Simplest Zucchini Parmesan Pasta. Garden fresh summer zucchini cooked down and mashed into a buttery, peppery parmesan pasta sauce – without using any cream. This quick pasta takes just minutes to make and uses the simplest of summertime ingredients, most of which you may have in your pantry right now! This dish isn’t super fancy, but it’s totally delicious.
I’m all about quick cooking, minimal ingredients, and little-effort recipes right now. It’s probably why I haven’t wanted to make a layer cake in months. Like most of you, I’m looking for fast and delicious recipes. Especially when it comes to summer dinners.
For us, summer dinners are always enjoyed on the later side. With the sun staying up until 9 pm, we never end up sitting down for dinner before 8 pm. For this reason alone, quick and simple dinner recipes are best – we’re tired and hungry!
That’s when I fall back on recipes just like today’s Zucchini Parmesan Pasta. A simple pasta that highlights two of my favorite summer foods, zucchini (or yellow summer squash) and fresh garden-grown basil.
I’ve been making this simple zucchini pasta for years, we just love it! Originally, I made this because I had an abundance of zucchini and fresh basil that needed to be used up!
With everyone’s gardens starting to flourish, I knew we needed to make my favorite pasta! I know you all will really love this one!
Here are the details
Step 1: Start cooking the pasta
You can use any cut of pasta you love, long or short. I think a thick-cut rigatoni noodle works very nicely! Spaghetti or fettuccini would be nice too.
Just before you drain the pasta, reserve a little over a cup of the pasta cooking water. You’ll need the pasta water to help create the yummy sauce.
Step 2: cook the squash
While the pasta is cooking, start the zucchini. You can also use yellow squash or a mix of the two. The secret is to cook the zucchini until it’s deep golden and caramelized. Once it hits this stage, it can be easily broken down and mashed. Cooking the zucchini this way allows for the flavors to really come out, it becomes sweet and buttery. It’s honestly just magical.
I find the zucchini is easiest to break down if you shred the zucchini first and then add it to the pan. Just like you would shred cheese.
I decided to leave the zucchini on the chunkier side, but if you prefer a smooth pasta sauce, you could puree the zucchini in the food processor. This is an extra step and an extra dish to wash though.
Chunky or smooth, it’s going to be good.
Step 3: finish the sauce
Once the zucchini is cooked, add the reserved pasta water, the cheeses – parmesan and pecorino, and butter to the pasta. Toss until you have a nice cheesy sauce.
Finish this pasta with fresh basil and lots of freshly cracked parmesan. Enjoy this warm, while the sauce is hot and creamy.
This is one of those recipes that can easily become a staple because it’s truly so easy, simple, and delicious. And if you happen to be growing zucchini this summer, I foresee this becoming a staple in your kitchen too!
Looking for other simple pasta dinners? Here are a few of my go-to’s.
Lastly, if you make, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Simplest Zucchini Parmesan Pasta
Calories Per Serving: 487 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- 1 pound pasta, any cut works
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 medium zucchini/yellow summer squash, shredded or chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- chili flakes
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino or manchego cheese
- 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Just before draining, reserve 1 1/4 cups of the pasta cooking water. Drain.2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini, garlic, thyme, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook until the zucchini is golden, 5 minutes. Mix in the butter. Using the back of your spoon or a potato masher, mash down the zucchini until it becomes a chunky sauce. 3. Add 1 cup of reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the pasta, parmesan, and pecorino, and toss until melted. Add more pasta water if need to thin the sauce. Remove from the heat, toss in the basil.4. Serve topped with fresh basil and pepper. Enjoy!
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*If a smooth sauce is desired, transfer the zucchini to a food processor before adding the pasta and puree until smooth.