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Celebrate summer with Creamy Zucchini Lemon Pasta! This simple pasta entree features bright ingredients like zucchini, pesto, lemon, and mascarpone cheese. If you’re looking for a vibrant recipe that’ll hit the spot after a long day in the sun, you’ve found it!
Summer doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to shove comfort food to the side. While it may be too sunny outside to cozy up with hearty stews and other denser entrees, pasta can still be made nice and freshly flavored to compliment the hot weather! All of the key ingredients here are so satisfying on a summer day.
Zucchini all by itself is one of my favorite summertime veggies. It’s ripest during the summer months, so make sure you get your hands on a fresh one! Farmer’s markets are my favorite place to buy seasonal veggies, but the grocery store should also be fully stocked as well. You’re going to love the way this pasta dish highlights that signature zucchini flavor!
So, what makes it creamy? The mascarpone cheese and reserved pasta water come together in a beautiful way to keep this pasta dish nice and creamy. While the mascarpone cheese alone does wonders for the consistency of the dish, it’s the reserved pasta water that really seals the deal. The starchiness of it makes sure the cheese is thin enough to cover every noodle and really stick to it.
What You’ll Need:
- Bucatini – You can use spaghetti instead if needed.
- Zucchini – Make sure it’s fresh, not frozen. It’s ripest during the summer months, so you should be able to find a fresh one easily.
- Garlic – Use fresh, not pre-minced garlic.
- Pesto – Any kind works! I used to Trader Joe’s vegan pesto and loved it.
- Lemon – You’ll need the juice and zest of one lemon.
- Mascarpone Cheese – Any brand should work just fine.
- Pasta Water – Do NOT forget to reserve some of this before you drain the noodles!
- Salt and Pepper – Kosher (coarse) salt and freshly cracked black pepper yield the best flavor.
- Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated cheese yields the best flavor and consistency.
How to Make Creamy Zucchini Lemon Pasta
For more detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post.
Cook the pasta. Prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Drain it and remember to reserve that water!
Cook the zucchini. Cook the zucchini in olive oil in a large skillet with garlic. Add the pesto, lemon juice and zest, and stir to combine. Add the pasta to the skillet.
Make it creamy. Add the mascarpone cheese and toss everything together until the cheese has melted. Add pasta water until your desired consistency is reached.
Serve. Season with salt and pepper and serve with parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy!
Can I add a protein to Creamy Lemon Zucchini Pasta? Yep! Grilled chicken or shrimp are both tasty options here.
Can I use cream cheese instead? You can, but I think cream cheese has a more distinct flavor than mascarpone so it might change the flavor profile slightly.
Homemade pesto or store-bought? Basil is in season right now so if you need to use it up, I would say definitely use homemade pesto! I was in a pinch since I had just planted my basil plants so I went ahead and bought Trader Joe’s vegan pesto. If you’ve never had it before, it’s so good!
How long will Creamy Lemon Zucchini Pasta stay fresh? In an airtight container in the fridge, this pasta dish will stay fresh for about 3-4 days.
Enjoy pasta all summer long with these easy recipes!
Creamy Zucchini Lemon Pasta
- ¾ pound (340 g) bucatini
- 2 medium zucchini, cut into quarter pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 2 heaping tablespoons pesto, any kind, I actually used TJ's kale, cashew pesto – the vegan one
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ cup (113 g) mascarpone cheese
- Reserved pasta water
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese on top
- Optional protein: add in cooked chicken or shrimp
- Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package.
- Meanwhile, cook zucchini in olive oil in a large skillet with garlic until softened. Add pesto, lemon zest, juice of lemon to the skillet and stir to combine. Once pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of pasta water then drain and add pasta to the skillet.
- Add mascarpone cheese and toss mixture together until mascarpone is melted and everything is incorporated. Add reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to thin it out.
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve with freshly grated parmesan on top.
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