Pasta with Zucchini Sauce
Pasta with Zucchini Sauce is creamy, flavorful, and oh-so-easy to make! Shredded zucchini, sweet summer peas, and thick tender bucatini make for the ultimate 20-minute summer pasta dish, wonderful for a weeknight dinner.
Why This Recipe Works
Pasta with Zucchini Sauce is a playful spin on a traditional Italian dish – Alfredo Pasta. However; in this recipe, we’re putting a healthy spin on things and sneaking in some veggies!
Thick, tender bucatini is tossed in a simple, yet luscious, cream sauce that’s full of shredded zucchini and sweet summer-time peas, topped with crisp bacon bites and grated nutty Parmesan cheese. This easy-to-make recipe is absolutely delicious and the perfect meal for Meatless Mondays or those busy weeknights when you want something tasty but are short on time.
And one thing is for sure; when you make this dish, it will quickly become a family favorite that works its way into your menu rotation!
Pasta: I use bucatini because I prefer a thicker spaghetti, however; feel free to use other long types of pasta such as spaghetti, linguini, fettuccini.
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 as it has a salty flavor verse nutty.
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 prior to putting into dish.
Broth: This recipe calls for chicken broth, however; vegetable broth would be a wonderful alternative. If you need to watch your sodium intake, I would recommend using low sodium broths 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; if you do not want to use or cannot find at your local grocer; you can substitute half and half, but the sauce won’t be as creamy.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot according to the package directions.
- In a medium skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Stir in zucchini, salt, and pepper and sauté until zucchini is half it’s size.
- Mix in cream, broth, Parmesan, and frozen peas. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
- When sauce is ready, add the pasta and stir to combine. Let the pasta and zucchini simmer for an additional few minutes to allow the flavors to mix.
- If the sauce is too thin you can add a little of the pasta water or a cornstarch slurry to thicken it. Remove and serve. Season with salt and 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 pasta is fully cooked in water, it will become overcooked and will loose 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, looses it’s flavor and isn’t always fresh.
If you have access to fresh peas, feel free to use instead of frozen.
If you want the zucchini sauce thicker, add a slurry of cornstarch and water (1 teaspoon/2 tablespoons) or add 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water to the simmering zucchini and pasta to make it thicker.
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.
Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and crispy bacon pieces when serving.
If there are any leftovers, or if you are making this ahead of time, be sure to store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
I would not recommend freezing as pasta always loses texture after freezing.
Pasta tends to loose it’s texture after freezing, so I would not recommend freezing the whole dish. You could however; make ahead the sauce and freezer zucchini sauce in a freezer safe container up to 3 months. When ready to make; thaw sauce overnight in the fridge and reheat on stove. Make pasta according to directions on box and mix in with sauce when both ingredients are ready.
I use a microplane when grating Parmesan. Using a microplane will give the Parmesan an amazing, super-light texture. It also is 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 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).
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.