Zucchini Pasta Sauce

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The creamiest, most flavor-packed Zucchini Pasta Sauce! Shredded zucchini, shredded summer squash, and fresh basil pesto make for the ultimate 30-minute summer pasta dish, wonderful for a weeknight dinner.

 

Up-close view of Zucchini Pasta Sauce, served with spaghetti.

Zucchini Pasta Sauce

While I don’t have a garden bursting with zucchini right now, I have wonderful neighbors and friends that do. Luckily for us, we’ve been gifted with plenty of zucchini and it’s ended up in everything I’ve been baking and cooking, from these gluten free zucchini muffins to this healthy zucchini bread and these enchilada stuffed zucchini boats.

So when my family requested this creamy pesto pasta, I thought I’d put a spin on it and sneak in some veggies. No one was the wiser; in fact, there were rave reviews all around the table for Zucchini Pasta Sauce!

This pasta dish practically screams summer: it’s vibrant, fresh, lively, and loaded with great summer produce like corn, summer squash, zucchini, and basil pesto. 

Process shots: Sauté butter, onion and garlic; grate zucchini and summer squash; add to skillet and sauté; add seasonings and sauté; add Parmesan, corn, cream and chicken broth; simmer to blend flavors.

Basil pesto

Of course, if you want to make your own pesto, homemade is always best. That said, the idea for this recipe is to be on the table as quickly as possible, so if you don’t have homemade pesto whipped up, store-bought works great.

As far as packaged pesto goes, I recommend using freshly made basil pesto, not the preserved or jarred kind.

You’ll find fresh pesto near the fresh (not dried) pasta or in the produce section of the store. My absolute favorite in this zucchini pasta sauce is Rana’s® Basil Pesto (not sponsored). 

Feel free to add extra pesto to individual servings if you’re a huge pesto fan (like I am!).

Process shots: Cook and drain spaghetti; add to the sauce; mix with tongs; stir in pesto.

Ingredient notes

  • Good Parmesan cheese makes a big difference to overall flavor in Zucchini Pasta Sauce. Avoid canned Parmesan and go for a block of cheese to grate directly onto this dish. We love Parmigiano Reggiano best in this dish. If you’re a cheese lover, I highly recommend this cheese (While a bit pricey, a little goes a long way, it lasts a good amount of time, plus it is seriously incredible!).
  • If you have access to fresh corn, cut it off the cob and use in place of the frozen corn. 
  • Add in some protein if you wish; we recommend adding chicken. I typically add in some shredded or sliced rotisserie chicken (it’s quick and easy and already seasoned). Leftover grilled chicken would also be delicious; try this grilled chicken marinade!
  • Thin spaghetti is our favorite pasta to pair with Zucchini Pasta Sauce. Regular spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine will also work great.

Close-up view of Zucchini Pasta Sauce, served with spaghetti.

Zucchini Pasta Sauce Tips

  • Salt the pasta water. I add 1 tablespoon fine sea salt to the pot of boiling water right before adding in the pasta. Salting the pasta water is how the actual pasta gets seasoned.
  • Increase the sauce as desired: I like to keep the heavy cream, pesto, and chicken stock by the pot and will occasionally add an extra splash of cream and/or stock and an extra spoonful of pesto after tossing everything together. Sometimes the pasta absorbs more sauce, or you just want an extra saucy meal. Alternatively, you can add in some reserved pasta water (see next tip).
  • Reserve pasta water. When cooking pasta, I always like to save out about 1 cup of cooking water right before draining the noodles. Adding small amounts of this reserved pasta water can thin the zucchini pasta sauce if needed when tossing the pasta with everything. 

Overhead view of a bowl of spaghetti topped with Zucchini Pasta Sauce.

Zucchini Pasta Sauce tips, continued

  • Grate Parmesan on a microplane: A microplane gives the Parmesan an amazing, super-light texture. It melts beautifully into the sauce and makes a wonderful garnish.
  • Grate zucchini and summer squash on the large holes of a grater. If grated too finely, they practically disappear in this sauce.
  • Slightly undercook the pasta; it will finish cooking as it gets tossed with the sauce. If the pasta is fully boiled, it will end up getting over cooked and lose texture (possibly even become mushy).

QUICK TIP

Fresh herbs cut through the richness of this dish and add a great lively flavor. We enjoy fresh basil best, but flat-leaf Italian parsley is also great!

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Zucchini Pasta Sauce

5 from 2 votes
Shredded zucchini, shredded summer squash, and fresh basil pesto make the ultimate 30-minute summer pasta dish, wonderful for a weeknight dinner.
Print Recipe

Zucchini Pasta Sauce

5 from 2 votes
Shredded zucchini, shredded summer squash, and fresh basil pesto make the ultimate 30-minute summer pasta dish, wonderful for a weeknight dinner.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Vegetarian
Cuisine American
Keyword Zucchini Pasta Sauce
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 645kcal
Cost $6.12

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (~3 cloves)
  • 1 cup (110g) finely diced yellow onion (~1 medium onion)
  • 2 cups (227g) grated zucchini (~2 small zucchinis)
  • 1 cup (147g) grated summer squash (~1 small squash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: paprika, fine sea salt, fresh cracked pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1/2 cup (30g) finely grated Parmesan cheese (See Note 1)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (198g) frozen corn
  • 10 ounces (290g) thin spaghetti NOT the whole package
  • 1/3 cup (70g) fresh basil pesto (See Note 2)
  • For topping: extra Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs like fresh basil or Italian parsley

Instructions

  • PREP: This dish goes quickly once it's started, so shred the zucchini and summer squash ahead of time. Grate both on the large holes of a cheese grater. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and we're ready to start!
  • PASTA: Bring a large pot of water to the boil with 1 tablespoon of fine sea salt. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, subtracting 2 minutes (the pasta will finish cooking later). Drain the pasta and set aside (don't run it under cold water).
  • ONION AND GARLIC: While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a very large skillet or large pot over medium high heat (we'll add the pasta into this pan later, so use a big one). Once butter is mostly melted, add in the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is becoming golden, about 3-4 minutes.
  • ZUCCHINI AND SQUASH: Add the shredded zucchini and squash. Stir over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add seasonings: 1/2 teaspoon of each -- salt, pepper, and paprika. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is absorbed and veggies are tender.
  • CREAM AND CHEESE: Add in the chicken stock, heavy cream, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and frozen corn. Stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened a bit, about 2-3 minutes.
  • PASTA: Add in the hot drained pasta and toss vigorously for 2-3 minutes, over medium heat, with tongs or two kitchen spoons. Continue to toss until the pasta is well coated and the sauce thickens. Once pasta is well coated, add in the pesto and toss again to combine. Taste and adjust, adding more salt and pepper, if needed. Add an extra splash of heavy cream, chicken stock, or pesto to thin the sauce a bit if desired.
  • SERVE: Serve immediately garnished with fresh herbs and add additional parmesan to each plate.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Grate Parmesan cheese on a microplane. A microplane gives the Parmesan an amazing, super-light texture. It melts beautifully into the sauce and makes for a wonderful garnish.
Note 2: You’ll find fresh pesto near the fresh (not dried) pasta or in the produce section of the store. My absolute favorite in this Zucchini Pasta Sauce is Rana’s® Basil Pesto (not sponsored).

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 645kcal | Carbohydrates: 72.8g | Protein: 19.7g | Fat: 31.8g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 396.1mg | Fiber: 5.3g | Sugar: 9g

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13 Comments

  1. I love that you combined zucchini and squash in an easy dish. It’s a great way to use all of those farmer’s market veggies!

  2. yum, this looks really good !!! I eat pasta more nights than I care to admit haha! 🙂 so I’m always looking for new ideas to keep things interesting… pinned to my PASTA board …needs to be my dinner one night this week! YUM!

  3. This pasta looks so good with all that parmesan and zucchini! You make the best quick and easy recipes, Chelsea! Pinned!

  4. 5 stars
    I made this last night, oh my gosh it was good. So good i made it twice. Once for us and then decided to make another for my parents. My husband loved it and my mom could not believe how much flavor there was. Followed the recipe exactly. Thanks for the recipe!

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