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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Add the cheese, lemon zest, and basil. Stir and add more pasta water to thin the sauce if needed. Serve immediately.
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.