Tangles of zucchini noodles wrapped around burst cherry tomatoes in a garlic Parmesan sauce that forms itself right in the pan as the zucchini cooks, this bright Zucchini Pasta is the recipe that convinced me that zucchini noodles can, in fact, be as legitimately satisfying as regular pasta noodles.
It’s easy to talk a good zucchini pasta game, but let’s be honest.
Most of the time if you are cooking with zucchini noodles, it’s because you are trying to save calories or keep things low carb.
There’s no harm in this approach, and disparaging zucchini noodles is certainly not my point. Heck, this Healthy Shrimp Scampi, which uses zucchini spaghetti, is still one of my favorite healthy dinners.
Sometimes, however, I’m just not in the mood to pull out my spiralizer (this is the one I recommend), or it feels like a “carbs” kind of day.
This no-noodle zucchini pasta? It is 100% worth pulling out the spiralizer AND it is legitimately comforting.
Maybe not Mozzarella Meatball Casserole comforting, but it certainly does not feel like the equivalent of eating a sad salad for dinner.
This creamy zucchini pasta is healthy and filled with bright summer flavor.
You can keep the recipe vegetarian as written, or add your protein of choice. See “What to Serve with Zucchini Pasta” below for ideas.
Why Cook Zucchini Pasta
Zucchini pasta is a bit of a misnomer, because this recipe doesn’t actually include traditional pasta noodles.
Instead, it uses spiralized zucchini, meaning zucchini that has been cut into long, thin spaghetti-shaped “noodles” using a spiralizer machine.
Spiralizers are not expensive—the one I recommend will set you back around $20, but I know it can feel like a lot to add another appliance to your kitchen. I have a few suggestions for how to make zucchini noodles without a spiralizer below.
While zucchini noodles do not taste exactly like pasta noodles, if you cook them properly (meaning until they are al dente, not mushy), they are surprisingly satisfying.
Zucchini noodles absorb flavors well, you can twirl them around your fork like traditional noodles, and it does feel good to know you are enjoying a hefty serving of veg.
Zucchini noodles can also provide a pasta-like option for those who can’t have traditional pasta for dietary reasons. If you are gluten free or are following a diet like Whole30, keto, or Paleo, zoodles are a great option (check out these Whole30 Meatballs, by the way).
Zucchini pasta is also healthy! Zoodles are healthier than pasta because they’re lower in calories and packed with Vitamin-A, antioxidants, and potassium (see more zucchini health benefits here).
Keeping Zucchini Noodles from Becoming Soggy
One of the trickiest parts of cooking with zucchini noodles is keeping them from becoming soggy.
Zucchini has a naturally high water content, meaning that if you aren’t careful, you’ll end up with soggy noodles and a watery sauce.
This zucchini pasta recipe uses the water content of zucchini to its advantage. As the zucchini releases water, we toss the zoodles continuously in Parmesan and a bit of cornstarch.
The cornstarch and Parm bind with the noodles, turning the zucchini liquid into a light, creamy zucchini pasta sauce. I stole the approach from this Pasta al Limone and was delighted to find that it works well here also.
Here are a few tips more tips to make your zucchini noodles not soggy:
- Wait to add salt. Salt naturally draws moisture out of ingredients, so it could make the noodles soggy if added too early. Wait to add the salt until just before serving.
- Don’t overcook them! Once the noodles are al dente, they’re done. Overcooked zucchini noodles can quickly become a mushy, soggy mess.
- Pat them dry. After you’ve spiralized your zucchini, lay the noodles on a towel, and gently press down to remove any excess moisture.
How to Make Zucchini Pasta
Meet summer in a skillet! This one pan zucchini pasta is quick to make and tastes like sunshine on a plate.
You’ll love the way the magic creamy zucchini pasta sauce forms in the pan. The texture won’t seem right at first but just on keep tossing.
- Zucchini. Zucchini noodles are a delicious, healthy pasta alternative that make this dish worthy of eating on repeat. They’re gluten free, low carb, and keto/Paleo/Whole30 friendly.
- Lemon Juice + Cornstarch. The sneaky thickener for our pasta sauce. The lemon juice adds brightness, while the cornstarch helps the sauce thicken.
- Shallot + Garlic. An iconic duo that creates a scrumptious flavor base for our pasta sauce.
- Cherry Tomatoes. Juicy, red pops of sweet goodness that flavor the sauce and every bite you take.
- Red Pepper Flakes. For the ideal amount of heat.
- Parmesan. Not only does the Parmesan provide salty, cheesy flavor, but it also plays a role in thickening our pasta sauce.
- Basil. A shower of fresh basil is the perfect finishing touch for this dish.
- Spiralize the zucchini.
- Prepare the lemon and cornstarch slurry.
- Saute the shallots in butter.
- Add the garlic.
- Stir in the tomatoes.
- Pour in the slurry and red pepper flakes.
- Add the noodles, stirring to coat them in the sauce.
- Add the cheese. Cook until the noodles are al dente. Keep on tossing the whole time.
- Sprinkle in salt and pepper, and add the basil. Top with Parmesan, and ENJOY!
How to Make Zucchini Noodles without a Spiralizer
By far, the easiest and fastest way to make zucchini spaghetti is with a spiralizer. It’s inexpensive and once you own it, you’ll likely find yourself making veggie noodles more frequently.
I like countertop models like this one. You can find many similar models on Amazon and at other retailers too. You can use them for other vegetables in addition to the zucchini.
If you don’t have or wish to purchase a spiralizer, you certainly have options!
- You can use a handheld vegetable peeler like this one to create long, straight zucchini noodles.
- Slice your zucchini lengthwise on a mandoline for easy zoodles (I use this technique for my Zucchini Ravioli).
- If necessary, you can even cut zucchini noodles by hand using a knife. Cut long, thin noodles down the length of the zucchini (though by the time you are done, you may wish you’d bought a spiralizer).
What to Serve with Zucchini Pasta
We found this recipe satisfying on its own, without any additional sides. If you’d like to bulk it up, here are a few suggestions:
- Meatballs. A side of Baked Turkey Meatballs would be a delicious and hearty addition.
- Shrimp. Zucchini pasta with shrimp is a winning combination. Garlic Butter Shrimp or Grilled Shrimp Seasoning would be tasty.
- Chicken. For a crowd-pleasing addition, serve this dish with Grilled Chicken Tenders.
- Bread. For a gluten-free option, try this Almond Flour Bread. Or, you can pick up a loaf of your favorite bread from a local bakery.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
- To Make Ahead. Spiralize the zucchini noodles up to 2 days in advance, and store them in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator.
- To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently reheat leftovers in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- I don’t recommend freezing this dish, as the zoodles can have a mushy texture once thawed.
More Healthy Zucchini Recipes
- Sheet Pan Chicken with Rainbow Vegetables
- Chicken Kabobs
- Zucchini Stir Fry
- Zucchini Enchiladas
- Blackened Zucchini Tacos
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Spiralizer. The easiest way to create perfect zucchini noodles.
- Tongs. The best way to toss the noodles.
- Large Skillet. A kitchen tool you’ll use constantly, and it’s perfect for many of these one pan meals.
- Citrus Juicer. A helpful gadget that’s worthy of a spot in your kitchen.
- 2 pounds zucchini - about 4 medium
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice - about 1 medium lemon
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small shallot - finely chopped
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes - halved
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese - plus additional for serving
- ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves - roughly chopped
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- Spiralize the zucchini (see blog post above for tips). Set aside.
- In a small bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice and cornstarch. Set near your stove.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until soft, about 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook just until very fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and stir to coat. Let cook 2 minutes, just until the tomatoes begin to soften.
- Add the lemon juice mixture and red pepper flakes. Let simmer 1 minute.
- Add the zucchini noodles. Toss them with the mixture, using a pair of tongs to coat them as evenly as possible with the sauce and to break apart the noodles. At first the mixture will seem dry.
- Add the Parmesan cheese. Keep tossing and cooking. As the zucchini cooks and gives up its liquid, it will form a sauce that coats the pasta. Continue to cook and toss, until the zucchini noodles are al dente, about 4 minutes.
- Add a good pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, then toss in the basil. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve right away, topped with extra Parmesan cheese.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: Spiralize the zucchini noodles up to 2 days in advance, and store them in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently reheat leftovers in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
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