Day 107: Pasta with Zucchini Noodles, Ricotta & Basil Pesto ♥

Pasta with Zucchini Noodles, Ricotta & Basil Pesto, a summery Meatless Monday vegetarian supper ♥ A Veggie Venture
A summer classic, hot pasta tossed with ricotta and basil pesto. But here I've added zucchini noodles, both lightening the dish and somehow making it more substantial. And besides, it's zucchini season! It makes a light pasta side dish (it made a great base for Italian sausage) but also works as a pasta entrée for Meatless Monday, say.

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2005~
~more recently updated recipes~

So Full Disclosure. Way back in 2005, I hated this recipe. It just didn't work, the proportions were too far off. It called for a pound of pasta and a pound of zucchini and left it all swimming in oil. Not good. (And yeah, during A Veggie Venture's first year of experimentation, learning how to cook vegetables by cooking one in a new way every day, some of the recipes weren't up to my current standards. It's half surprising to me that so many did work really well even if others were complete duds.)

But that was then and this is now. I've completely turned the recipe upside down and oh man – oh man oh man oh man – it's so good!

I stuck with the premise, hot pasta and zucchini tossed with ricotta. But I changed the proportions completely. Now the recipe calls for just a half pound of pasta (don't worry, it remains very much a "pasta dish") and a full two pounds of zucchini. Better still? Zucchini noodles! :-)

And get this! While I didn't set out to create a Zucchini Mac 'n' Cheese, that's what this turns out to be except in a grown-up, sophisticated sort of way. For dinner one night this week, the guys at the table had it as a side dish with grilled sausages – that includes my 90-year old father who turns up his nose at "mushy" vegetables but has yet to realize those noodles he gobbles up once a week are actually not pasta but zucchini – me, I happily skipped the meat for a vegetarian supper.

"... delicious! Really easy to make with only few ingredients.." ~ Madli


Hands-on time: 60 minutes
Time to table: 60 minutes
Makes 12 cups

Salted water
8 ounces (225g) dried pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 Italian frying pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced sun-dried tomato
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 pounds zucchini, spiralized into half rings
Salt & pepper

1/2 cup hot pasta water (and more if needed)
Zest of a lemon
1 cup ricotta
1/4 cup basil pesto (such as Homemade Fresh Basil Pesto Without Cheese)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, optional for garnish
Fresh basil ribbons, optional for garnish

PASTA Bring salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook until done. Scoop out a cup of the hot pasta water and reserve, then drain the pasta.

ZUCCHINI While the pasta cooks, in a large skillet or Dutch oven (something large enough to hold the whole shebang), heat oil until it shimmers. Stir in onion, pepper and diced tomato, let cook until onion just begins to change color. Stir in garlic, cook for one minute. Stir in zucchini in two or three batches, stir to coat with fat; let cook, stirring often, until zucchini is fully cooked but still firm, not soft; taste and adjust salt and pepper every so often while the zucchini cooks, be generous with both.

COMBINE Stir hot pasta and 1/2 cup cooking water into zucchini. Stir in lemon zest and ricotta, stir gently until ricotta coats pasta and zucchini, adding more pasta water if needed to further thin the ricotta. Stir in pesto.

TO SERVE Transfer to a large platter. Sprinkle with Parmesan and fresh basil if using.

MAKE-AHEAD The only thing you can really make ahead here is to saute the onion, pepper and sun-dried tomato. Since the pasta needs to be hot to melt the ricotta and since the zucchini noodles are really best cooked at the last minute, they really can't be made ahead. Just know, it's best to make this and serve it right away!

LEFTOVERS rewarm beautifully in the microwave. It's even quite tempting cold, in a cold mac 'n' cheese sort of way.

VARIATIONS If I'd had toasted pine nuts, I'd have tossed a few over the top, pretty in appearance and offering nice texture contrast.

NO SPIRALIZER? No problem. Just cut the zucchini into thin half or quarter moons. I did find a "giant" zucchini quite hard to spiralize, the center was just so soft, this would be another reason to slice the zucchini instead of spiralize it.
SUN-DRIED TOMATOES I'm in love with $1.99 bags of moist, flavorful sun-dried tomatoes from Trader Joe's and find myself tossing them into one dish after another, just a few pieces for color and a touch of umami.

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A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2005 & 2016 (repub)

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Tried this, delicious! Really easy to make with only few ingredients.

  2. what is an Italian frying pepper?

  3. My stomach growled when I read this recipe..... We have a spiralizer. Now if I can just get my husband to make this (or let me!)

  4. Toby ~ An Italian frying pepper is, um, well, um, a pepper/capsicum, not the round Dutch ones we see in grocery stores in red, orange and yellow but elongated like a poblano. But don’t worry -- any pepper will do and I’m mad that I called for something so arcane. Not like me, even trying to stay within the Italian tradition. In fact, I used a poblano, what was on hand. A red bell pepper would be pretty though I must say, I kind of liked the low-key color of this particular platter of pasta. Thanks for taking the time to ask!

  5. This looks amazing! Zucchini, ricotta, and pesto are all favorites around here. Definitely a great, simple meal for next week's menu.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna