This Pesto Pasta with Zucchini and Ricotta is refreshing, flavorful, and easy to make. The red pepper flakes add a hint of heat with the lemon zest bringing in a balanced freshness to the dish. It’s the perfect summertime dinner!

A black plate with creamy pesto pasta with zucchini and a basil garnish.

Zucchini is in full bloom which means you have to get creative with how you’re going to devour ALL of that zucchini the garden has produced!

It’s not uncommon for my parents to show up to my house carrying a 2 foot long zucchini that weights 6 pounds. 😂 When this happens I make multiple batches of Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread this 5 Minute Cheesy Zucchetti Bowl, sheet pan dinners, OR I load up my pasta with tons of zucchini! Which is exactly what you see here.

There are oodles of zucchini recipe ideas! And today, I’m adding another recipe to the mix. And it’s a goooood one!

Zucchini cut into quarter inch coins.

This is a 30 minute meal, perfect for weeknights when things are a bit crazy and you’re running short on time.

Plus, if you have kids, this is a delicious meal that they’ll love (and it’s packed with zucchini so they’ll be getting a healthy dose of vegetables). #Winning.

How to make Pesto Pasta with Zucchini & Ricotta

  • Add butter and diced onions to a large pan. Cook the onions until they turn soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
  • Slice 2 pounds worth of zucchini into thick coins, about a quarter inch thick. Add minced garlic and the zucchini to the cooked onions (pictured above).

Pan full of zucchini cut into thick coins that have been slightly cooked.

  • Cook the onions for 8 minutes or until they are semi-soft. You don’t want to overcook the zucchini so that they turn mushy (pictured above).
  • The zucchini will turn a vibrant color when they are cooked.
  • Add cooked pasta to the zucchini along with some pasta water.
  • Continue by adding ricotta, basil pesto (store bought or homemade), lemon zest, crushed red pepper flakes, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
  • Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.

This pesto pasta is delicious! I love the freshness that the lemon zest adds and the subtle heat the crushed red pepper flakes bring into the mix.

If you want to amplify the “heat” simply add 1/4 teaspoon-1/2 teaspoon of the red pepper flakes, and that will do the trick!

Plate of pasta with zucchini and a garnish of basil, sitting on a small cutting board.

If you try this recipe come back and leave a comment and rating telling me how it went! I love hearing from you!


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A black plate with creamy pesto pasta with zucchini and a basil garnish.
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5 from 1 vote
Servings: 8 servings
Pesto Pasta with Zucchini & Ricotta

This Summer Pesto Pasta with Zucchini and Ricotta is refreshing, flavorful, and easy to make. The red pepper flakes add a hint of heat with the lemon zest bringing in a balanced freshness to the dish. It's the perfect dinner. 

Prep Time:
10 mins
Cook Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
30 mins
 
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion diced (about 1 3/4-2 cups)
  • 2 lbs zucchini sliced into 1/4" inch thick coins
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto
  • 1 1/3 cup Ricotta
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 lb penne pasta
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions to the butter and cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the zucchini is somewhat soft (but not too soft!), about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat. 

  2. While the zucchini is cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil, once boiling add about 1 tablespoon of salt to the water. Cook the pasta until a tad under al dente. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water. 

  3. Add the pasta to the zucchini mixture. Stir to combine. 

  4. Add ¾ cups of the reserved pasta water, ricotta, red pepper flakes, parmesan, pesto, and lemon. Turn heat to low and cook and stir until the pasta turns creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you need to add more pasta water to the dish, do so. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Recipe Source: Adapted from NY Times Cooking

All images & text © Salt & Baker
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pesto pasta recipe, summer pesto pasta, zucchini pasta recipe
This Pesto Pasta with Zucchini and Ricotta is refreshing, flavorful, and easy to make. It's the perfect summertime dinner! #saltandbaker #pestopasta #zucchini #easyrecipes #dinnerrecipes #ricotta