A cross between soup and a pasta dish, Pasta with Zucchini is Italian comfort food at its best! A one-pot meal ready in 35 minutes! Based on a family recipe from Naples.
Pasta is my ultimate comfort food. This dish is one of my favorites!
If you know me and have ever asked me what you should cook, I’ve probably told you to make pasta with zucchini (“pasta e zucchini” in Italian). All you need is 35 minutes to reach comfort-food nirvana.
First, some background. In Naples, where Mom comes from, there are several one-pot pasta dishes that start out cooking like soup, but end up with almost a creamy consistency when the liquid is absorbed. They include:
My Nonna’s original version of this pasta with zucchini was like that. She started by heating olive oil in a pot, adding onions and garlic, and then tomato, zucchini, salt and pepper.
Once the vegetables were tender, she’d add four cups of water, bring it to a boil, and add the pasta, cooking it without draining. Then she’d add in freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
When I grew up and started cooking for my own family, I decided to try making the pasta e zucchini a little more soup-like. I added chicken stock (affiliate link) and increased the total volume of liquid by 50%.
I also omitted the onions (by accident at first, and then on purpose after I found I preferred it that way).
The result is a pasta dish with broth, but not too much. Once you dish out the servings, any pasta with zucchini left in the pan will quickly absorb most of the remaining liquid.
Tip: To avoid soggy leftovers, remove any extra broth from the pan after serving and refrigerate the broth separately from the pasta.
Also, I used to include a fresh tomato in my pasta with zucchini, but discovered a bit of tomato paste makes a great substitute. In fact, we prefer the way the tomato paste slightly thickens the broth. I’ve listed both options in the recipe.
TIP: To store leftover tomato paste, wrap 1-2 tablespoons of paste at a time in plastic wrap. Then place those packets in a freezer bag. Add a little tomato paste to soups and stews to thicken the broth and impart tomato flavor.
Friends, this is one of the first recipes I posted on Cooking with Mamma C four years ago. That means it’s a beloved dish I make all the time!!
I’ve updated the title, photos, text and recipe card (check out the nutrition info!) I hope you love this pasta with zucchini as much as we do.
- 3 medium zucchini (cut into 1/4-inch thick triangles)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled and pressed)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (or one fresh tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian version)
- 2 cups hot water
- 16 ounces small pasta (such as shells or orecchiette)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use fresh)
- 3 shakes of red pepper flakes
- additional grated Parmesan to top each serving
- Rinse whole zucchini and pat dry. Trim off ends. Cut each zucchini in half horizontally, then cut each of those pieces in half lengthwise.
- Cut each plank in half again lengthwise. Now slice the planks horizontally into triangles just over 1/4-inch thick.
- Heat oil in a 6-quart pot on medium high. Add pressed garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute.
Add zucchini, tomato paste (or tomatoes), salt & black pepper to the pot and stir to mix. Cover the pot, put the heat on medium-low and cook zucchini until just tender (about 12 minutes), stirring periodically to prevent sticking.
- Remove the lid and add chicken stock and hot water. Stir to blend. Increase heat to high, cover, and bring liquid to a boil.
- When the pot is boiling, add pasta and stir periodically to prevent sticking. Cook pasta until al dente (taste it when there are three minutes left on the al dente time recommended on the package.)
When pasta is cooked, do NOT drain. Turn off the heat and stir in Parmesan cheese. Add red pepper flakes.
- Ladle into bowls and serve with additional grated Parmesan.
- Immediately store any leftover broth in a separate container so it does not make the leftover pasta soggy.
If you have leftover tomato paste from this recipe, you can wrap 1-2 tablespoons of paste at a time in plastic wrap. Then place those packets in a freezer bag. I do this all the time and add the tomato paste to soups and stews.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from my Nonna’s method. Originally published as “Pasta e Zucchini” on June 11, 2014. Updated August 9, 2018.)