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Courgette (Zucchini) and Lemon Pasta

Aug 17, 2023 | 0 comments

A handful of simple ingredients combine to make this light, fresh, very summery pasta. Just cook sliced courgettes – or zucchini – with garlic, lemon and chilli and watch them break down into a luscious sauce with no need for cream. It’s speedy enough for weeknights and special enough for date nights or entertaining.

Hand twirling courgette fettuccine in a small white bowl with pasta in a pan in the background.

It’s no wonder this is Stanley Tucci’s favourite pasta. This recipe is a twist on spaghetti alla nerano – or pasta with zucchini – a dish that originates from the Amalfi Coast in Italy and has been made more famous recently thanks to the wonderful TV show, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. In the classic recipe, the zucchini rounds are deep-fried, ideally the day before, but to save time and to keep things lighter (and easier) this recipe skips the deep-frying step but still delivers all the beautiful, delicate flavour.

The beauty of this pasta is in its simplicity. Courgette – or zucchini – often get a bit of a bad rap for being underwhelming or bland, but the secret to getting the best flavour out of them is to cook them low and slow. When cooked until they’re almost breaking down in the pan, you release their natural sweetness and creamy texture, which pairs wonderfully with lemon, chilli, mint and parmesan to create a gorgeous pasta sauce that feels fresh, light and sings of summer.

Ingredients

You only need a few simple ingredients to make this summery pasta dish.

Zucchini pasta ingredients laid out on a grey marble background and labelled.
  • Courgettes (zucchini). You’ll be surprised how much the zucchini will cook down in the pan – it will seem like A LOT but just be patient.
  • Lemon. The recipe uses zest and juice, so ideally you’ll need a fresh lemon. If not, bottled lemon juice will do.
  • Parmesan. You could use pecorino or grada padana in its place if you like.
  • Chilli flakes. I love the hint of spice these bring to the pasta (and they pair wonderfully with zucchini) but you could skip them if you’re worried or cooking for kids.
  • Pasta. I’m using fresh fettuccine, but you can use any shape you have to hand. Spaghetti is the traditional shape, but linguine, rigatoni, orecchiette or penne would also work.

How to make it

Add your sliced courgettes, garlic, chilli flakes and salt to a high-sided pan with olive oil, then cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the courgettes have become super soft and almost breaking down.

Cook your pasta in boiling, very well-salted water until al dente, then transfer the pasta straight into the pan with the courgettes, along with a good 1/3 cup of the cooking water. Toss through the courgettes, then scatter over grated parmesan, basil, mint, lemon zest and juice. Toss again to combine into a smooth, silky sauce. Divide between plates, scatter over more parmesan, basil and mint, then serve.

Got a question?

What’s the best pasta shape to use?

You can really use whatever pasta you have to hand here. I’m using fresh fettuccine, but another long shape like spaghetti or linguine would be great, as would orecchiette, penne, rigatoni o

Can I make the pasta in advance?

It’s best served right away, but there are things you can do to get ahead if you like. You could cook down the zucchini a couple of days in advance, then just heat it on the stovetop and add your cooked pasta when you’re ready to serve. If you do have leftovers, add a splash (a tablespoon or two) of water to the pasta when you reheat it (either in the microwave or on the stovetop) just to help the sauce loosen up.

What can I serve the pasta with?

I love serving this with fresh bread to help mop up all the sauce – no knead chilli cheese focaccia or rosemary parmesan bread are great choices. Or, pair it with a simple arugula salad (I love arugula drizzled with a little olive oil and some shaved parmesan).

Like this recipe? Here are more quick pasta ideas you might enjoy

If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you! You can leave me a comment below.

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Hand twirling courgette fettuccine in a small white bowl with pasta in a pan in the background.

Courgette (Zucchini) and Lemon Pasta


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  • Author: Kate Alexandra
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

A handful of simple ingredients combine to make this light, fresh, very summery pasta. Just cook sliced courgettes – or zucchini – with garlic, lemon and chilli and watch them break down into a luscious sauce with no need for cream. It’s speedy enough for weeknights and special enough for date nights or entertaining.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 courgettes (zucchini)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (plus more for the pasta cooking water)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 400g/14oz pasta of your choice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • A handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Black pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook the courgettes. Thinly slice your courgettes and garlic cloves, then set a high-sided skillet or frying pan over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the sliced courgettes, 1 teaspoon of salt, sliced garlic and 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes. Cook, stirring, until the courgettes are super soft and starting to break down. This will take about 15 minutes.
  2. Cook your pasta. You can do this while the courgettes are cooking. Set a large pot of water over high heat (you want the pot about 2/3 full of water). Add a good amount of salt (at least 1 tablespoon) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add your pasta and cook it according to your packet instructions. Depending on the pasta you use, this will take around 8 to 10 minutes. PRO TIP: If you’re using fresh pasta, this only takes a couple of minutes to cook, so wait until your courgettes are ready before you cook it.
  3. Toss the pasta with the courgettes. Once your pasta is al dente (cooked, with a little bite to it), use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer it directly into the pan with the courgettes, along with ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water. Toss the pasta through the courgettes, then scatter the finely grated parmesan, half the basil and mint, and the lemon zest on top. Leave it for 30 seconds so that the parmesan can start to melt into the sauce, then toss again to create a creamy, luxurious sauce. Finish with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and a good grind of black pepper, then toss again. PRO TIP: Remember that as it sits, the pasta will continue to absorb water, so I always make sure my pasta in the pan is saucier than I’d like it – by the time you transfer it to plates, garnish and serve, you’ll find it’s at the perfect consistency. Add a little more pasta water if you need to loosen the sauce up.
  4. Garnish and serve. Divide the pasta between plates and top with the remaining basil and mint, along with more parmesan and a good grind of black pepper. Serve right away.

Notes

STORAGE INSTRUCTIONS: This pasta is best served right away – you can reheat it (either in the microwave or on the stovetop) but the pasta will continue to absorb the liquid from the sauce and the texture won’t be quite the same. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.

INGREDIENT NOTES: Vary the amount of garlic and chilli here if you like – depending on your taste. You can use any pasta shape you like – I’m using fettuccine here but another long shape like spaghetti or linguine works well, as do short shapes like penne, rigatoni, orecchiette or fusilli. Ideally, use a fresh lemon, but if you don’t have one or can’t find one, bottled lemon juice will do.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: I love to serve this pasta with some lovely fresh bread on the side – try it with my easy no-knead chilli oil focaccia, or no-knead rosemary parmesan bread.

  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Category: pasta
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: italian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 100g

Welcome!

I’m Kate, the creator behind Dished. I love creating flavour packed, simple (ish) recipes for you, designed for every day and special occasions.

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