Zucchini Butter Pasta

published Jun 3, 2024
Zucchini Butter Pasta Recipe

I promise this will be your go-to dinner all summer.

Serves4 to 5

Prep15 minutes

Cook20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
overhead shot of zucchini butter pasta in a silver pan, with tongs grabbing some out of the pan
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

I’m totally guilty of “eating with my eyes” whenever I go to a farmers market. As soon as I see piles of zucchini, I just can’t help myself. Zucchini butter pasta is a recent result of one of those trips. Armed with more zucchini than I could pack into zucchini bread and savory pancakes, I took a cue from Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini butter pasta and cooked down a ton of shredded zucchini to make a pasta sauce. My version is a bit more buttery, garlicky, and cheesy. It’s both easy to make and easy to love, which is why I plan to make it at least once a month (if not more) during the warmer months. 

Why You’ll Love It

  • “Melted” zucchini is impossibly delicious. When you cook shredded zucchini down for just 15 or so minutes, it nearly melts and takes on a sweet, almost caramelized flavor. 
  • It uses a lot of zucchini. This easy dinner calls for 4 whole zucchini, and is a great way to use up the best of summer’s bounty. 
  • It’s buttery, cheesy, and creamy. Between the whole stick of butter, Parm cheese, and shredded zucchini, this pasta delivers on all fronts — without a drop of cream. Plus it gives off some pesto vibes. 

Key Ingredients in Zucchini Butter Pasta

  • Zucchini: Look for ones that are firm without any soft spots. 
  • Butter: Adds richness to this veggie-forward pasta dish. 
  • Parm cheese: You can opt for freshly grated or store-bought here. Either works well; just be sure to use one you like. 
  • Basil: Provides an herby note that balances the flavors. 
  • Spaghetti: This long pasta is ideal for twirling together with the shredded zucchini. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

How to Make Zucchini Butter Pasta

  1. Shred the zucchini. Pull out your food processor and shredding disc to make easy work of this task. (You can also totally use a box grater if that’s what you’ve got or prefer.) 
  2. Cook the shredded zucchini. Sauté minced garlic and shallot in a stick of melted butter. Add the zucchini along with salt and red pepper flakes (optional), and cook until the zucchini is softened and almost melting. 
  3. Boil your pasta. Cook the spaghetti for 1 less minute than al dente, reserving 3/4 cup of the pasta water. 
  4. Toss it all together. Add the pasta, some of the pasta water, and a bit of lemon juice to the melted zucchini. Continue to cook and toss until the sauce thickens slightly and coats the pasta. Off-heat, stir in the basil and Parm, and garnish with more cheese for serving. 

Helpful Swaps 

  • Swap Pecorino Romano for the Parmesan cheese.
  • If you need to use up yellow squash, use an equal weight in place of the zucchini. 
  • Try another long pasta like fettuccine or linguine, or reach for a short shape like penne or cavatappi. 

Zucchini Butter Pasta Recipe

I promise this will be your go-to dinner all summer.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Serves 4 to 5

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 5 cloves

    garlic

  • 1

    medium shallot

  • 2 pounds

    medium zucchini (about 4)

  • 2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup firmly packed freshly grated or scant 2/3 cup store-bought grated), plus more for serving

  • 10

    fresh basil leaves

  • 1/2

    medium lemon

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick)

    unsalted butter

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 12 ounces

    dried spaghetti

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, mince 5 garlic cloves. Finely chop 1 medium shallot (about 1/4 cup). Trim and grate 2 pounds medium zucchini on the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl (about 7 cups). (Alternatively, fit a food processor with the shredding disc, slice zucchini in half lengthwise, and shred). Finely grate 2 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup), or measure scant 2/3 cup store-bought grated. Thinly slice 10 fresh basil leaves into ribbons. Juice 1/2 medium lemon until you have 1 tablespoon.

  2. Melt 1 stick unsalted butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the zucchini, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes if using. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid that releases has been cooked off and the zucchini is softened and almost melting, about 15 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, add 12 ounces dried spaghetti to the boiling water. Cook, stirring every few minutes and separating any noodles that are sticking together, for 1 less minute than al dente according to the package directions. Reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.

  4. When the zucchini is ready, add the pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and lemon juice to the skillet. Cook over medium heat, tossing constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly and coats the pasta, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss in more pasta water a tablespoon at a time as needed to reach the desired sauce consistency. Remove from heat, add the Parmesan and basil, and toss to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Garnish with more Parmesan cheese if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.