Creamy One Pot Pasta with Zucchini - This 30-minute Creamy Pasta

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Creamy One Pot Pasta with Zucchini - This 30-minute Creamy Pasta

Although summer is the best season of all, it presents many stressful dilemmas. What swimsuit should I wear to the beach today?

Should I finish this work assignment or go out for a popsicle? What cold drink should I have next? Life is full of difficult obstacles.

This recipe answers one of the most pressing puzzles of summer: how the hell am I going to use up all that damn zucchini?

If your garden is full of zucchini, this pasta is here to help make it a quick and delicious weeknight dinner.

It's the winning ticket to getting a picky eater to eat more veggies - it's so creamy and luxurious, you'd never guess it's packed with healthy veggies.

You only need a pot

The beauty of this recipe is that it all comes down to one pot.

After caramelizing the zucchini, you will cook the cream cheese pasta in enough water so that the pasta cooks without leaving a puddle of liquid.

If all the moisture has dried out and the pasta is still not cooked through, you can always add a little more water.

The cooked zucchini is then added back to the pot, along with some lemon juice and zest, and you have a healthy bowl of summer noodles.

Riff your way

If you want to spice up this recipe, there are a million ways to riff it.

There are no wrong answers when it provides a solution to the biggest summer dilemma of all.

  • Substitute vegetable or chicken broth for the water for a flavorful twist.
  • Use any short pasta shape you like; I would avoid using long pasta or any "ruffled" shapes that might break from over-stirring, like trumpets or cascatelli.
  • Are you trying to use some fresh herbs? This dough would gladly accept a handful of fresh basil, mint, parsley, dill, or chives.
  • Do you love garlic? Grate a few cloves into the zucchini mixture.
  • Feel free to swap your favorite roasted nut or seed for walnuts.
  • If you want to finish the pasta with grated Parm or Pecorino, I certainly won't stop you.
  • Do you want to use a mixture of zucchini? Be my guest.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large or 5 medium zucchini (2 pounds), coarsely grated
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 3 1/4 cups of water
  • 1 pound dry rigatoni or penne pasta
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 lemon, grated and squeezed (about 2 tablespoons of juice)
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts


Cook the zucchini:

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.

Cook the zucchini, stirring occasionally, until the liquid runs out, the liquid is cooked, and the zucchini caramelizes to a gelatinous spreadable consistency, 10 to 12 minutes.

If you start to notice a golden brown color in the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat to medium.

After the jam, transfer the zucchini to a medium bowl and set aside.

Cook the pasta:

In the same pot (don't worry about cleaning up any browned bits or zucchini bits that may be left in the pot), add 3 1/4 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat.

Season the water with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.

When the water is boiling, add the macaroni and cream cheese and reduce the heat to medium-high. Break up the cream cheese with the back of a wooden spoon to spread it all over.

It's okay if the dough is not completely submerged in the liquid. Cook, stirring constantly, until the pasta is al dente and the liquid has reduced and is creamy, 11 to 13 minutes.

If all the moisture dries up and the pasta is still not cooked through, add a little water.

Add the zucchini again:

Add the cooked zucchini, lemon zest, and lemon juice and cook until heated through, 2 minutes. Add a bit of water to create a thin, glossy sauce, if necessary.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary. Divide between bowls and top with toasted pecans. Serve.

While it's best to enjoy right away, you can always refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days, then reheat in the microwave or in a pan with a little water.

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