The simplest Zucchini Cacio e Pepe with Brown Butter. Classic Cacio e Pepe made easy with the addition of sautéed garlic zucchini and rich brown butter. The secret to Cacio e Pepe is freshly cracked black pepper, high-quality cheese, and some good arm work to toss your pasta. Nothing fancy, but each bowl of pasta is wonderfully delicious.
Carrying on with our simple summer cooking, we’ve got a perfect bowl of Cacio e Pepe. Normally, I wouldn’t get overly excited about a recipe such as Cacio e Pepe. It’s so, so delicious, but a very simple recipe. I usually share dishes with a few more ingredients. But while I was in LA I had a plate of Cacio e Pepe that reminded me just how good the simple Italian pasta can be.
It was a much cheesier, peppery Cacio e Pepe, and honestly, it was by far the best I’ve had. That plate got me excited to try my own variation at home. It’s perfect for busy summer days.
First, this is just my take on Cacio e Pepe. It is by no means the classic recipe, just a version I’ve been making.
I wanted to add a summery element. So I added zucchini, garlic, and fresh basil. Just 3 simple additions, but they add a pop of summer freshness that we love.
And then the browned butter. It’s not an ingredient add, it’s just cooked a little differently than what’s traditionally done. And it makes all the difference.
Here are the details
Cacio e Pepe literally means cheese and pepper. It’s like mac and cheese, but simpler. And in my book, a little bit of an upgrade, or maybe I should say, more of an adult version. When looking at the recipe you might think it seems basic, that’s because it is basic. But with quality ingredients – pasta, butter, fresh black pepper, and a really good cheese, it’s perfect.
Start with the pasta. I used rigatoni, but any cut works well. Bucatini is more traditional, though it’s often made with other cuts of pasta today.
Boil-off the pasta and save plenty of the pasta cooking water. The water is used to make the sauce.
While the pasta boils, cook the zucchini with garlic until it gets a little golden. Pull it out of the pan and start making the sauce. I like to add basil to the zucchini too, it’s delicious!
Back in that same skillet, you need to toast the black pepper. Then add half of the butter, the cooked pasta, both the parmesan and pecorino, and the pasta cooking water. Then toss to melt. This is a cheesier Cacio e Pepe, so really give it a good tossing to melt the cheese and form a nice sauce.
Once the cheese has melted, mix in the zucchini, plus fresh basil.
Finally, brown the last bit of butter in a small skillet. This might seem like an unnecessary extra step but it takes just a few minutes and adds a lot. Add a drizzle of brown butter over the pasta with a grating of fresh cheese. It’s delightful and makes each bowl of summery pasta taste rich and indulgent.
Serve this with a simple arugula, spinach, or summer fruit salad. The perfect meal, and we love how quickly this comes together too!
Looking for other simple pasta dinners? Here are a few of my go-to’s.
One Pot Lemon Butter Ricotta and Zucchini Pasta
Pesto Cheese Zucchini Ravioli with Burst Tomatoes
Spicy Zucchini Ricotta Lasagna with Oregano Breadcrumbs
Cherry Tomato Pasta Alla Vodka
Roasted Tomato Basil and Feta Orzo
Lastly, if you make this Zucchini Cacio e Pepe with Brown Butter, 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!
Zucchini Cacio e Pepe with Brown Butter
Calories Per Serving: 414 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
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 zucchini or yellow summer squash, sliced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
- kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
- fresh basil
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- 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook 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, and season with salt. Cook until the zucchini is golden, 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet to a plate. 3. Working in the same skillet, add the pepper and cook 30 seconds, until toasted. Add 4 tablespoons butter, then the pasta, 1 cup pasta cooking water, the parmesan, and pecorino. Toss vigorously to melt the cheese. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water, the zucchini, and season with salt. Toss well. 4. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat, cook until the butter browns, 3-4 minutes. 5. Plate the pasta and spoon the butter over each serving. Top with fresh basil. Eat!
This recipe was so delicious and my family went crazy for it! I added a huge handful of finely chopped spinach to the squash to veggie-load it, and it was a total hit! Will be making it again very soon. Thanks!
Thanks so much!! I love to hear that this recipe was delish and I appreciate you making it! xT
Tasty but very heavy. Way too much butter. Not heart healthy. Like to remake using less butter.
Thanks for making this recipe and sharing your feedback, glad to hear you enjoyed the flavors:) xx
Obsessed! So good and easy to make!
Awesome!! I love to hear that this recipe was a hit and appreciate you making it! Thanks for your comment! xT
LOVED this! Had to use almost twice the cheese to balance out the pasta water, but I might’ve accidentally put a little too much in to begin with. No one’s ever gonna complain about extra cheese, amirite? The hubs wants to use even more squash the next go-’round. Such a great addition! Thank you!
Amazing!! 🍉🍓 Thank you so much for making this recipe, I love to hear that it was delish! Have a great weekend:)
This was so delicious and so easy to make!
Happy Wednesday!🌈 I appreciate you making this recipe and sharing your comment, so glad to hear it was a winner!
Lots and lots of zucchini HERE. That browned butter dish would also be great with diced, steamed butternut squash. How About grilled or fried eggplant steaks with spicy red sauce. Mushroom and lemon with bow ties. Vegetarian food is YUMMY.
Wonderful!! I appreciate you making this recipe and your comment, so glad to hear it was enjoyed! Have a great weekend:)
Made this for the family last night- very simple & surprisingly flavorful for the few ingredients. Will definitely make again!
Awesome!! I love to hear that this recipe turned out well for you, thanks for making it! xx
10/10 will make again!
Amazing!! I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks for making it and sharing your review! xxT
Made this tonight with Banza chickpea linguine and added corn and cherry tomatoes in addition to the zucchini. Absolutely delicious! A perfect summer meal. I already can’t wait to make it again.
Happy Sunday! Thanks a bunch for making this recipe, I love to hear that it was a winner:)
Made this for my family tonight! It was so good and simple to make….and Tieghan is right about the browned butter – do not skip! ?
Thanks for making this recipe Lydia, I am so glad it was enjoyed!! xTieghan
Delicious. Easy to make. Will definitely make it again soon!
Happy Monday!! Thanks a lot for giving this recipe a go, I am so glad it was a winner:) Have the best week! xx
This recipe was a disaster. My cheese formed a giant ball that I had to break apart with my fingers. I spent so much time trying to get the cheese to incorporate into my pasta that I started to break my rigatoni noodles. I threw this dish away and ordered Chinese. I would not recommend this recipe nor would I make it again.
So sorry to hear this recipe was not enjoyed. Did you use freshly grated cheese? Please let me know how I can help! xx
This happened to me, too. I also chucked it and ordered out. BUT- my teens all said it smelled amazing as it was cooking and want me to try again. I used all freshly grated cheese EXCEPT the Parmesan. I immediately knew that was the problem, so reading T’s reply has pushed me to try again, this week. I’m positive that was the issue!
This was delicious!! Loved it.
Amazing!! I am so glad this recipe was a hit, thanks a lot for trying it out! Have the best weekend! ☀️xx
Made this for my family tonight! It was so good and simple to make….and Tieghan is right about the browned butter – do not skip! 🙂
Fantastic! Thanks for your comment and trying the recipe:) I am so glad it was enjoyed! xxT
You haven’t failed me yet! I made this tonite b/c I had squash and zucchini I needed to use. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I could not envision how the flavors would meld. But it’s absolutely delicious! For the effort, it’s simple and light yet a tasty dish. I too had an issue as others expressed re: clumpy cheese however the key, keep stirring/tossing and make sure your fire is no higher than medium and that you have pasta water added. Again, keep stirring. As I did the clumpiness lessened and the cheese melted into the pasta. It does require a bit more patience than the instructions suggests. But it’s worth it. I otherwise followed the recipe with the exception of the pasta, I used what I had on hand and only used Parmesan. Definitely do not skip toasting the freshly cracked pepper, makes a HUGE difference in flavor. And that browned butter is an absolute MUST along with the basil. I also added freshly cracked pepper just prior to eating. The only thing I would do differently next time around is roast the squash and zucchini. I think that would add amazing flavor to an already awesome dish. I could also see adding tomato and/or mushrooms. Thanks!
Happy Friday! Thanks a bunch for trying this recipe out and sharing your feedback, I love to hear that it was a hit! Thanks so much for your kind message and sharing what worked well for you! xTieghan