Zucchini pasta sauce

Zucchini pasta sauce

zucchini pasta sauce close

As of Monday, we are officially out of lockdown here in the UK. At last!! Although I am quietly cautious. My hunch is that drinking (pubs are now open) is not conducive to minimising spread. Back when we lived in London, the pub was the one place where intoxicated I love yous and gestures of affection between colleagues and friends was quite commonplace on a Tuesday night – something that the virus must be rubbing its hands (spikes?) together at.

I’m not much of a drinker myself so I won’t be frequenting them for a while. I plan to celebrate with a haircut instead as my self cut fringe is crying out for someone with some expertise.

Anyway, back to food. Today’s simple dish was born out of a massive amount of zucchini I bought for my last recipe and me getting sick of grilling it and chucking into an Italian-style salad. Also, we entertained a couple of our friends and their adorable toddler over the weekend and I always underestimate how fussy little kids are when it comes to food. Not sure if it’s just English kids or is it a sign of the times?

I was never allowed to be fussy, I could cry my eyes out but if I didn’t like something I had two choices, eat it or go to bed hungry. The iron fist with which I was brought up was certainly very old skool and, for most part, far from ideal, but I wasn’t a fussy eater as a result. Neither was Duncan and his upbringing in this matter sounds very similar. Having said that I emphatize with parents, it must be exhausting to wage this war of wills at each and every meal. So anyway, the encounter with the said toddler made me think of making this Trojan zucchini pasta as it’s a perfect way to smuggle a fair amount of zucchini into an unsuspecting zucchini hater.

The sauce is akin to pesto but, as opposed to pesto, it uses far less oil. You could get away with using no oil at all if you wish, but a little bit of it makes for a nicer, silkier mouthfeel and makes the sauce cling to the pasta strands better. A tablespoon or two of nut or seed butter like almond or walnut would work well instead or a bit of flesh from a ripe avocado. As opposed to traditional pesto, this sauce won’t keep in your fridge for ages as it doesn’t have the protective layer of oil to keep mould at bay. You should aim to consume it straight away or the next day at the most. We’ve enjoyed it and it made a nice flavour change from wild garlic pesto pasta, which we tend to indulge in at this time of the year. I hope it will be a winner in your books too.

zucchini pasta sauce ingredients

zucchini pasta sauce zucchini caramelised

zucchini pasta sauce making

zucchini pasta sauce pasta

10 min
20 min
10 min
20 min
  • 60 g / ½ cup flaked almonds (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts work well too)
  • 30-45 / 2-3 tbsp olive oil* (optional)
  • 450 g / 1 lb zucchini / courgette (2 medium), sliced thinly
  • 30 g / 1 oz basil (mint works well too, but you may need less)
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • zest 1 unwaxed lemon + 2 tbsp juice
  • 2 tbsp drained capers
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • black pepper, to taste
  • salt (I used ½ tsp), to taste
  • 300 g / 10½ oz smooth** pasta (GF if needed)
  1. Dry-roast almond flakes in a small frying pan, until golden and fragrant. Set aside.
  2. Heat up 15 ml / 1 tbsp of oil in a large stainless steel pan. Once the oil starts to shimmer add zucchini slices. Toss them in the oil quickly to coat. If not consuming oil, you can steam them instead.
  3. Sauté zucchini on a medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until all of them turn translucent and caramelised in places. Set the pan aside for step 6.
  4. Place half of the almonds (leave the rest for garnish), cooked zucchini, olive oil (if using), 2/3 of the basil (leave some for garnish), garlic, lemon zest and juice (start off with 1 tbsp, then adjust to your liking), capers, nutritional yeast, and a dash of pepper and salt in a food processor. Process until smooth, adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Cook the pasta and just before you are ready to drain it, save 240 ml / 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
  6. Transfer zucchini sauce to the pan, add enough hot pasta cooking water (you may not need all of it) to loosen up the sauce and then stir through cooked pasta. Toss well to coat all of the pasta strands.
  7. Adjust the seasoning and divide between bowls, garnish with leftover almond flakes and basil.

*If you want to make this dish oil-free, add a tablespoon or two of almond, walnut or cashew butter to make it creamier or ½ small ripe avocado. You could also just use pasta cooking water but the mouthfeel won’t be as good.

**Smooth pasta is pasta like tagliatelle, spaghetti, penne or rigatoni. If you use pasta with lots of nooks and crannies like fusilli, there may not be enough sauce for 300 g / 10½ oz of pasta.

6 g
10 g
1 g
15 g
64 g
*per serving
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7 reviews, 19 comments
Made this the other day as I'm trying out lots of recipes to use up overgrown Zucchinis from a bumper crop. The whole family loved it, especially hubby and we had leftovers for lunch the next day. Very flavoursome and easy to make. I do have a question - do you think it would freeze well?
    Thanks Trish, that is so lovely to hear that pasta sauce went down so well with you and your hubby. Zucchini is quite watery so I am not sure about it being a good candidate for freezing, however, I have not tried. Ania
Delicious, brilliant way to use all those homegrown courgettes, really loved the lemon and capers in the pesto. Would highly recommend making for all the family. Another great recipe, thank you.
    Thank you Helen, I am so happy to hear that it was a success. Thank you for taking the time to review – I really appreciate it. x Ania
Easy and delicious
    Thanks so much, Susannah! I am delighted to hear that you enjoyed it so much and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know! x Ania
Can’t wait to have zucchini’s and basil from my own garden this summer! So I can make this delish pasta sauce again.
I loved the capers. Used less lemon juice tho, not a lemony girl.
Such a good pasta sauce when you don’t want to have a tomato sauce again. Or have like 50 zucchini from your garden 😂
    Delighted you enjoyed this dish, Suzan and with your homegrown zucchini, it must have tested soooo much better. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this lovely review, I really appreciate it. x Ania
Dear Ania, you are my guru! :) Your recipes are so well-thought-out, the tastes and flavours are exquisite. Sometimes I google for something I want to try but think to myself 'why bother', because I always come back to your website. Thank you so much! :)
    That's so nice to hear, Els. Thank you so much for your kind words and for trusting me with your meals :) x Ania
I was wary at first since I like but don't LOVE zucchini, but it turned out great! Reminds me of pesto. I thinned mine with a bit of pasta water.
    Thanks Tristen, I'm really happy to hear that you enjoyed this dish despite your 'zucchini ambivalence' :) x Ania
Really tasty sauce, naturally creamy with some interesting flavours. I did find on the first attempt the lemon was a bit much. I halved the quantity and found the other flavours were enhanced. Great recipe it's now a weakly staple 🙂
    Delighted that you enjoy it enough to make regularly and found the sweet spot, Laura. People's tolerance/preference for sour taste differs (I like quite a lot of tang), which is why I always recommend to adjust to taste. x Ania
Wow it was amazing! Really delicious, I can’t wait to make this again. Thank you Ania 😊
    Thank you, Keiko! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! x Ania
Jennifer Rademacher:
It looks great will definitely try it. One question what is the nutritional yeast exactly for? Living abroad I am not sure if I can it or is there something I can replace it with? Thanks
    Hi Jennifer,
    It's totally optional, perhaps use a little white miso instead if you have that but it's not necessary. It is used in vegan cooking to give things cheesy flavour and increase the depth of flavour in general. Hope this helps. Ania
will be making this soon i love zucchini sooooooooooooo much perfect for my after office meals will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya
    Awesome, hope you'll enjoy it! Ania
Vanessa Gell:
Is there a swap for the capers? Could I use a little miso paste instead?
    Hi Vanessa,
    You can just skip them and maybe add a touch more lemon juice (adjust to your taste obvs) and yes, miso will be nice too but go easy on salt. x Ania
Annebelle Van Tongeren:
Does this sauce freeze well? I have a lot of zucchinis in my garden so if it freezes this will be a bonus. Thanks
    Hi Annebelle,
    I have not had a chance to test that yet, but I don't see why it wouldn't...Ania
The picture shows some sliced zucchini, the recipe says to add all the zucchini to the rest of the ingredients to make the sauce.
Please clarify
    Hi Miriam,
    You can make extra zucchini if you like, I added some later simply to be able to style the dish, but the recipe is just for the sauce itself. Hope this makes sense. Ania
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