30 Minute Caramelized Zucchini Pasta with Lemon and Ricotta

The what-to-do-with-all-that-zucchini recipe you didn’t know you needed. When cooked low and slow, zucchini melts into a caramelized, almost creamy sauce that tastes so rich you’ll think there’s cream in it…but there isn’t. A big hearty squeeze of lemon and a spicy honey glaze adds a double exclamation point for the whole dish. Make this caramelized zucchini pasta and you’ll convert the most die-hard zucchini hater!

Long white platter with black spoon serving caramelized zucchini with ricotta and basil.
Caramelized zucchini pasta makes the best of summer’s zucchini crop.

We all know ’em. You might be them. Someone who doesn’t like zucchini. I submit that if you bring them a big skillet with this caramelized zucchini pasta with its pillows of ricotta cheese and spicy honey glaze, you can recruit them to team zucchini.

And once they become zucchini fans, seal the deal with this roasted veggie panzanella with zucchini.

Best zucchini pasta recipe

skillet of zucchini lemon pasta and basil with jar of spicy honey and bowl of parmesan cheese.
Gotta love spicy honey on pasta!

There are a slew of reasons why pasta with zucchini will become your go to this summer.

Starting with…you can make it in under 30 minutes! Pretty good, right?

Here’s more reasons to love it:

  • Practical. It uses about 3 zucchinis which is a great use for all that summer produce or CSA bounty.
  • Big flavor. Caramelizing zucchini gives it a rich —well, caramel-like— flavor that is hard to beat especially when paired with lemon and a spicy honey glaze. It doesn’t even taste like zucchini.
  • Versatile. You can keep it a vegetarian zucchini pasta dish and add pile in even more veggies, like eggplant or spinach. Or throw in some juicy chicken breasts for a non-vegetarian version.

Other easy pasta recipes like this you’ll ♥️: lemon farro salad, easy tortellini salad, and one pan sausage pasta. Or give my bow tie pesto with burrata a try…all are so good!

Main lemon zucchini pasta ingredients

ingredients for caramelized zucchini pasta on a round wooden cutting board.
You’ll need zucchini, ricotta, lemon, spaghetti, garlic, and a little butter too!
  • Zucchini. Medium sized. And you’ll need about 3 of them or 1 per person is a good rule of thumb.
  • Spaghetti. When you twirl the spaghetti, you’ll capture little pieces of charred and golden zucchini that make the best bite!
  • Ricotta cheese. For garnishing on top. More on that below!
  • Sauteed onion and garlic. The flavor base along with some oregano and thyme.
  • Spicy honey glaze. You might have tried it on my heavenly cast iron skillet pizza recipe. It is transformative.

Ingredient spotlight: ricotta cheese

Close up of white platter with spaghetti with zucchini, lemon, ricotta and basil.
Pillow of ricotta add to the creamy zucchini sauce.

As you might know, I’m a big ricotta cheese fan. Whether in an authentic cheese ravioli or the secret ingredient to a moist overnight egg bake, ricotta has a way of adding a creamy but light texture to Italian recipes.

Different types of ricotta cheese

According to cheese.com, there are 3 kinds of ricotta cheese.

  • You’re familiar with the traditional creamy ricotta (cow’s milk ricotta which you can usually find made from either whole or part-skim milk) that you’ll use in a classic lasagna recipe.
  • Another kind is a crumbly dry and salty ricotta, known as ricotta salata (ewe’s milk ricotta). Give ricotta salata a try crumbled over this seasonal fall panzanella salad.
  • And the final type is sourced from the whey of Romano cheese.

How to make caramelized zucchini pasta

skillet with golden brown zucchini and garlic.
Saute zucchini in butter and oil and add garlic and herbs.
wooden paddle stirring caramelized zucchini in a skillet.
Cook down until caramelized and golden.
  • Cook spaghetti and reserve some of the pasta water from cooking. Drain and set aside.
  • Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise into halves.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat with olive oil and some butter and saute zucchini until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  • Add garlic and herbs and saute until fragrant.
  • Deglaze with lemon juice and a little pasta water, scraping up all the brown, golden bits.

Pro Tip

Use a wooden flat edged spoon or paddle when deglazing to easily lift up all the “fond” or brown bits from the bottom of a skillet.


wooden paddle stirring pasta into caramelized zucchini sauce.
Toss cooked spaghetti with zucchini-don’t forget to add reserved pasta water!
skillet of spaghetti with zucchini and ricotta and small jar of spicy honey.
Top with ricotta, fresh parmesan and a drizzle of spicy honey glaze…sooo good!
  • Toss cooked spaghetti in with zucchini using tongs. Coat evenly with the sauce, adding more pasta water as needed.
  • Drizzle the spicy honey glaze over the whole dish and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and lemon zest.


Zucchini Scoop

Removing some or all of the zucchini seeds cuts down on a watery consistency to your sauce, leaving it richer.

-Josie + Nina


Pasta options

Don’t have spaghetti on hand? Here are other dried pastas that would work well in this lemon zucchini pasta recipe:

  • Bow tie pasta. A very dapper pasta shape. Bow tie pasta has little folds that hold pasta sauce beautifully as seen in this sausage and pepper pasta with bow ties.
  • Bucatini. Thicker than spaghetti, bucatini is the ultimate slurping pasta thanks to the hole down center of it. Slurp your way through a bowl of lemon and garlic bucatini to learn more.
  • Penne. Sometimes called mostaccioli, penne is a classic tube pasta shaped like a quill. This spicy arrabiata sauce is right at home with penne.

Tips for success

Because this is such an easy pasta dish, you’ll feel comfortable making it on repeat. Here are a few things to make things a little easier:

Prep. Have all your ingredients ready to go (zucchini sliced, garlic minced, herbs measured). This allows you to enjoy the process and maybe sneak in a few sips of a beverage or relax with your guests.

Adjust the recipe. Have more people? Add 1 zucchini per person!

Equipment.

Storage and reheat

Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container up to 4 days.

To reheat, place in a skillet and over medium heat,heat until warmed through about 3-5 minutes. Or heat in a microwave safe container in 30 second increments until desired temp is achieved.

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!

Long white platter with black spoon serving caramelized zucchini with ricotta and basil.
5 from 2 votes

Caramelized Zucchini Pasta with Lemon and Ricotta

The what-to-do-with-all-that-zucchini recipe you didn't know you needed. When cooked low and slow, zucchini melts into a caramelized, almost creamy sauce that tastes so rich you'll think there's cream in it…but there isn't. A big hearty squeeze of lemon and a spicy honey glaze adds a double exclamation point for the whole dish. Make this caramelized zucchini pasta and you'll convert the most die-hard zucchini hater!
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:20 minutes
Total Time:30 minutes
Servings 3
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Ingredients
 

FOR SPICY HONEY

Instructions

  • Cook spaghetti – reserve 1 c pasta water
    ½ lb spaghetti
  • Cut zucchini in half crosswise and then in half lengthwise. Remove some of the seeds before cutting into thin strips lengthwise.
    3 zucchini
  • Over medium-high heat, saute zucchini in 2 T butter and 2 T oil for about 3-5 minutes until golden. Add garlic, 1/2 tsp oregano and 1/2 tsp thyme, pinch of red pepper flakes to pan and cook until fragrant.
    5 T butter, 2 T olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon thyme
  • Lower the heat and allow to cook for about 10 minutes more until caramelized. Deglaze with lemon juice (3 T). ¼ cup of pasta water to start. Add remaining 3T butter and zest and allow to thicken a bit over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes.
    Juice and zest of one lemon
  • Add cooked pasta adding more reserved pasta water as needed make a sauce.. Top with ricotta, fresh grated parmesan, fresh basil and drizzle over spicy honey.
    ½ cup ricotta cheese, ½ cup parmesan cheese

FOR HONEY DRIZZLE

  • Mix honey with warm water in small bowl and stir in crushed red pepper.
    2 T honey, ½ tsp water, ⅓ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Notes

Storage and reheat tips.
Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container up to 4 days.
To reheat, place in a skillet and over medium heat,heat until warmed through about 3-5 minutes. Or heat in a microwave safe container in 30 second increments until desired temp is achieved.
Adjust the recipe. Have more people? Add 1 zucchini per person! 1/2 lb pasta typically will serve 3 but adjust for your family and guests.
Course: Main Course, pasta side dish, Side Dish
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Lori,
    It’s Ingrid and your #1 fan Jason. This recipe was excellent! I am, or should I say, was, one of those people who said I didn’t like zucchini, but my mind has been changed! We decided to cook dinner for our 24th wedding anniversary instead of going out, and this was the perfect recipe.
    Hope you’re doing well!
    Ingrid and Jason5 stars

    1. Hi Ingrid! First of all – happy anniversary🥂!! So honored you chose to celebrate with my zucchini pasta…I need to let my hubby read your comment bc he needs his mind changed on zucchini too!! So so glad you enjoyed and here’s to many more!! Say hi to Jason!!

  2. Hi, Lori. I’m a little confused. The zucchini in the photo looks like it’s cut into half moons. Later, the instructions say cut in thin strips lengthwise. It probably doesn’t really make ANY difference. Personal preference maybe? I have a spiralizer, so thinking of doin it with just zucchini. Looks great!

    1. Hi Denise! Sorry for the confusion! The recipe was written before I shot the photos and you can cut it either way. I’ll be sure to make a note of it!
      I don’t recommend using a spiralizer only because you’d be making zoodles instead. For a lengthwise cut, I was envisioning long wide strips the width of the cucumber. You also could cut it in half lengthwise and then do the long strips that way. The idea is to get a lot of caramelization and if the pieces are too thin, you might be disappointed. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions😊