Zucchini pasta is one of those simple summer dinners that’s delicious, seasonal, and accidentally vegetarian!Jump to Recipe
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Summer means zucchini season, and I am READY!
One of the great things about shopping seasonally is that you can really master ingredients. Here in Italy, many of the stalls at the local market have a simnificantly better price if you buy a lot at once. This means that sometimes I come home with nearly a crate of strawberries or tomatoes or zucchini and scramble to use it all before it goes bad!
Out of one of these moments last summer, I began to make a sort of sauce out of zucchini. Not a liquid sauce. But if you cook down a bunch of zucchini to the point where they’re beautifully caramelized and melty, they’ll grab onto your pasta and make a truly delicious dinner. Bonus points for being vegetarian/vegan optional!
To be clear, zucchini pasta isn’t a “zoodle” dish: this uses regular pasta. The zucchini sauce is something I’ve never tried before, and now I’m obsessed!
The secret to this dish is twofold, one ingredient and one method. First, you want a LOT of garlic. The garlic rounds out the zucchini flavor and is the secret rockstar. Don’t skimp.
Second, you want to let the zucchini cook. Set your pan over medium-high heat and give it a good stir every few minutes. You want them to get some browning but also cook down to an almost melty consistency. I actually overcrowd the pan on purpose for this – the mix of browning and steaming you get with an overcrowded pan is perfect.
This is one of those meals that’s accidentally vegetarian, which is always a plus! If you skip the cheese it’s perfectly vegan too.
I love using tortiglioni or rigatoni for this. Look for a short pasta with ridges – the ridges grab the sauce for the perfect ratio in every bite!
One more note: this is one of those dishes where you want fresh basil. Dried isn’t going to create the same flavor.
Tools you’ll need: large stockpot, pan, knife and cutting board.
- 1 lb tortiglioni or other short ridged pasta like rigatoni
- 2 Tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- ½ onion yellow
- 8 cloves garlic
- 4 large zucchini (about 2 lbs)
- 1 tsp salt
- 10 leaves basil fresh
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
- Mince the onion and garlic. Quarter zucchini and cut into chunks.
- Boil water for pasta – don't forget to salt heavily.
- Heat a pan on medium and heat 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add the onion and saute for two minutes, then add the garlic. Keep on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until everything is softened.
- When water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions.
- Add the rest of the olive oil and zucchini to the onion and garlic and saute for about 15 minutes, stirring every two minutes. You want some browning but it's okay if the pan is crowded.
- When the pasta is done, save 1 cup of pasta water then drain. Set aside.
- Cook the vegetables down until they're soft, fully cooked, and starting to fall apart.
- When the veggies are starting to fall apart, add the salt and pasta water and stir. Add the pasta and toss to coat.
- Chiffonade (meaning roll up and then slice thin) the fresh basil and stir in. Taste and add more salt or olive oil if needed.
- Grate a generous sprinkling of parmesan on top of each serving, if wanted!
Zucchini pasta is one of my favorite summer dinners! If you’re looking for more zucchini inspiration, try hummus-crusted chicken, zucchini sage pasta, or summer pasta!