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Zucchini Butter Pasta

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Vegetarian
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Why we love it:

This is a great way to pack in lots of vegetables to your pasta but still taste a silky, pasta forward dish because the zucchini just melts away into a beautiful sauce. For this type of pasta cooking water + parmesan sauce (in the family of cacio e pepe and carbonara) you MUST use freshly grated parmesan from a block of cheese. Pre-grated cheese has non-caking agents added and won’t dissolve properly to build your sauce.


  • 212 Tablespoons Kosher Salt (divided)
  • 1 pound Spaghetti
  • 114 pounds Zucchini
  • 1 Shallot
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lemon (zest and juice, divided)
  • 6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 12 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 112 cups Parmesan Cheese (from a block, freshly grated, divided)

Cooking Instructions


    Add salt to make it taste like the sea, about 2 Tablespoons. Cook pasta one minute less than it says on the package directions for al dente. Before draining, scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Do not rinse the pasta when you drain it.


    Meanwhile, grate the zucchini with the large holes of a box grater. Or you can slice them in half, then into half-moon rounds but try and make the slices very thin. Slice the shallot into a very small dice and mince the garlic. Zest the lemon and set it aside. Juice the lemon.

  • 3. SAUTÉ

    Back in the pasta pot, or in a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the zucchini, garlic, shallot, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, ½ of the lemon zest and ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes.

    Add the pasta and turn up to medium-high. Add ½ a cup of the pasta cooking water and let it rapidly simmer while you use tongs to toss the pasta continuously. When it’s nearly evaporated, stir the remaining ½ cup pasta water together with 1 cup of the grated parmesan cheese; add it in. Simmer and toss the pasta for another 2 minutes.

  • 4. SERVING

    Serve the pasta with the pan sauce in large bowls. Top evenly with the remaining parmesan and a pinch of lemon zest, perhaps with another pinch of red pepper flakes to taste.

Check out our new features!


    use GF pasta
    you could make the zucchini sauce with olive oil not butter, and instead of parmesan, use a pinch of nutritional yeast or just omit it and add a bit more salt
    yellow and green zucchini work here

Kid Friendly Version

Big Kids Plate
Toddler Plate

How to Tweak This Recipe for Kids:

  • When you drain the pasta, you can keep a portion cooking longer for them. Toss theirs with butter, parmesan and a smaller portion of the zucchini so it’s less overwhelming
  • Perhaps serve with cherry tomatoes and bread and butter

For Toddlers

  • If it’s too much cheese and butter, pull their portion of the pasta out sooner and toss with a bit of the zucchini sauce before adding all of the cheese
  • Chop their pasta into 1 - 2” segments for safe eating
  • Serve with fruit or carrot sticks or maybe some diced cheese on the side

For Choosy Eaters

  • Cook their pasta longer, pulling out the cooking water you need and using tongs to remove the pasta so theirs can keep cooking
  • Serve with jarred marinara or butter and parmesan to taste
  • You could sauté or air fry some zucchini rounds, or toss a broccoli floret or peas in the microwave
  • Serve with fruit and carrot sticks and bread and butter

Prep Ahead & Use It Up

  1. You can grate the zucchini a day ahead and store in an airtight container
  2. Grate the cheese up to 3 days ahead
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