Light and Creamy Zucchini Pasta With Lemon and Basil

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Hello zucchini season! Everyone’s favorite time of the year. In between the beach days, the bike rides, and the watermelon eating, everyone is searching for the best zucchini recipes to use up the bounty. If this sounds like you, you’re in the right place. Besides being super tasty, this Creamy Zucchini Pasta recipe is easy to make, creamy, light, and relatively healthy! It’s a perfect summer pasta and it really hits the spot.

A plate of zucchini pasta with a lemon wedge and a fork.

Why this Creamy Zucchini Pasta is so darn good

This recipe stands out because it combines the creamy richness of Greek yogurt with the earthy flavor of caramelized zucchini, the summery herbiness of fresh basil, and a bright hit of lemon. Greek yogurt gives this pasta dish a refreshingly tangy flavor, while making the dish a bit lighter than others that are made with heavy cream. This is a refreshing yet super satisfying dinner, perfect for everyday while still feeling kinda special.

Zucchini pasta mixed together in a red Dutch Oven with a wooden spoon.

Key takeaway: Yogurt as pasta sauce is a revelation

I guess I’ve been sleeping under a rock, because until recently, I had never thought to use yogurt in pasta sauce. I always thought it would curdle and go weird. I was wrong! It turns out that thick, whole milk Greek yogurt makes an excellent pasta sauce! It’s super creamy and slightly tangy, making a creamy sauce without the heaviness cream. Perfect for light summery pastas like this.

*Bonus points for being lower in fat and higher in protein than cream!

Close up of zucchini pasta mixed together in a pot.

What you’ll need to make this recipe

As far as equipment goes, you’ll need:

  • A Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot
  • A broiler (or very hot oven)
  • A rolling pin or other heavy implement (for smashing the zucchini)
  • A baking sheet (don’t line it with parchment paper or it will burn!)
  • Measuring cups and spoons (if you’re being precise, not a bad idea the first time around)
  • A colander or strainer
  • A measuring jug
  • Mixing bowls
  • A knife and cutting board
  • A microplane grater or box grater (for the lemon zest and parmesan)

Ingredient-wise, you’ll need:

  • Zucchini: The star of the show.
  • Pasta: Any dried pasta will do, but I prefer short shapes like Penne or Mafalda.
  • Greek yogurt: This, combined with the pasta water makes the sauce super creamy but still light!
  • Garlic: Quite a bit! The garlic is a key flavor component.
  • Parmesan cheese: You can also make this vegan by swapping in vegan parm. (And use vegan Greek yogurt)
  • Lemon: The zest goes into the pasta, the juice gets squeezed on top of each bowl when serving.
  • Fresh basil: Such a good combo with zucchini, and very summery!
  • Seasonings and fats: Salt, pepper, olive oil, and any neutral oil (I use avocado).
  • Pasta water: Remember not to throw it all down the drain! We need it to help build the sauce.

How to make this Creamy Zucchini Pasta

This zucchini pasta comes together in about 30 minutes, and is pretty fun to make. (It involves smashing zucchini!)

  • Place 2L of water and 1 Tbsp of salt in a Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • While the water is heating up, turn your broiler to 450F, and move one of the oven racks to the 2nd highest shelf.
  • Cut off the ends of 2 small zucchini or one large zucchini (500g), smash the zucchini a bit with a rolling pin or the bottom of a pan to create some craggy edges on the zucchini, then chop it into rough fragments, approx 1/2 inch wide.
  • Toss the zucchini fragments in 1 tsp of avocado oil and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl, and spread them out on an unlined baking sheet under the broiler to brown.

*Smashing the zucchini before chopping it gives it some craggy edges providing more surface area to encourage browning under the broiler.

  • When the water comes to a boil, add 200g of dried pasta. Stir, and allow to cook according to the package instructions. Best to set a timer for this. The zucchini should take around the same amount of time as the pasta, but be sure to keep your eye on it too.
  • While the pasta and zucchini are cooking, finely chop 8 cloves of garlic, measure out 100 grams of Greek yogurt, and 1/4 cup of basil leaves. Get your lemon and parmesan cheese ready too.
Laid out ingredients for the zucchini pasta sauce.
  • When the zucchini is softened, blistered, and golden brown, turn off the broiler and remove it from the oven.
  • When the pasta is cooked, pour 1 cup of the pasta water into a measuring jug, and drain out the remaining water using a colander.
  • Turn the burner off, and place the Dutch oven or pot back onto the still-warm burner.
  • Add 2 tsp of olive oil and 8 cloves of minced garlic into the Dutch oven, and stir for 30 seconds. If the garlic is browning/burning, add a splash of the pasta water to cool things off.
Garlic cooking gently in olive oil in a red Dutch oven.
  • Into the Dutch oven with the garlic and olive oil, add the broiled zucchini, the drained pasta, 100 grams of Greek yogurt, the zest of one lemon, 2 Tbsp of parmesan cheese, and 1/2 cup of fresh basil, tearing the leaves as you add them. Stir to combine using the pasta water to adjust the consistency as needed.
  • Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. (I find it doesn’t usually need it).
  • Serve with lemon wedges, cracked black pepper, and additional parmesan cheese as desired.
Zucchini pasta mixed together in a red Dutch Oven with a wooden spoon.

FAQs

Can I use a different type of pasta?

Yes, you can use any type of pasta you prefer. However, shorter shapes like penne, fusilli, or rigatoni work best for this recipe as they hold the sauce well.

What can I substitute for Greek yogurt?

If you don’t have Greek yogurt, you can use sour cream or a plant-based yogurt if you prefer a dairy-free option. The texture and flavor might slightly differ, but it will still be delicious.

Can I make this recipe vegan?

Yes, to make this recipe vegan, you can substitute the Greek yogurt with a plant-based yogurt or sour cream and use a vegan parmesan cheese or a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. Ensure that the pasta you use is also egg-free.

How do I store leftovers?

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This is excellent served cold or at room temperature, but if you would like to reheat it, do so gently on the stove or in the microwave, adding a splash of water or broth to loosen the sauce if needed.

Can I add protein to this dish?

Yes! Chicken, shrimp, or tofu would be excellent in this. Just cook your protein of choice separately and mix it in when you combine the zucchini and pasta.

Can I use dried basil instead of fresh?

I personally detest dried basil so that wouldn’t work for me, but you do you! Just use very little of it because that stuff is strong. I’d start with 1/2 teaspoon.

A plate of pasta next to to the pot, serving up the zucchini pasta.

Success tips

  1. Use whole milk Greek yogurt, not low fat, as low fat yogurt is more likely to curdle and separate with the heat of the pasta.
  2. Be careful not to burn the garlic. If you notice it getting too brown too quick, splash in some pasta water to cool down the pot.
  3. Try and get some good color on the zucchini (hence the broiling). The caramelization will add some nice flavor to the pasta.

Light and Creamy Zucchini Pasta With Lemon and Basil

Greek yogurt, lemon, basil, and zucchini make magic together in this fresh and tangy summer pasta dish.
No ratings yet!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 servings
Calories 401 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot
  • 1 Broiler or very hot oven
  • 1 Rolling Pin or other heavy implement (for smashing the zucchini)
  • 1 baking sheet
  • Measuring cups, spoons, and jug if you're being precise
  • 1 Colander
  • 1 mixing bowl optional, for tossing the zucchini with the oil
  • 1 knife and cutting board
  • 1 Microplane grater for lemon zest and parmesan

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2 small zucchini or one large
  • 1 tsp avocado oil or other neutral oil
  • 2 cups dried pasta shorter shapes work best
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp parmesan grated
  • 1/3 cups Greek yogurt whole milk
  • 1 lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves roughly torn
  • 2 lemon wedges for serving
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp salt for the pasta water

Instructions
 

  • Place 2L of water and 1 Tbsp of salt in a Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • While the water is heating up, turn your broiler to 450F, and move one of the oven racks to the 2nd highest shelf.
  • Cut off the ends of 2 small zucchini or one large zucchini (500g), smash the zucchini a bit with a rolling pin or the bottom of a pan, and chop into rough fragments, approx 1/2 inch wide.
  • Toss the zucchini fragments in 1 tsp of avocado oil and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl, and spread them out on an **unlined baking sheet** under the broiler to brown.
  • When the water comes to a boil, add 200g (2 cups) of dried pasta. Stir, and allow to cook according to the package instructions. Best to set a timer for this. The zucchini should take around the same amount of time as the pasta, but be sure to keep your eye on it too.
  • While the pasta and zucchini are cooking, finely chop 8 cloves of garlic, measure out 100 grams (1/3 cup) of Greek yogurt, and 1/4 cup of basil leaves. Get your lemon and parmesan cheese ready too.
  • When the zucchini is softened, blistered, and golden brown, turn off the broiler and remove it from the oven.
  • When the pasta is cooked, pour 250 ml (1 cup) of the pasta water into a measuring jug, and drain out the remaining water using a colander.
  • Turn the burner off, and place the Dutch oven or pot back onto the still-warm burner.
  • Add 2 tsp of olive oil and 8 cloves of minced garlic into the Dutch oven, and stir for 30 seconds. If the garlic is browning/burning, add a splash of the pasta water to cool things off.
  • Into the Dutch oven with the garlic and olive oil, add the broiled zucchini, the drained pasta, the Greek yogurt, the zest of one lemon, 2 Tbsp of parmesan cheese, and 20 grams (1/2 cup) of fresh basil, tearing the leaves as you add them. Stir to combine using the pasta water to adjust the consistency as needed.
  • Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. (I find it doesn’t usually need it).
  • Serve with lemon wedges, cracked black pepper, and more parmesan cheese as desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 401kcalCarbohydrates: 63gProtein: 18gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 4249mgPotassium: 946mgFiber: 6gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 882IUVitamin C: 63mgCalcium: 197mgIron: 2mg
Keyword pasta, yogurt, zucchini
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