Creamy Roasted Garlic Pasta with Zucchini and Corn

published Jul 21, 2022
Creamy Roasted Garlic Pasta with Zucchini & Corn Recipe
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roasted garlic pasta on green tile with a yellow napkin
Credit: Photo: Chris Simpson; Food Styling: Greg Lofts; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez Hart

I definitely see the appeal of crisp, raw salads and refreshing, no-cook dishes this time of year, but it turns out that the season’s produce can shine just as well in a creamy stovetop pasta — one that’s light enough to be summer-appropriate, substantial enough to be comforting, and, above all, puts ripe, peak-season vegetables to good use.

Speaking of vegetables, I’ve never gravitated towards zucchini (I know!), but I had a sneaking suspicion that I’d change my mind if the squash were melted down into a creamy, pale green-hued sauce to toss with pasta and fresh corn. I’m happy to report that I was right. And the best part? This easy, satisfying meal for four will cost you less than $10 (price breakdown below), thanks to the affordability of in-season produce. 

Credit: Photo: Chris Simpson; Food Styling: Greg Lofts; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez Hart

How to Make Creamy Roasted Garlic Pasta with Zucchini and Corn

This recipe follows the same method put forth by Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini butter spaghetti, in which heaps of grated zucchini and garlic are slow-caramelized into a buttery sauce, but I incorporate cream ($2.08) for a tad more body and add yet another summer stunner, sweet corn (2 for $1.00), to the mix.

Half the corn kernels are cooked with the zucchini (3 for $2.43) and garlic ($0.47) in a few pats of butter ($0.90), and the remaining half is mixed in with the cooked pasta at the end for pockets of fresh, textural crunch (it’s all about that contrast). Parmesan cheese ($2.22) melted into the sauce adds savory richness, and although you can use whatever dried pasta you have on hand, I’m partial to campanelle or another short pasta shape ($0.82) because it catches more of the creamy, corn-flecked sauce in each forkful. 

Credit: Photo: Chris Simpson; Food Styling: Greg Lofts; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez Hart

It does take some time to get the zucchini meltingly tender, but the rest of the recipe comes together fairly quickly — and if you cut, grate, and shred your ingredients before you start cooking, you’ll be rewarded with a smooth and seamless cooking process. I can’t speak for everyone, but if you, like me, have had your fill of cold pasta salads (or just need a break from picnic fare), this creamy, caramelized zucchini and garlic pasta with sweet corn may just be the summery, hearty-but-not-heavy comfort food you’ve been craving. 

Creamy Roasted Garlic Pasta with Zucchini & Corn Recipe

Prep time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    zucchini (about 3 medium)

  • 2 to 3 ears

    fresh corn

  • 2 1/2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, shredded (about 2/3 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 12 ounces

    dried short pasta, such as campanelle

  • 1/2 cup

    heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Prepare the following, placing each in its own bowl or in different piles on a rimmed baking sheet: Thinly slice 4 garlic cloves. Trim 1 1/2 pounds zucchini and grate on the large holes of a box grater (about 4 heaping cups). Shuck 2 to 3 ears fresh corn and cut the kernels off the cobs until you have about 1 1/2 cups. Shred 2 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese on the smaller holes of a box grater (about 2/3 cup).

  2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large straight-sided skillet or medium pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, 3/4 cup of the corn kernels, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is caramelized, reduced, and meltingly tender, 18 to 25 minutes (add a splash of water to the pot if the vegetables start to stick to the bottom). In the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir frequently to prevent burning or sticking, lightly mashing the zucchini with a wooden spoon as you mix.

  3. When the zucchini ready, add 12 ounces dried short pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions until al dente, 7 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add 1/2 cup heavy cream to the zucchini, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce slightly thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add the Parmesan and stir until the cheese is melted.

  4. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta and remaining 3/4 cup corn kernels to the sauce. Stir until the pasta is well coated, adding some of the reserved pasta water a little at a time as needed to get a saucy consistency. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat in the microwave in 30-second increments until warmed through.