Pasta with Melted Zucchini Sauce Recipe | Pamela Salzman & Recipes Skip to content

Pasta with Melted Zucchini Sauce Recipe

This pasta recipe is the ultimate summer dish!  My entire family goes crazy for it.  I accidentally overcooked some zucchini once and saw that it turned a bit mushy, almost like a sauce and immediately thought it would be delicious over pasta. And it was!!  I taught this recipe in a class early last summer and received rave reviews from my students too! After I filmed the class, I saw a similar recipe on Smitten Kitchen for “zucchini butter spaghetti.”  It is a pure coincidence and I came up with this recipe on my own.  My recipe uses quite a bit more zucchini, less butter and cheese, and the addition of shallot and lemon which I think makes the dish! 

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • It’s easy and quick;
  • You can use the sauce over any kind of pasta, spaghetti squash, shirataki noodles, etc.
  • It uses a full 2 pounds of zucchini in case your garden is overflowing and can even handle a bit more!
  • It’s very flexible – omit the cheese, use plant butter or plant cream cheese; add seafood if you like or white beans; I used basil when I photographed it, but mint is also fantastic.

Pasta with Melted Zucchini Sauce Ingredients

  • Olive oil: Use an unrefined olive oil for best flavor
  • Shallot: is milder than regular onion and they come in handy when you only need a small amount of onion in a recipe. 
  • Garlic: Zucchini is bland and needs a little umph!  Just be sure to lightly saute and do not brown otherwise it will taste bitter.
  • Crushed red pepper: is one of my secret ingredients in pasta and is best friends with garlic. A little goes a long way.  Feel free to add more to make this a spicy sauce.
  • Zucchini: is a summer/fall vegetable, so I love adding it to recipes during this time of year. No need to peel. Feel free to use summer squash in place of zucchini or a combination. 
  • Pasta: I prefer using a short pasta here such as rigatoni, conchiglie, casarecce, or something similar to catch the sauce.  Use what you’ve got or what you like.
  • Lemon: you’ll need the zest and juice of 1 lemon. Remember to zest before you juice. If you don’t like too much lemon, cut the amount in half to start.
  • Parmesan cheese: Look for Parmigiano-reggiano for best flavor. Costco sells an amazing one that comes in a large block. It’s so easy to grate with a microplane. You can also use Pecorino Romano, which is a sheep’s milk cheese.  Omit if you are dairy-free.
  • Fresh basil: is one of my favorite herbs to use in the summer and in pasta! I like to store fresh basil in a jar of water (like a bouquet of flowers) by a window on the counter. If you don’t have basil, use mint or parsley. 
  • Butter: I like to use unsalted butter for a creamy mouth feel. You can also use a plant butter, such as miyoko’s, almond milk cream cheese (like Kite Hill), or mascarpone. 

How to Make Pasta with Melted Zucchini Sauce

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a palmful of kosher salt. 
  2. Warm the oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot/onion and saute until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini, salt and pepper and raise the heat to medium-high. If you’re using a cast iron pan, you can go up to high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has been released from the zucchini and has evaporated (there’s no liquid on the bottom of the skillet.)  Cover, lower heat to low, and continue to cook until the zucchini is incredibly soft, about 15 minutes. You can do this ahead and let it sit off the heat until you’re ready to proceed with the rest of the recipe. 
  3. While the zucchini is cooking, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. Remove 2 cups of pasta cooking water before draining pasta and set aside. 
  4. Drain the pasta and transfer to the skillet with the zucchini. Add the lemon juice, zest, grated cheese, basil, butter or cream cheese, and ½ cup pasta water. Stir well to combine. Add more pasta water as needed. Serve with additional grated cheese on the side. 

Tips for Making Pasta with Melted Zucchini Sauce

  • Read the notes at the bottom of the recipe for how to perfectly cook gluten-free pasta. There’s actually a trick!
  • Save pasta water before draining the pasta. This is super important for reheating pasta and thinning out the sauce. 
  • I also save extra pasta water in a jar if I have leftover pasta. It comes in handy when you reheat leftover pasta.
  • You can make the zucchini sauce a day ahead and reheat.
  • Don’t peel the zucchini or squeeze it.  Just shred it and use it as is.
  • Taste the sauce for seasoning before adding the pasta.

Substitutions for Pasta with Melted Zucchini Sauce

  • Zucchini – use summer squash
  • Pasta – look for gluten-free pasta if necessary or spaghetti squash or your favorite pasta alternative
  • Parmesan cheese – pecorino, feta or goat cheese, vegan parmesan, nutritional yeast, or omit. 
  • Butter – use plant butter, such as miyoko’s, mascarpone, or almond milk cream cheese
  • Fresh basil – fresh mint or parsley
  • This dish would be great with seafood added. 
  • Anchovies add a delicious salty, umami flavor. Add with the garlic in step 2. 
  • You can stir in baby spinach leaves in step 4, if desired. 

If you give this recipe a try, snap a pic and tag @pamelasalzman so I can see your beautiful creations. I also really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a rating and review! Lastly, subscribe for free to my site for the latest recipes and updates.

For more delicious recipes and to learn how to be a better cook, check out my monthly online cooking classes. I have been teaching people for 15 years how to cook healthy food that their families love!  Join me!

 

5.0 from 3 reviews
Pasta with Melted Zucchini Sauce
Serves: 4-6 AS A FIRST COURSE
 
Ingredients
  • Kosher salt for the pasta water
  • ¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot or ½ small onion, finely diced or pulsed in a food processor
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds zucchini or summer squash (4–6 medium), ends trimmed and grated (do not peel or squeeze excess moisture)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounce short pasta like rigatoni, conchiglie, casarecce
  • Zest and juice of 1 small lemon (or half a large lemon)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • ⅓ cup fresh basil or mint leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or plant butter or mascarpone or almond milk cream cheese
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a palmful of salt.
  2. Warm the oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini, salt and pepper and raise the heat to medium-high. If you’re using a cast iron pan, you can go up to high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has been released from the zucchini and has evaporated. Cover, lower heat to low, and continue to cook until the zucchini is incredibly soft, about 15 minutes. You can do this ahead and let it sit off the heat until you’re ready to proceed with the rest of the recipe.
  3. While the zucchini is cooking, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. Remove 2 cups of pasta cooking water before draining pasta and set aside.
  4. Drain the pasta and transfer to the skillet with the zucchini. Add the lemon juice, zest, grated cheese, basil, butter or cream cheese, and ½ cup pasta water. Stir well to combine. Add more pasta water as needed. Serve with additional grated cheese on the side.
Notes
Great with seafood added
• You can stir in baby spinach leaves in Step 4, if desired.
• Vegan: swap nutritional yeast to taste for the Parmesan or vegan Parmesan.
• Feta or goat cheese can be a nice swap instead of the Parmesan.
• Anchovies add a delicious salty, umami flavor. Add with garlic in Step 2.

How to perfectly cook gluten-free pasta:
1. Boil plenty of water.
2. Add 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt. (This is to flavor the pasta. No need to waste expensive sea salt here.)
3. Add pasta and stir often. (This is so that the pasta doesn’t stick to each other.) You do not need to add oil to any pasta, gluten-free or otherwise.
4. When you add the pasta, set your timer for the least amount of time that the package directions indicate. For example, with Trader Joe’s Brown Rice and Quinoa spaghetti, it says to cook for 7-10 minutes. I set my timer for 7 minutes.
5. Lower the heat so that the water simmers and is not at a raging boil. This is important. Rapid boiling is what causes the pasta to lose its shape.
6. MOST IMPORTANT STEP: When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and let the pasta remain in the hot water. Taste the pasta. It should still be a little hard. Scoop out a little pasta water and reserve.
7. Allow the pasta to sit in the hot water with the heat off until you have your desired tenderness, which means you may need to test it every 30 seconds.
8. Drain and immediately toss with your sauce, pesto or whatever. DO NOT RINSE PASTA, unless you want to use it in a cold dish. The starches on the outside of the pasta will help sauces, etc. stick. Use the reserved pasta water to add extra moisture to the pasta as needed. Keep in mind, gluten-free pasta does not sit as well as regular pasta, so try to serve immediately or at the least, keep that reserved pasta water on hand in case.

 

 

Related Recipes

Comments

8 Comments

  1. DELICIOUS ~ It’s hard to get excited about zucchini noodles, so this is a great compromise! I didn’t even use parmesan, not needed..thanks for another great recipe!

    • Amazing! Glad you gave this recipe a try.

  2. Love the idea of stirring into a pasta! Never thought of that! Ive made a similar version for years but have called it “zucchini butter” and then spread it on toast, sandwiches, crackers or use as a dip. Really cannot go wrong any way! Love the idea in a pasta…think Im going to add in some roasted cherry tomatoes and maybe some roasted eggplant… YUM! Cheers to Summer’s bounty!

    • Sara, those are all great ideas! I never thought to spread it on toast etc. And yes – summer veggies are all friends!

  3. I’m so glad you made a ‘Pamela’ version, I saw and made the Smitten Kitchen one , we loved it, but I wanted one with less butter, and I even sent them a message asking how it would be with less butter!
    Thank you!

    • Thanks, Shelley! I never actually made the SK one, but I think you will be ever so pleased with this recipe!

  4. several great ideas here ~ thank you!
    Haven’t tried yet but will

    • It’s one of those recipes that I make a slightly different way every time. And it’s always good!


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Rate this recipe:  

Signup to receive updates about new recipes and more

I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

kitchen-matters-buy-book
Buy on Amazon
quicker-than-quick
Buy on Amazon