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!
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
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.
Main lemon zucchini pasta ingredients
Ingredient spotlight: ricotta cheese
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
- 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.
- 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.
Removing some or all of the zucchini seeds cuts down on a watery consistency to your sauce, leaving it richer.-Josie + Nina
Don’t have spaghetti on hand? Here are other dried pastas that would work well in this lemon zucchini pasta recipe:
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!
- A large skillet is the preferred pan of choice. I love this All-Clad 12″ stainless skillet and lid for making simple pasta dishes like this one.
- A wooden paddle or flat-edged wooden spoon (sometimes called a spurtle) makes things so much easier. These tools are great for scraping the brown bits when deglazing a pan.
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?
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Caramelized Zucchini Pasta with Lemon and Ricotta
- ½ lb spaghetti, cooked, 1 cup of pasta water reserved
- Juice and zest of one lemon, you want 3 T juice and whatever you yield from the lemon for zest
- 3 zucchini
- 5 T butter, divided
- 2 T olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- ½ cup ricotta cheese, or more as desired
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- Cook spaghetti – reserve 1 c pasta water½ 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
About Lori Murphy
Lori has over 30 years in the food industry as a marketing strategist, culinary instructor and chef for three kids with discerning palates. As the chief content creator at Josie + Nina, Lori is dedicated to helping home cooks create food memories through fresh ingredients and Italian flavors.