Pasta with Zucchini Sauce
Pasta with Zucchini Sauce is ultra flavorful, creamy, and packed with veggies! Shredded zucchini, sweet summer peas, and thick tender bucatini make for the ultimate 20-minute summer pasta dish.
Why This Recipe Works
- Zucchini pasta recipe that is packed with veggies! This creamy zucchini pasta is a delicious spin on Alfredo pasta that is packed with vegetables to help get all those yummy nutrients into your family meal!
- Creamy pasta sauce. This pasta with zucchini cream sauce is ultra creamy and delicious! The broth, veggies and heavy cream form together to make an irresistible cream sauce the whole family will love!
- Quick pasta recipe. Do you find yourself short on time for dinner on those busy weeknights? Are you looking for a light and refreshing meal that’s also easy to make and uses simple ingredients? Then this shredded zucchini pasta is for you! It’s the perfect short-on-time-yet-still-super-delicious recipe you’ve been dreaming of!
- Pasta: I use bucatini because I prefer a thicker noodle. Feel free to use other long types of pasta such as spaghetti, linguini, fettuccini, etc.
- Parmesan: True Parmigiano Reggiano comes from the Reggio Emilia region in Italy and has a very distinct nutty flavor. If this flavor profile is not favorable to your palette, Pecorino Romano is a great alternative.
- Peas: I use frozen peas that have been thawed. Fresh or canned will also work. If using canned, be sure to drain all excess liquid.
- Broth: This recipe calls for chicken broth, but vegetable broth would be a wonderful alternative. If you need to watch your sodium intake, I would recommend using low sodium broth and adjusting the additional kosher salt to your taste. You could also use water if you do not have broth on hand, but the flavor of the dish won’t be as robust.
- Heavy Cream: Heavy cream creates a thick and creamy sauce due to the high fat content. However, you can substitute half and half, but the sauce won’t be as creamy.
- Cook the pasta. Bring water to boil in a large pot of salted water over medium-high heat. Cook the pasta until just under al dente.
- Cook the vegetables. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic cloves and cook until softened. Stir in the shredded zucchini, salt, and pepper and sauté until the zucchini is cooked.
- Make the creamy zucchini sauce. Mix in the cream, broth, freshly shredded parmesan cheese, and peas. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Add the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the zucchini mixture and stir to combine. Let the pasta and zucchini simmer for an additional few minutes to allow the flavors to incorporate. Remove and serve. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with crispy crumbled bacon and grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Cook the pasta in chicken broth for a richer flavor.
Slightly undercook the pasta as it will finish cooking when it gets tossed with the sauce. If the pasta is fully cooked, it will become overcooked and lose its texture when mixed with the sauce.
High quality parmesan makes a huge flavor difference in this dish. I recommend using a good quality parmesan block and grating the amount you need. Pre-grated cheese, while convenient, is coated in cellulose which helps it keeps its grated form. This means it isn’t as fresh and won’t melt into the sauce as easily.
If you want the zucchini sauce thicker, add a slurry of cornstarch and water (1 teaspoon cornstarch to 2 tablespoons water). To make the sauce thinner, add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the simmering zucchini and pasta.
If you’d like to make this dish heartier and more complete, add in shredded rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled chicken. Shrimp would also be delicious in this dish as well!
No need to peel the zucchini before grating it.
My kids love peas, so I used them in this recipe. You can use corn if you prefer (frozen corn that has been thawed or canned corn that has been drained).
Add bacon for a delicious bacon zucchini pasta! While the bacon is optional, it adds a nice crunch and saltiness to the dish! You can also add some chopped fresh herbs such as fresh parsley, fresh thyme, or fresh basil.
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing
If there are any leftovers, or if you are making this ahead of time, be sure to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Do not freeze. Cooked pasta that’s been frozen and thawed goes mushy.
I only recommend making ahead or freezing the vegetables. You can shred the zucchini and store that in a freezer safe bag in the freezer for 2-3 months. Thaw and drain any excess water.
I use a microplane when grating parmesan to give it a super light texture. It is also the perfect size to melt easily into the sauce and makes a beautiful garnish.
This recipe calls for bucatini, but you can substitute any other long pasta – hollow or not. However, if you’d like to use a hollow pasta, you could use rigatoni (short and wide), penne (narrow and diagonally cut), or ziti (short thick tubes).
It is definitely packed with great ingredients! The shredded zucchini, onions, and peas are a great source of vegetables for dinner for your family! The only thing that you could do to make the dish healthier is to sub out the heavy cream for half and half (or milk) and use wheat pasta instead of regular pasta. However, if you use half and half or milk, note that the creaminess of the sauce will be impacted. Add a cornstarch slurry to make up for it.
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Pasta with Zucchini Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter - salted or unsalted is fine
- 1/2 small sweet onion - diced
- 3 garlic cloves - minced
- 1 lb zucchini - grated on a box grater
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup chicken broth - or vegetable broth
- 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese - packed
- 1 cup frozen peas - thawed, see notes
- 10 oz bucatini - or other long pasta such as spaghetti, linguini, fettuccini
- 1/4 cup bacon - cooked and crumbled for serving
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling add 1 T of salt to the water. Add the pasta and cook 2 minutes under al dente. The pasta will be a tad firm in the middle.
- Before draining the pasta water, scoop out 1 cup worth of pasta water and reserve for later. We will use this to help loosen up the pasta sauce if necessary.
- In a skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until the onion is translucent and has softened. Stir in the zucchini, salt, and pepper and cook for 4 minutes or until the zucchini has cooked down by about half it’s volume.
- Stir in the cream, broth, parmesan, and frozen peas. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 3 minutes. It will appear watery, which is fine because we need to finish cooking the pasta in that water.
- Add the pasta to the zucchini sauce and toss to coat. Cook for 2 minutes. If the pasta sauce gets too thick add a splash of the reserved pasta water to the skillet.
- Remove from stove and serve immediately with additional parmesan and chopped bacon if desired.