadcrumbs on top! Italian panko are seasoned with Italian herbs: you can also use plain panko or breadcrumbs. Or, use some additional grated or shredded cheese.
- Add fresh ground black pepper and/or red pepper flakes. A hint of spice adds the final seasoning.
- If desired, add extra lemon zest. It looks nice and punchy, but it’s not required.
Ways to serve zucchini pasta (and a note on portion size)
This zucchini pasta is a tasty summer dinner recipe! Keep in mind: the portion size is modest at 8 ounces pasta for 4 servings. If you’re serving as a main dish, add some additional protein or side dishes to make it a filling meal. Got very hungry eaters? Make sure to add protein, have filling sides or double it and use 1 pound of pasta. Here are a few serving suggestions:
- Add protein to the pasta like cooked chicken, sauteed shrimp, or white beans (seasoned lightly before adding)
- Serve with a protein-packed side like Easy White Beans, Easy Cannellini Beans, or Easy French Lentils
- Add a veggie side like French Green Beans, Green Beans Almondine, Sauteed Spinach or Sauteed Rainbow Chard
- Serve with summer salads like Classic Three Bean Salad, Fresh Peach Salad, Classic Corn Salad, Cucumber Salad, or Green Bean Salad.
More zucchini recipes
Love this summery green veggie? Here are some of our favorite zucchini recipes for using it:
- Make a meal with Easy Zucchini Boats
- Try Perfect Sauteed Zucchini or Baked Zucchini
- Bake up a pan of Perfect Zucchini Lasagna
- Try Zucchini Bread, Chocolate Zucchini Bread, Lemon Zucchini Bread or Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
- Go for Zucchini Fritters
This zucchini pasta recipe is…
Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.Print
This zucchini pasta recipe is deliciously creamy, flavored with Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, basil and lemon zest. A pure and simple dinner!
- 8 ounces spaghetti or bucatini*
- 1 pound zucchini (2 medium thin zucchini), sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more if desired
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 ½ cup 2% milk
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more to garnish
- ¼ cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
- ¼ cup chopped basil leaves, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoned panko, for garnish (optional)
- Bring a salted pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente (taste testing a minute or two before the package instructions indicate). Drain and toss the pasta with a bit of olive oil.
- Meanwhile, slice the zucchini and mince the garlic. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the zucchini slices. Cover the skillet and cook for 1 minute, then uncover and stir, moving the bottom slices as necessary. Cover again for 1 minute then uncover and stir in ½ teaspoon kosher salt and onion powder, moving slices to the bottom layer as necessary so that they can get browned. Reduce the heat slightly. Keep the pan uncovered and cook about 6 to 8 more minutes until most of the zucchini are tender and browned, continuing to flip the zucchini and move them to the bottom layer so they cook evenly. Add the minced garlic in the last 1 minute. Then remove from the heat.
- In a small or medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk constantly for 1 minute. Add a splash of milk and whisk it in: the sauce will instantly turn chunky. Constantly whisking, continue to add splashes of milk until the entire quantity is incorporated and smooth. Increase the heat and continue whisking until the sauce starts to bubble and thicken, about 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, lemon zest, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the zucchini and stir in the sauce. If the sauce is sticky, add a splash of milk and stir it in to form a creamy sauce, heating it over medium low heat if necessary. Taste and add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.
- To serve, add the garnish (do not omit!): top with chopped basil, breadcrumbs or more grated Parmesan, fresh ground black pepper, and optional red pepper flakes. Leftovers store well refrigerated for up to 3 days.
*This recipe also works with short pasta noodles like rigatoni or penne.
- Category: Main dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Pasta
- Diet: Vegetarian
Keywords: Zucchini pasta, pasta with zucchini, zucchini pasta recipe, zucchini pasta recipes