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Creamy Zucchini Pasta

A portion of creamy zucchini pasta on white plate on top of towel on top of another white plate.
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Creamy Zucchini Pasta is a luscious recipe starring with the iconic, summer veggie that’s abundant in almost every home garden! Lots of thinly sliced zucchini is sautéed with shallots, garlic and fresh basil in butter and olive oil then combined with heavy cream, pesto and pecorino cheese for the dreamiest pasta sauce that you’ll surely want to make all year-long!

Plated creamy zucchini pasta on decorative white platter with basil garnish.

This Creamy Zucchini Pasta recipe a great way to use up your annual surplus of summer zucchini squash (or take advantage of all the fresh product available locally in the hot summer months) in the most delicious way. It’ll work with whatever-sized or variety zucchini you have growing in your garden. I often make it with yellow summer squash and Romanesco zucchine or sometimes a combo of all of them.

Some of my other favorite summer zucchini recipes are Zucchini Pesto, Zucchini Fritters, Panko Crusted Zucchini, Ciambotta Summer Zucchini Stew and Stuffed Zucchini.

If you know anyone that isn’t a big fan of zucchini (I know several), this recipe may just change their mind. When I was testing and developing it recently and shared some with my sister, she actually said that this pasta might just be one of the best pastas I ever made! And, I’ve made A LOT of pastas over the years, so that is really saying something!

Plating creamy zucchini pasta on white platter with tongs; pan of pasta with wooden spoon in background.

Zucchini has a very high moisture level that often results in a lifeless, soggy and watery vegetable if not cooked properly–which is why some people are turned off by this veggie.

Well, this creamy zucchini pasta recipe actually takes advantage of that texture. The zucchini is intentionally cooked until it breaks down a bit and becomes one with the creamy sauce. Plus, any residual moisture that is not cooked off gets absorbed by the pasta, increasing to the overall flavor of the dish.

Once fragrant fresh basil, garlic, shallots, a touch of pesto, heavy cream and sharp pecorino cheese are added, you have a silky, rich pasta with a very unique, fresh summer flavor–a great recipe to have ready in your back pocket. Hope you give it a try this summer! Mangia bene!

A portion of creamy zucchini pasta on white plate on top of towel on top of another white plate.

Ingredients for Creamy Zucchini Pasta

⁠⁠⁠To make this zucchini pasta recipe, we’ll need:

  • Zucchini: The star of the dish! This recipe also works with other summer squash, such as yellow crookneck or gray zucchini. Also, small/medium-sized zucchini tend to have better flavor and less seeds, so choose them if you have the option.Choose zucchini that are firm without any soft spots.
  • Heavy Cream: The base for the oh-so-creamy and delicious sauce, heavy cream is one of the signature ingredients in this recipe.
  • Pasta: I used long, flat tagliatelle pasta, but almost any long or short pasta would work well in this recipe. The only shapes that I don’t recommend are very thin spaghetti or cappellini and very small pasta, like ditalini.
  • Pesto: While optional, pesto definitely amps up the flavor of the final creamy zucchini sauce a bit. So, add it if you have some on hand, but don’t go out of your way to buy/make it just for this recipe. You can use either store-bought or homemade pesto in this recipe.
  • Pecorino Cheese: Sharp and salty Pecorino Romano cheese complements the mild zucchini flavor perfectly and adds richness. Savory parmesan cheese can be substituted if necessary.
  • Shallots and Garlic: Important aromatics for a strong base of flavor in the sauce. Use yellow or Spanish onions as a substitute for shallots, if necessary.
  • Fresh Basil: The iconic herb of summer! Use as much or as little as you want. I don’t recommend dried basil for this recipe.
  • Butter and Olive Oil: Used to sauté the aromatics and zucchini. I love the combined richness of butter with the earthy flavor of extra virgin olive oil in this recipe.

Ingredients for pasta with creamy zucchini sauce.

How to Make Creamy Zucchini Pasta, Step-by-Step

Here are the steps to making this pasta with creamy zucchini sauce:

  • Prep and gather all ingredients. Cut the zucchini into very thin slices. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

  • Then, add shallots, garlic, fresh basil and red pepper flakes to melted butter and heated olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Cook until shallots are soft, about 4 minutes.
    • PRO-TIP: You can cover the pan to speed up this process, if desired.

  • Next, add half the zucchini to the pan along with a pinch of salt and pepper and stir. Increase to medium heat, cover and cook 5 minutes.

  • Stir the mixture and add the remaining the zucchini and stir again. Cover and cook another 5 minutes. During this time, the zucchini will release a lot of liquid.
    • PRO-TIP: Be sure to add only half the zucchini at a time to the pan to be able to manage the batch better and for best results.
Vegetables cooking in pan.
More thinly sliced zucchini is added to pan.
  • Next, uncover the pan, stir, reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking 5 minutes or until most remaining liquid from the zucchini releases and evaporates. Use this liquid to deglaze and scape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
    • PRO-TIP: Some zucchini may break up and become a little mushy during the cooking process and this is okay. The zucchini is meant to become a bit saucy.

  • Add heavy cream and simmer until it is slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
    • PRO-TIP: Add some pasta water at this point if the sauce has gotten too dry/thick.
  • Meanwhile, once the water comes to a boil, add salt, then the pasta, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions, or about 2 minutes before you think it is al dente. Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
    • PRO-TIP: Add the pasta to the boiling water at the same time that you add the heavy cream to the sauce.

  • Transfer the pasta to the sauce along with the remaining ½ cup basil and pesto (if including) and gently stir to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add pasta water as needed for additional moisture about ½ cup at a time. Allow pasta to finish cooking in the wonderful flavors of the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings.

  • Once the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and fold in the grated cheese. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and serve. That’s it!

Check out my answer to “How Much Salt Should You Add to Pasta Water?” here, as featured in Appetito’s online Italian Food and Drink Magazine.

More Bright and Sunny Summer Pastas You’ll Love

If you’ve enjoyed this pasta with creamy zucchini sauce, check out these other summer pasta favorites:

Twirling creamy zucchini pasta on fork.

Recipe Substitutions and Variations

As I mention in the recipe below, the pesto in this creamy pasta recipe is optional, but it definitely amps up the flavor a bit. So, add it if you have some on hand, but don’t go out of your way to buy/make it just for this recipe. A few other ways that I sometimes switch up this recipe include:

  • Make it Lemony: Add juice and zest of 1 lemon to the pan along with the cooked pasta and basil. You will have a beautiful pasta with zucchini and creamy lemon sauce.
  • Add greens: Add a large handful of baby spinach or arugula to the pan at the same time as the cooked pasta.
  • Swap the zucchini with yellow squash or use a combination of both.
  • For a vegan/plant-based version of this recipe, ditch the butter and just use olive oil, substitute cream with full fat coconut milk or cashew cream and switch up the cheese for nutritional yeast.
  • Add a good dose of picante to the creamy zucchini pasta sauce with some sliced raw jalapeño or long hot peppers sautéed along with the aromatics, or a drizzle of homemade Italian spicy pepper oil.


Plated creamy zucchini pasta on decorative white platter with basil garnish.

TOP TIPS FOR CREAMY ZUCCHINI PASTA

  • Work in Batches: Two pounds of thinly sliced zucchini will seem like A LOT oz zucchini. But, trust me, it cooks down due to its high moisture content. Be sure to add only half the zucchini at a time to the pan, as noted in the recipe, to be able to manage it better and for best results.
  • Finish Cooking the Pasta in the sauce so that the pasta can absorb all the delicious flavors of the sauce. (You should really finish cooking all pastas this way.)
  • Serving: Pasta with creamy zucchini sauce can be accented with a light green salad and nothing else in my humble opinion. Or, in a smaller portion, it makes a great first course. Follow it with some sautéed garlic shrimp, turkey meatballs or chicken cutlets.
  • Timing: Add pasta to boiling water at the same time that you add the heavy cream to the sauce.
  • Leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it, covered, in a small skillet over medium low heat with a little bit of water until heated through. Because of its high fat content, you can also freeze leftovers in an airtight container or bag for up to three months. (The texture of the pasta will change a bit, though. Thaw it in the refrigerator before reheating.

More Great Recipes to Try

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If you’ve tried Creamy Zucchini Pasta, please let me know how it went in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

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Plated creamy zucchini pasta on decorative white platter with basil garnish.

Creamy Zucchini Pasta

Michele
Creamy Zucchini Pasta is a luscious recipe starring with the iconic, summer veggie that’s abundant in almost every home garden! Lots of thinly sliced zucchini is sautéed with shallots, garlic and fresh basil in butter and olive oil then combined with heavy cream, pesto and pecorino cheese for the dreamiest pasta sauce that you’ll surely want to make all year-long!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil + more for finishing
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 1 large shallot)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 2 heaping Tbsp sliced or chopped garlic
  • Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 2 pounds zucchini, very thinly sliced or small diced (not chunky)
  • Pinch salt and black pepper
  • cups heavy cream
  • 1 pound pasta + salt for pasta water
  • ¼ cup pesto, either homemade or store-bought (optional)
  • cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for finishing

Instructions
 

  • Prep and gather all ingredients according to specifications above. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
    (Please see the section above in the blog post for Step-By-Step instructions with photos.)
  • Melt the butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven with the olive oil over medium low heat. Once the butter is melted, add the shallots, ½ cup basil, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the shallots are soft, about 4 minutes. You can cover the pan to speed up this process, if desired.
    2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup thinly sliced shallots, 2 heaping Tbsp sliced or chopped garlic, Pinch crushed red pepper
  • Then, add half the zucchini to the pan along with a pinch of salt and pepper and stir. Increase the heat to medium, cover and cook 5 minutes.
  • Stir the mixture and add the remaining the zucchini and stir again. Cover and cook another 5 minutes. During this time, the zucchini will release a lot of liquid.
  • Next, uncover the pan, stir, reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking 5 minutes or until most remaining liquid from the zucchini releases and evaporates. Use this liquid to deglaze and scape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Some zucchini may break up and become a little mushy during the cooking process and this is okay. The zucchini is meant to become a bit saucy.
  • Add heavy cream and simmer until it is slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Then, turn off the heat until the pasta is ready. (Add some pasta water at this point if the sauce has gotten too dry/thick.)
    1¼ cups heavy cream
  • Meanwhile, once the water comes to a boil, add salt, then the pasta, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions, or about 2 minutes before you think it is al dente. Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
    1 pound pasta
  • If the heat is off on the sauce, turn it on to medium low. Then, transfer the pasta to the sauce along with the remaining ½ cup basil and pesto (if including) and gently stir to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add pasta water as needed for additional moisture about ½ cup at a time. Allow pasta to finish cooking in the wonderful flavors of the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings.
    ¼ cup pesto,
  • Once the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and fold in the grated cheese. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and add some freshly ground black pepper and serve. Buon Appetito!
    ⅓ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, Freshly ground black pepper,

Notes

  • Two pounds of thinly sliced zucchini will seem like A LOT oz zucchini but, trust me, it cooks down due to its high moisture content. Be sure to add only half the zucchini at a time to the pan, as noted in the recipe, to be able to manage it better and for best results.
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water at the same time that you add the heavy cream to the sauce.
  • I used long, flat tagliatelle pasta, but almost any long or short pasta would work well in this recipe. The only shapes that I don’t recommend are very thin spaghetti or cappellini and very small pasta, like ditalini.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it, covered, in a small skillet over medium low heat with a little bit of water until heated through. Because of its high fat content, you can also freeze leftovers in an airtight container or bag for up to three months, but the texture of the pasta will change a bit. Thaw it in the refrigerator before reheating.
 
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
If you try this recipe, please share a photo on INSTAGRAM or FACEBOOK and tag it @MangiaWithMichele and #MangiaWithMichele. I’d love to see it!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

3 thoughts on “Creamy Zucchini Pasta

  1. 5 stars
    Love this dish!! Easy to make and so tasty!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the recipe, Anne! Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Loved, loved, loved this pasta. what else can I say? i can’t wait to make it again, it was definitely unique and different from other pastas i’ve had before.

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