Table of Contents
  1. Are you ready for a quick weeknight summer meal?
  2. Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.
  3. Here’s how to make this recipe.
  4. These pro tips will make this recipe a success.
  5. Frequently asked questions about this recipe.
  6. You'll love these other summertime recipes.
  7. Watch how to make this recipe.
  8. Have I convinced you to make this recipe?
  9. Tomato Zucchini Summer Pasta Recipe

If you’re looking to enjoy the freshest summer produce, then this tomato zucchini summer pasta recipe is for you! Ten ingredients come together in less than thirty minutes to form a simple, flavorful dish that can only be thought of as the essence of summer, all in a quick weeknight pasta.

Are you ready for a quick weeknight summer meal?

Zucchini and tomatoes are stars during the summer season. But weeknight meals need to be accessible all year round. The great thing about these two vegetables is that they’re always available in grocery stores and are center stage of this quick-to-make pasta.

Oftentimes, zucchini is hidden in bread, cakes, or other foods, making it tasteless and pointless. This pasta first browns the zucchini in ghee, which gives the zucchini a slight crust and brings out its natural flavor. Once browned, a quick sauce is made with cherry tomatoes, pasta water, and fresh basil. When finished, the pasta tastes like it took effort, but the work was minimal. It’s a full-flavored pasta full of the best ingredients summer offers.

Large metal stockpot sitting on white countertop with penne pasta inside along with cooked tomatoes and zucchini and basil sprinkled over the top.

Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.

This recipe has a minimal number of ingredients, which is exactly how a weeknight meal should be! Since the focus is on the summer produce, the rest of the ingredients should recede into the background, highlighting the vegetables’ flavors. Here are some of the important ingredients:

  • Zucchini is plentiful during the summer. As a summer squash, zucchini does not have a lot of flavor when eaten raw. To bring out the flavor, sautéeing it is a very important step as the browning adds flavor. Note: do not salt the zucchini before browning. If salted, the zucchini will release moisture and steam instead of brown.
  • Tomatoes are the base for many pasta sauces. This sauce utilizes cherry or grape tomatoes. The reason for their use is that even if they’re not in season, store-bought cherry tomatoes have good flavor and sweetness, making this an easy dish to prepare year-round.
  • Pasta water is a crucial part of the sauce. When dry pasta cooks in water, starch from the pasta is left behind in the water. When starchy pasta water is used in the sauce, it helps thicken and bring the sauce together.
  • Heavy cream adds richness to the sauce without becoming too heavy. Instead of being laden with cream, just a small amount is added to offset the acidity of the tomatoes. The high fat in heavy cream allows the cream to simmer and thicken with the sauce.
White countertop filled with all ingredients needed to make a tomato and zucchini summer pasta recipe including penne, zucchini, tomatoes, lemon, and spices.

Here’s how to make this recipe.

The process of preparing this weeknight recipe is pretty simple, with everything getting mixed together in one pot at the end. Here’s the process:

  1. Cook the pasta. Boil water and add salt. Pour the pasta into the water and cook until al dente. Once fully cooked, drain the water from the pasta, reserving a cup of the pasta water to add to the sauce.
  2. Brown the zucchini on each side. To a skillet, add ghee and allow it to melt. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and slice it into approximately half-inch wide moon-shaped pieces. If smaller pieces are desired, slice the zucchini even further into quarter-sized pieces. Once chopped, add the zucchini to the melted ghee. Allow one side of the zucchini to become slightly golden before flipping it over to brown on the other side. Once fully browned, remove the zucchini from the skillet and set it aside. Leave the remaining ghee in the skillet.

What is ghee?

Ghee is clarified butter, meaning all of the milk solids have been removed. This allows for higher heat uses without browning as quickly, making it a terrific alternative to butter.

  1. Roast the tomatoes and add garlic. Slice most of the grape or cherry tomatoes in half and leave some whole. Place all of the tomatoes in the ghee that’s still warm in the skillet. Sprinkle with the salt and allow the tomatoes to cook for a few minutes, which will cause them to begin breaking down. After a few minutes, when the tomatoes are syrupy, add in the minced garlic and the red pepper flakes. Stir in the garlic and cook it for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, checking to ensure it does not burn.
  1. Add the tomatoes and zucchini to the pasta. Once the tomatoes have cooked with the garlic, add the mixture directly to the drained pasta. Add the reserved zucchini. Finish with the cream and the reserved pasta water. Stir the entire mixture together to evenly distribute the vegetables.
  1. Add lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. Once the mixture is combined, add in some lemon zest and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir everything together and allow the mixture to cook for one to two minutes, so the cheese melts.
  2. Finish with basil and stir everything together. Add a final sprinkle of salt to taste and throw in the basil. Mix everything together and serve immediately.

These pro tips will make this recipe a success.

  • When shopping for zucchini or even picking them from your own garden, a smaller size will be more conducive to this recipe. A small size will have fewer seeds in the interior, so they do not need to be scooped out. 
  • When browning the zucchini, do not salt them. Putting salt on the zucchini will cause them to steam rather than brown, as the salt will cause them to draw out moisture.
  • Using grape or cherry tomatoes is a surefire way to ensure the tomatoes will have good flavor. Larger tomatoes purchased at the store, if used any time other than in the summer, will not have the best flavor. However, grape and cherry tomatoes always seem to have decent flavor due to their small size.
  • Before draining the pasta, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. This water is infused with starch from the pasta, and some of it will be used as part of the recipe’s binding agent in the sauce. While not all of the 1 cup may be needed, reserving this amount allows you to thin out the sauce if needed.
Penne pasta sitting in metal pot with cooked tomatoes and zucchini with wooden spoon in bowl as well.

Frequently asked questions about this recipe.

What type of pasta works best in this recipe?

Penne works really well in this dish because of the size and texture of the noodle, which will take on the sauce very well. But this sauce is easily adaptable to other pasta varieties. Try spaghetti as a substitute.

When sautéing the zucchini and tomatoes, can butter be used instead of ghee?

No, the butter will burn if used to sauté. Instead, use a high-heat oil, such as avocado oil.

Can protein be added to this recipe? If so, what would be a good one to throw in?

This recipe would be great with some grilled chicken or shrimp. Cook the meat separately and then add it after the pasta is ready, along with the tomatoes and zucchini.

Do the added red pepper flakes make this recipe spicy?

The small amount of red pepper flakes does not add spice to the pasta. Instead, the red pepper wakes up the other flavors and adds a slight warmth. But if you’re worried, you can leave the red pepper out.

Watch how to make this recipe.

Have I convinced you to make this recipe?

I hope you make this recipe and put some food on your dessert table. Leave a comment and share a star rating so you let others know how much you love this recipe. This helps show others that this is a recipe they too can make, enjoy, and love!

Metal stockpot sitting on white countertop filled with penne pasta along with tomatoes and zucchini and basil pieces.

Tomato Zucchini Summer Pasta

5 from 17 votes
If you’re looking to enjoy the freshest produce of the summer, then this tomato zucchini summer pasta recipe is for you! Ten ingredients come together in less than thirty minutes to form a simple, flavorful dish that can only be thought of as the essence of summer, all in a quick weeknight pasta.
Prep Time 8 mins
Cook Time 22 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta (penne works well)
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 medium zucchini sliced in half moons
  • 1 lb cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup chopped basil

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 tbsp kosher salt and the pasta. Return the water and pasta to a boil and cook until al dente, according to the pasta instructions. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and return the pasta to the stock pot until the sauce is prepared.
    1 lb pasta (penne works well)
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt the ghee or oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Once the ghee is melted, add the pieces of zucchini in an even layer. Sauté until brown, 4-6 minutes. Flip the pieces over and brown on the other side as well, for 4-6 minutes. When the zucchini is browned, remove the pieces from the skillet and set them aside.
    2 tbsp ghee, 1 medium zucchini
  • In the same skillet over medium heat, add the prepared tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes begin to burst and break down, 4-6 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 minute.
    1 lb cherry tomatoes, ½ tsp salt, 5 cloves garlic, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • Pour the tomatoes and zucchini into the pasta in the stock pot. Add the cream, red pepper flakes, and ½ cup of the pasta water. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the pasta with the sauce until the mixture is hot and bubbling, 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat.
    ½ cup cream
  • Add the cheese, lemon zest, and basil. Stir and add more pasta water to thin the sauce if needed. Serve immediately.
    1 tbsp lemon zest, ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, ½ cup chopped basil

Notes

  • When shopping for zucchini or even picking them from your own garden, a smaller size will be more conducive to this recipe. A small size will have fewer seeds in the interior, so they do not need to be scooped out. 
  • When browning the zucchini, do not salt them. Putting salt on the zucchini will cause them to steam rather than brown, as the salt will cause them to draw out moisture.
  • Using grape or cherry tomatoes is a surefire way to ensure the tomatoes will have good flavor. Larger tomatoes purchased at the store, if used any time other than in the summer, will not have the best flavor. However, grape and cherry tomatoes always seem to have decent flavor due to their small size.
  • Before draining the pasta, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. This water is infused with starch from the pasta, and some of it will be used as part of the recipe’s binding agent in the sauce. While not all of the 1 cup may be needed, reserving this amount allows you to thin out the sauce if needed.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 348kcal
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Difficulty Easy
Method Cooking

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Kaleb

I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Great recipe. Used patio tomatoes instead as have a bumper crop and worked out very well. Delicious flavor and easy to make.
    Thanks Kaleb!!!

  2. I made this for supper tonight. It was very easy to make and was delicious. I didn’t have basil so used fresh spinach in place of it. My husband loved it. Looking forward to trying more recipes from this site. Thank you Kaleb.

  3. 5 stars
    Made this dish for dinner a couple nights ago. Super yummy! Used summer squash instead of zucchini as I had an abundance.

  4. 5 stars
    Such a delicious dish, this is. I’m very enthusiastic about how beautiful the zucchini became, prepared in ghee. Thank you again, Kaleb!

  5. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! This is a keeper! I halved the recipe because it is just my husband and I. Easy dish for a quick summer meal. Love all your recipes!

  6. I made this pasta last night and we both LOVED it!! It is super simple and easy to make and I will definitely be making this one again! I enjoy all of your recipes and I have started a binder to hold them in. I have to say that I get the most compliments when I use one of your recipes. Thanks for being you… you are so appreciated in this household!! 🥰

  7. 5 stars
    Delicious! Lemon and red pepper flakes really bring out the flavors. I definitely will make this again. Thanks.

  8. 5 stars
    Made this recipe for friends visiting from out of town, and it was an absolute hit! What a quick, simple, and delicious recipe! A super hearty meal with fresh summer ingredients – the basil and lemon really take it to the next level. Thank you, Kaleb!!!

  9. 5 stars
    Somehow I used 1T of red pepper flakes!!! 😖 I couldn’t eat much, but I know we’ll make it again with just 1/4 tsp!!! My daughter already has plans to make it for her friend. We enjoy your recipes, Kaleb. Thanks!

  10. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! Quick and easy to make, and so delicious. My whole family loved it, and my kids begged me to make it again. It’s a keeper!