Caramelized Zucchini Pasta is the perfect weekend meal! Shredded zucchini, onion, and fresh herbs are cooked until tender and caramelized, then tossed with tomatoes, pasta and cheese. So easy and so good!
This Caramelized Zucchini Pasta is another delicious way to use up fresh garden zucchini, as well as cherry or grape tomatoes, and herbs. It’s a simple dish, but SO incredibly flavorful! After just one bite, your dinner guests will be asking for more!
Shredded fresh zucchini is cooked down with sweet onion until golden and caramelized to create a luscious herb-infused sauce. Then toss it with spaghetti (or other favorite pasta), blistered tomatoes, and shredded cheese.
This makes a wonderful meatless meal, or serve it as a side dish with grilled meats or seafood.
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Zucchini – The star of this recipe! We used two pounds of fresh zucchini in this recipe, but you can add more if you have it on hand – more zucchini equals more flavor! You can even make this recipe with summer squash for a slightly different variation.
- Fresh herbs – A combination of basil, parsley and mint add a wonderfully fragrant note to the zucchini sauce.
- Romano cheese – You could substitute Parmesan cheese if that’s what you have in the refrigerator, but the nutty flavor of Romano cheese goes especially well with the zucchini.
- Cherry tomatoes – These sweet little tomatoes add bursts of flavor among this pasta dish. Grape tomatoes, or other small sweet tomatoes such as the yellow sun globe tomatoes will also work in this recipe. (You can also leave these out if you prefer, but they add a nice pop of flavor among the rich, creamy pasta.)
- Spaghetti – We chose spaghetti for our Caramelized Zucchini Pasta, but any shape or strand pasta will work. (Just avoid the smaller pastas like orzo or ditalini – they aren’t hearty enough for this dish.)
Special supplies needed
- Pot to cook the spaghetti
- Two large nonstick skillets to caramelize the squash.
How do I make it?
- Sear the tomatoes in hot oil, just long enough to blister the skin and soften a bit.
- Sauté onions and garlic then add shredded zucchini, herbs and seasonings. You’ll want to divide these ingredients between two skillets so they brown and caramelize, not steam.
- Boil the pasta to just shy of al dente and drain, but reserve some of the pasta water. Note that the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce so drain it with still a little bit of firmness to the bite.
- Add pasta water and Romano cheese to the skillet with the caramelized zucchini. Season, then pour over the cooked and drained pasta and toss to combine.
- Serve with the blistered tomatoes on top and additional Romano cheese.
Chef’s Tip –
Do not squeeze water from the shredded zucchini. The water from the squash has flavor and will evaporate as it cooks. Once the water evaporates, the squash will start to caramelize.
Frequently asked Questions
Can I make Caramelized Zucchini Pasta ahead of time? For best results, you could make the sauce ahead and cook the pasta ahead. When you are ready to serve, heat both and combine.
Can I serve the caramelized zucchini mixture with other foods? Sure! It’s actually very delicious on its own as a side dish – especially if you’ve made this with extra shredded zucchini. Or, spoon it over bread – similar to this Zucchini Butter.
You may enjoy these other Zucchini recipes:
- Zucchini Pie
- Grilled Zucchini Pizza
- Creamy Zucchini Sauce
- Zucchini Tomato Italian Sausage Soup
- Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
8 ounces sweet onion, about half a large onion
2 large cloves fresh garlic
2 pounds zucchini (OK to go over 2 pounds if you have excess)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped and divided
12 ounces dry spaghetti or your favorite pasta
1 cup Romano cheese, grated, plus more for serving
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and over medium high heat, blister the tomatoes, about three minutes. Remove to a bowl for later.
In a food processor with the shredder attachment, or using large holes on a box grater, shred onion and garlic. Set aside.
Shred all of the zucchini the same way and set aside but do not squeeze out any of the water.
Heat the skillet back up to medium heat and add half of the remaining oil. Then add the onion and garlic and cook three minutes. Reduce to medium low heat.
Also heat a second large nonstick skillet with the remaining oil over medium low heat.
Add half the zucchini into one pan and the rest into the other. These two pans will be combined later after the moisture evaporates and the zucchini loses some of their volume. Divide the salt, pepper, parsley, mint and half of the basil between the two pans. Save the rest of the basil for later.
Cook on medium low stirring occasionally to evaporate the moisture, about 15-20 minutes.
At this point, start cooking the spaghetti and cook until short of done, still a little chewy. Drain but save 3 cups of pasta water.
Once the moisture evaporates in the two pans with the squash, they will start to brown. Continue cooking but lower heat to somewhere between low and medium low. Start to finish was 30 minutes for us once we put the zucchini in.
Once both pans of squash are sufficiently browned, combine into one pan and add the one cup of grated Romano, 1 ½ cups of pasta water and taste for more salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Place the drained spaghetti back into its pot and add in the zucchini sauce and the remaining basil and stir. Use more pasta water if needed to thin it down.
Pour into a serving platter and top with the blistered tomatoes and more grated Romano cheese. Serve immediately.
Keywords: caramelized zucchini pasta