Even though summer is the greatest season of them all, it does present a lot of stressful dilemmas. Which bathing suit should I wear to the beach today? Should I finish up this work assignment or go eat a popsicle outside? What ice cold beverage should I sip on next? Life is full of tough obstacles, I know.
This recipe answers one of the most pressing summertime conundrums, which is how on earth am I going to use up all this darn zucchini? If your garden is bursting at the seams with summer squash, this pasta is here to help you turn it into a seriously delicious and quick weeknight dinner. It’s the winning ticket to get a picky eater to eat more vegetables—it’s so creamy and luxurious, you’d never know that it’s full of hearty veg.
One of my favorite ways to cook zucchini is a method I learned from Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini pasta—she grates the raw squash, then sautés it, allowing the moisture to cook off slowly, until the zucchini is jammy and spreadable. At first, it seems like a MOUNTAIN of squash, but trust me, it cooks down significantly.
You Only Need One Pot
The beauty of this recipe is that it all goes down in one pot. After the zucchini is caramelized, you’ll cook the pasta with cream cheese in just enough water for the pasta to cook without being left with a pool of liquid.
If all the moisture cooks off and the pasta is still undercooked, you can always add an extra splash of water. The cooked zucchini is then added back to the pot, along with some lemon juice and zest, and you’ve got yourself a hearty bowl of summertime pasta.
Riff Your Way
If you want to jazz this recipe up, there are a million ways that you can riff. There are no wrong answers when you’re providing a solution to the greatest summertime dilemma of them all.
- Swap in vegetable or chicken stock for the water for a boost of added savory flavor.
- Use any short pasta shape that you like—I would avoid using any long noodle or any “frilly” shape that might break from excessive stirring, like trumpets or cascatelli.
- Trying to use up some fresh herbs? This pasta would happily accept a handful of fresh basil, mint, parsley, dill, or chives.
- Love garlic? Grate in a few cloves to your zucchini mixture.
- Feel free to swap your favorite toasted nut or seed for the walnuts.
- If you want to finish the pasta off with some grated Parm or Pecorino, I am certainly not going to stop you.
- Want to use a mix of summer squash and zucchini? Be my guest.
Still Have More Zucchini?
Creamy One Pot Pasta with Zucchini
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large or 5 medium zucchini (2 pounds), coarsely grated
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 1/4 cups water
1 pound dry rigatoni or penne pasta
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice)
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Cook the zucchini:
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook the zucchini, stirring occasionally, until it expels liquid, the liquid cooks off, and the zucchini caramelizes into a jam-like, spreadable consistency, 10 to 12 minutes.
If you start to notice any browning at the bottom of your pot, reduce the heat to medium. Once jammy, transfer the zucchini into a medium bowl and set it aside.
Cook the pasta:
In the same pot (don’t worry about wiping off any browned bits or pieces of zucchini that might be left in the pot), add 3 1/4 cups water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Season the water with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
Once water is boiling, add the pasta and cream cheese, and reduce the heat to medium-high. Break up the cream cheese with the back of a wooden spoon to disperse throughout. It’s okay if the pasta isn’t completely submerged in liquid. Cook, stirring frequently until the pasta is al dente and liquid is reduced and creamy, 11 to 13 minutes. If all the moisture cooks off and the pasta is still undercooked, add a splash of water.
Add the zucchini back in:
Add the cooked zucchini, lemon zest, and lemon juice and cook until warmed through, 2 minutes. Add a splash of water to create a thin, glossy sauce, if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Divide between bowls and top with toasted walnuts. Serve.
Though it’s best enjoyed immediately, you can always refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days and reheat it in the microwave or in a saucepan with a splash of water.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 17g||22%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||28%|
|Total Carbohydrate 23g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 15mg||76%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|