Lemon-y Zucchini Pasta

“Pasta with zucchini” is maybe the single thing cooked most often in our household. It’s a dish that makes you feel like you’re eating healthy, no matter how much Parmesan you dump in.

Out of all the endless variations of zucchini pasta we cook, this one – utilizing a whole lemon and a heaping handful of fresh arugula – is the punchiest and most satisfying. But there’s endless ways to twist it using what’s already in your cabinet: roast some chickpeas, dump in a can of white beans, or toast some walnuts or breadcrumbs like we suggest below.

No matter how you make this recipe your own, just keep the first few steps intact. Starting out your shallots and garlic in a cold skillet will practically melt them into the olive oil, creating a deep base of flavor. It’ll change your pastas for ever.

Zucchini Pasta With Lemon And Arugula

  • 2 shallots, sliced into half moons
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, sliced into slivers 
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1/2 tablespoon
  • 12 ounces of short pasta like orecchiette or cavatappi
  • 2 small-to-medium zucchini
  • Zest from 1 lemon, about a tablespoon
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • Optional topping: 1/4 cup walnuts or Panko breadcrumbs, toasted
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

Heat up a big pot of water on high, with several pinches of salt. 

Starting cold in a large, high-sided skillet (or Dutch oven), dump the shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and anchovies, if using. (The anchovies are for umami, but the final dish doesn’t taste like fish, I promise!) Add at least 1/4 cup of oil, enough to lightly coat the whole bottom of the skillet, and turn the heat to medium high. 

This is a way to slowly bring the shallots and garlic up to heat, softening them and infusing the oil with flavor. It also helps everything to not burn. Let cook, stirring once or twice, for about 5-7 minutes—you want the shallots to be falling apart and the garlic to be a little golden, but not too dark. 

When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook about a minute less than the box asks. Save about 1/2 cup of pasta water for later, before straining out the pasta and setting aside.

To prepare the zucchini, chop the stem off the top and then cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Lay the zucchini halves on their flat ends and cut into half-moon slices.

Add the zucchini to the hot pan, tossing to coat evenly. Add salt and pepper, and another tablespoon or two of olive oil. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the zucchini, and stir together. Sauté for about four minutes, until the zucchini is cooked through (it’ll look slightly yellow in the middle from the olive oil), and then add in the pasta and 1/4 cup reserved pasta water. Turn the heat down to low.

Toss the Parmesan into the pasta mixture. Add in the lemon juice and 1/4 tablespoon olive oil, and stir until the cheese is melted. Finally, add the arugula and another pinch of salt, stirring in until evenly distributed and just barely wilted. Take off the heat. 

Grate more fresh Parmesan over the pasta, and consider topping with toasted walnuts or toasted Panko bread crumbs for some crunch.

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