Five ingredient zucchini goat cheese pasta is a dead simple, veggie packed, perfect-for-summer, weeknight meal that will make you fall in love with zucchini again!
Crap it’s Friday! It kind of snuck up on me to be honest. And sneakier still, it’s the first day of summer – WHAAAAAAT??? So obviously I’m super on top of my shit. But seriously, I’ve been busy. The good news is that it’s mostly with fun stuff, mixed in with a little plant killing.
But busy ladies still gotta eat, right? And that basic need mixed with the outrageous surplus of zucchini in the CSA these days brings me to this summer dish that’s as delicious as it is simplistic.
Five Ingredient Zucchini Goat Cheese Pasta
This starts of course with zucchini. Like, a lot of zucchini. The inspiration for this comes from an old Jennie Cook’s recipe for zucchini butter. Zucchini butter is a magical substance. It’s all of three, humble ingredients that come together with a little time to create a buttery, savory, slightly sweet, heady spread that is the epitome of the sum being better than its parts. Bonus, it’s great on pretty much everything. Go read about it here, or even here (see I’m not the only one who thinks it’s pretty swell).
I like to whip up a double batch. I’ll stir half of it into hot pasta, dot it with tangy goat cheese, and finish with a squeeze of lemon and a generous handful of parsley (or whatever tender herb I happen to have laying around). The other half gets folded into soft scrambled eggs, spread onto garlicky toast with whipped ricotta, or just dolloped along side slow roasted salmon or grilled chicken.
How to make zucchini butter
If you’ve got a pan, you’ve got a plan. Grate a bunch of zucchini, pop it in a large skillet with a few glugs of olive oil, some salt, and maybe a couple cloves of crushed garlic. Let it simmer and bubble slowly for about 30 minutes. During which time it will sweat out a ton of water (cute) and then turn a brilliant shade of almost minty green (actually cute). The strands of zucchini come together into a jammy spread that is as savory as it is sunshiney, ready for all of the things. Once it’s made you can cool it, store it, and use it for about a week – but it’ll never last that long, honestly.
A few tips, mostly mental.
- Scrub your zucchini – like seriously. There can be a surprising amount of grit that latches onto the skins of zucchini. Do your best to get yours squeaky clean because “crunch” should be nowhere near a successful zucchini butter.
- Don’t fret – it’s going to get ugly before it’s a beauty. This will sweat out a tremendous amount of water. Just let it keep cooking and the water will evaporate, leaving behind an intensely flavored concoction that you will be sad you’ve missed out on all these years.
- Get inventive – this is dead simple, and best that way IMO, but a little zhush never hurt anyone. I like a few garlic cloves (which get soft and sweet), a handful of chopped shallot, or a sprinkling of chili flake for a bit of heat. Try one or two variations if you’re feeling jaunty.
Making zucchini goat cheese pasta
Once you have your zucchini butter (which you can totally make ahead BTW), all that’s left is to boil up some pasta, stir in your zucchini butter, dollop on some goat cheese, garnish, and serve it up. It’s really that easy. But if you’re new to the pasta game here’s a little primer.
Salt your pasta water
If you haven’t heard me talk about this before, here’s a little knowledge drop for you. If you have, go ahead and scroll on down to the recipe – you’re already a pro.
Salting the water is the ONLY opportunity you have to season the noodle itself. As the pasta cooks it will absorb the liquid it’s cooking in. If that liquid is tasty, the pasta will be tastier too. Seems logical, yes? I use a hefty handful of kosher salt for about 8 quarts of water, which seems like a lot, but most of it will get left behind in the pot, so not to worry.
Save your pasta water
That salty water you just made, don’t just throw it down the drain! I mean most of it yes, but I ALWAYS hold back about a cup or so just before I drain the pasta. Why? Well sometimes you need a little liquid to loosen up a sauce that’s too thick. You could use regular water from the tap, but why, when you’ve got preheated and pre-seasoned stuff all ready to go?
Second reason to save it is all about the starch. The pasta lets go of its outside layer of starch as it cooks. Which makes this liquid gold when it comes to giving sauces that glossy, restaurant-style sheen. Not to mention it helps the sauce cling to the noodles much more easily – and pasta sauce should always be a stage 5 clinger.
Eat it right away
Life happens, and sometimes dinner has to sit around for a while. As a person who photographs all of her food I understand this ALL too well. But if you’re a normal person, try to stir this together, dish it up, and get it into your mouth. Pasta is best when it’s just al dente, creamy as hell, and fresh out of the pan. Also, you deserve to take a break from your busy AF life and sit down to a just-cooked bowl of noodles…so take it, friend.
Ok, that’s enough pasta talk for now. Enjoy the weekend, get some sun, and do what makes you smile.
And if you make this and love it, please snap a pic and tag me in it. I’m a creeper who likes to know what you’re eating…also it makes me happy to see.
Five Ingredient Zucchini Goat Cheese Pasta
This zucchini goat cheese pasta is a love letter to summer produce. It’s inspired by Jennie Cook’s recipe for zucchini butter and couldn’t be simpler to make or enjoy.
- Prep Time: 5 Minutes
- Cook Time: 45 Minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 Servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: American
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 lbs zucchini (about 3 medium), grated on the largest holes of box grater
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 lb dried pasta, short shapes are best
4 ounces soft goat cheese, like chevre
1/2 C chopped parsley (or other tender herb)
Zest and juice of one lemon
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the zucchini and salt. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan (lowering the heat if it does). Until most of the liquid that the zucchini leaches out has been evaporated and the zucchini takes on a jammy consistency. Set aside.
Boil the pasta in a large pot of heavily salted water until just al dente. Reserve about a cup of the water and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the pan with zucchini butter and toss with half of the reserved pasta cooking liquid over medium heat. Add the goat cheese, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir to combine, adding more pasta water if necessary.
Sauteing a few cloves of garlic, a handful of finely chopped onion, or a pinch of chili flakes in the oil before you add the zucchini is a great way to add nuance to this recipe. Not necessary, but so good.
Scrub your zucchini well before grating it, there can be a lot of grit on the outside skin.
Make a double batch of the zucchini butter and save the rest in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week.
This can also be made with yellow squash
Keywords: vegetarian pasta, zucchini butter, meatless meals, five ingredient recipe, simple dinner
As another person who photographs all her food before it actually makes it to the table, I think this recipe might actually be too good for me to photograph it. I’d probably have to eat it directly over the stovetop like a heathen. A+
Thank you, friend! I agree, it’s so hard when the food is good and the troops are hungry. But gotta get the shot. We eat almost everything cold!
Made this tonight and added some sautéed mushrooms and pine nuts. Love it! Light, great flavor and uncomplicated.
I’m so glad you liked it. Pine nuts and mushrooms sound like dreamy additions!
This was great and so easy! Thank you for helping me to use my zucchini and goat cheese!! I added a few cherry tomatoes when I blended the pasta in and cooked the zucchini with some red pepper flakes and garlic – yum!