Lemon Zucchini Pasta with Crispy Garlic Breadcrumbs

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There's no better way to celebrate the summer harvest than with this light & bright Lemon Zucchini Pasta with Crispy Garlic Breadcrumbs! Simply julienne tender zucchini squash into beautiful, long "noodles," then toss with al dente pasta in a simple garlic-infused lemon olive oil sauce. Finish with fresh basil, parmesan cheese, & crispy garlicky breadcrumbs for the best quick summer dinner. An easy zucchini pasta recipe, made with 10 ingredients & ready in 25 minutes or less!

Naturally meatless. Easily vegetarian & vegan.

An overhead shot of lemon zucchini pasta on a pink plate atop a white surface. A second plate of pasta sits beside it.

A No-Fuss Pasta Dish to Celebrate Summer Zucchini!

My love of pasta is no secret, but one of my favorite things about it is how easily pasta adapts to the seasons – especially the summer! We’ve shared a number of incredible summer pasta dishes here on PWWB – our viral Marinated Tomato Pasta & my all-time favorite Eggplant Lasagna are not to be missed! – & today we’re adding to the list with this Lemon Zucchini Pasta.

You’ll love that this recipe is a simple, low-fuss dinner perfect for any warm night, but it’s also a true celebration of summer zucchini. Zucchini can be a little tricky (overcook it & it’s a mushy mess!), but this zucchini pasta recipe centers around one foolproof trick: thinly slicing the zucchini into beautiful strands & gently cooking them as you strain the hot pasta water through it. The result is a perfectly tender bite of pasta with zucchini every single time!

From there, simply toss the zucchini and pasta in garlic-infused olive oil (a la aglio olio!) with lemon juice, fresh basil, parmesan, & crispy breadcrumbs. It’s the most restaurant-worthy 25-minute dinner recipe, & it tastes perfectly light & bright.

The perfect way to use up any zucchini bursting from your garden this summer!

Zucchini Pasta Recipe Highlights

Everyone who tries this pasta with zucchini falls in love, & you will too! It’s…

SIMPLE BUT SPECIAL. Toss all dente spaghetti & thinly sliced zucchini “noodles” in a lemony olive oil sauce with basil, parmesan, & crispy breadcrumbs – that’s it! A low-fuss dinner that’s perfect for any night of the week & fancy-feeling enough for summer entertaining.

PEAK ZUCCHINI. This zucchini pasta recipe celebrates the delicate flavor & texture of summer zucchini by gently cooking it with a quick pass of hot pasta water before marrying it with lemon, garlic, & basil. The best way to eat summer zucchini!

A LOW-EFFORT DINNER. You only need 10 ingredients & 25 minutes to make this stunning lemon zucchini pasta dish. The longest step is waiting for the pasta water to come to a boil!

Humble zucchini has never tasted so good! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Lemon Zucchini Pasta with Crispy Garlic Breadcrumbs, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

Key Ingredients

The best pasta dishes rely on in-season & high-quality ingredients to create a ton of craveable flavor, & this zucchini lemon pasta recipe is no exception. It comes together with 10 simple ingredients – most of which are probably already in your pantry or summer garden!

Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You need…

  • Zucchini – Of course, it wouldn’t be zucchini pasta without it! Since it’s a star ingredient, it’s best to use small- or medium-sized peak-summer zucchini for the best flavor & texture. More zucchini tips in the Ingredient Spotlight, below!
  • Pasta – When it comes to pasta, DeLallo is forever my fave – their pastas are made from the highest quality durum wheat & they’re slowly dried for the best texture, just like traditional Italian pasta making. Since the zucchini is julienned into long, pasta-like strands, it’s fun to use a similar shaped long pasta, like spaghetti or linguine. You can also use any other long pasta you love – bucatini & fusilli col bucco are also fun choices!
  • Extra virgin olive oil – The garlic-infused lemon sauce is a quick, olive oil-based sauce, so it’s best to use the best quality oil you can afford. This EVOO is another one of my DeLallo must-haves – it’s rich, robust, & made from cold-pressed 100% Italian olives. One of my favorite kitchen staples!
  • Aromatics – A hefty amount of fresh garlic & crushed red pepper flakes infuse the olive oil with tons of flavor, creating an aglio olio-style sauce that’s simple & always-delicious.
  • Lemon – Fresh lemon juice brings out all the flavors in the dish & makes for a light & bright pasta. It’s a summery touch you’ll love!
  • Finishing touches – Finish your lemon zucchini pasta with fresh basil & grated parmesan. For a vegetarian pasta, be sure to use rennet-free parmesan. For an entirely plant-based dish, be sure to use vegan parmesan.
Ingredient Spotlight

Zucchini

Along with juicy heirloom tomatoes & sweet corn, fresh zucchini is a summertime superstar. If possible, I highly recommend trying this lemon zucchini pasta while the veggie is in season – it’s the perfect recipe to help you use up your summer garden harvest!

A few zucchini tips & tricks:

  • Choosing your zucchini. ⇢ While gigantic garden zucchini are pretty impressive, they often contain more moisture than flavor. For this zucchini pasta recipe, I recommend using smaller or medium-sized zucchini for the best texture & taste.
  • How to cut your zucchini for pasta? ⇢ No spirally “zoodles” here! This lemony zucchini pasta recipe uses a mandolin to julienne the zucchini into pasta-like strands. No mandolin or prefer not to use one? You can also use a peeler to thinly slice the zucchini into ribbons or shred your zucchini on a box grater. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance!
  • How to make zucchini pasta less watery? ⇢ Zucchini texture can be tricky because these vegetables are full of moisture & easily get mushy if you cook them too long. This recipe centers around a low-fuss technique that lays these worries to rest – straining the cooked pasta over the julienned zucchini strands lightly “cooks” them so they’re perfectly tender with a bit of a bite, just like the al dente pasta!

How to Make Zucchini Pasta with a Lemon Garlic Sauce

Especially during the warm summer months, I love keeping dinner as simple as possible, so this pasta with zucchini is about as low-fuss as it gets – it comes together with 5 quick steps in a matter of 25 minutes, tops!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Quick prep tip! You’ll notice this zucchini pasta recipe moves pretty quickly once you begin cooking, so I highly recommend taking care of all of the prep work before you start – chop the garlic & basil, grate the parmesan, juice the lemons, & slice the zucchini, then you’re good to go!

1

Boil the pasta. Boil a large pot of salted water to a roaring boil, then drop the pasta & cook until it’s tender with a nice bite. Al dente cooking time is typically indicated on package instructions. Tip! ⇢ Be sure to reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water before draining it off. Learn more! How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!

2

Drain the pasta through the zucchini. Place the thinly sliced zucchini “noodles” in a large colander in the sink, tossing them with a little bit of salt to extract their excess moisture. When the pasta is ready, strain the cooking water over the zucchini & through the colander. Why? The hot pasta water quickly “cooks” the raw zucchini, making it beautifully tender with a bit of a bite – the same texture as perfectly al dente pasta!

3

Make crispy garlic breadcrumbs. These golden & crispy beauties are my favorite quick & easy add-on for any dish. Simply toast extra-crispy panko breadcrumbs in a large skillet with olive oil & garlic powder, just until they’re golden & fragrant. Why breadcrumbs? ⇢ This extra step is well worth it since the breadcrumbs add the best pops of texture to this lemon zucchini pasta, an otherwise tender dish.

4

Heat the olive oil. Using the same skillet used to prepare the breadcrumbs (less clean-up FTW! 🙌🏼), heat the olive oil until it’s warm & shimmery, then add in plenty of chopped garlic & crushed red pepper flakes to infuse the sauce with deliciously aromatic flavor. Timing Tip! ⇢ Heating & infusing the olive oil only takes about 1 minute, so don’t get started on this until your pasta is ready to drain.

5

Finishing touches. Toss the spaghetti & zucchini into the pan, coating it in garlic-infused olive oil, & add thinly sliced basil, grated parmesan, & lemon juice. If needed, splash in a little of the reserved pasta water to create a smooth & glossy lemon sauce.

Serving & Storage Suggestions

Once the zucchini pasta is ready, simply transfer it to your favorite pasta bowls & top it off with a nice dusting of the garlicky breadcrumbs. For an extra-pretty touch, finish each bowl off with leafy basil, lemon zest, or extra grated parmesan cheese to bring the whole dish together. A restaurant worthy meal in 25 minutes or less! 🙌🏼

On it’s own, this zucchini lemon pasta is naturally meatless & incredibly light & fresh. If you’d like to add a little extra protein, try pairing it with grilled lemon chicken, pesto shrimp, or fancy-feeling seared scallops. Or, double down on the zucchini & serve with a batch of our favorite zucchini meatballs! 😋

Leftovers? ⇢ Any remaining zucchini pasta keeps 2-3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. When you reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave, add an extra splash of water as needed to loosen things up. Easy!

I can’t wait for you to try this Lemon Zucchini Pasta with Crispy Garlic Breadcrumbs! It’s a low-fuss, light & bright summery dish that celebrates one of our favorite seasonal ingredients!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!

Print
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An overhead shot of lemon zucchini pasta on a pink plate atop a white marbled surface. A gold fork sits on the plate.

25-Minute Lemon Zucchini Pasta with Garlic Breadcrumbs

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This light & bright Lemon Zucchini Pasta is a celebration of summer zucchini! It’s a low-fuss recipe that comes together in 25 minutes or less – the perfect dish to make whenever your summer garden is bursting with zucchini!

The magic of this recipe comes from beautiful summer zucchini at the peak of its season. Thinly slicing it into long, quick-cooking strands preserves both its flavor & texture. You simply pop the sliced zucchini in a colander, then drain al dente pasta over it to quickly cook it with the hot pasta water as it passes through. The result is perfectly tender-crisp zucchini “noodles” that practically beg to be tossed into pasta!

From there, bring it all together with in a light & bright aglio olio-inspired sauce made by perfuming extra virgin olive oil with garlic, red pepper flake, & fresh lemon juice. It all comes together in about 25 minutes with very minimal cooking involved – the perfect low-effort summer dinner!

This zucchini pasta has seriously bold flavor & makes for a great light dinner all on its own, but you can pair it with grilled protein or meatballs if you’d like to bulk it up a bit. Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for some suggestions to get you started! ♡ Happy cooking!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces spaghetti or long pasta of choice
  • 3 medium zucchini (approx. 2024 ounces)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • up to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves, sliced fine
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan
  • 2 lemons, juiced (approx. ¼ cup)
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • for serving, as desired: additional grated cheese, chopped parsley or basil, crushed red pepper, etc.

for the crispy garlic breadcrumbs:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

Instructions

  1. Prep: Once you begin cooking, this zucchini pasta recipe comes together pretty quickly with a couple of very time-critical steps. Read the recipe in full to get a sense of its flow, then prep by getting the chopping, measuring & other prep odds & ends out of the way so cooking is a smooth process: bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta, chop the garlic & basil, grate the parmesan, juice the lemons, & prepare the zucchini. Trim the ends off each zucchini, then use a mandoline slicer to very carefully julienne lengthwise, creating long, thin zucchini noodles about ⅛-inch thick. Transfer the zucchini to a large colander. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt, tossing to combine, then place the colander in the sink.An overhead shot of julienned zucchini in a colander atop a white and grey marbled surface.
  2. Boil the pasta: Once boiling, generously season the water with salt. Add the spaghetti (or long pasta of choice) & cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, to al dente (al dente cooking time is typically noted on package directions). Once the pasta reaches al dente, carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot, reserving about 1 cup of starchy pasta water, & set aside. Drain the pasta into the same colander as the zucchini such that the hot pasta water drains through the zucchini. Set aside – do not rinse the pasta/zucchini mixture! (Learn more ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)An overhead shot of julienned zucchini and cooked spaghetti in a colander atop a white and grey marbled surface.
  3. Prepare the crispy garlic breadcrumbs: Meanwhile, the pasta boils, prepare the breadcrumbs. Add the olive oil to a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, stir in the breadcrumbs & garlic powder. Cook, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs are fragrant, toasty, & beautifully golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a bowl & set aside. Carefully wipe the skillet with paper towel, removing any breadcrumb residue. Return to the stove.An overhead shot of toasted garlic breadcrumbs in a white dish atop a white marbled surface.
  4. Finish the zucchini pasta: No more than 1 minute before you drain the pasta, add the olive oil to the same skillet used to prepare the breadcrumbs. Heat over medium-low. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, stir in the garlic & crushed red pepper flake. Cook, stirring constantly, until golden & fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini & cooked pasta to the skillet, along with the basil, parmesan, & lemon juice. Toss to combine well – the lemon olive oil sauce should evenly coat the pasta. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce needs to loosen up a little; add in an extra handful of parmesan if it needs to tighten up more. Cook 1-2 minutes longer, allowing the pasta to meld with the olive oil sauce. Remove from the heat.An overhead shot of lemon zucchini pasta garnished with basil and lemon wedges in a black skillet atop a white marbled surface. The skillet is surrounded by a dish of parmesan, black pepper, a cloth napkin, basil leaves and lemon slices.
  5. Serve: Portion the zucchini pasta into individual bowls, topping with with the crispy garlic breadcrumbs & additional grated parmesan or chopped fresh herbs as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!An overhead shot of lemon zucchini pasta on a pink plate atop a white marbled surface. A gold fork sits on the plate.

Notes

  • Jess’ Notes & Tips:
    • Zucchini: Zucchini is the star of the show here! For best results, use small-to-medium summer zucchini, which is going to be more tender, more flavorful, & better textured than large zucchini or off-season zucchini.
    • Mandoline tips & alternatives: Slicing with a mandoline can be intimidating! Be sure to use the guard that came with the mandoline to keep your fingers away from the sharp blade. If you do not have a mandoline slicer, feel free to use a peeler to slice the zucchini lengthwise into fine ribbons, then run a knife over the ribbons to create “noodles”. You can also run the zucchini along the side of a box grater with large holes – doing so creates shorter pieces of shredded zucchini (vs “noodles”), but it’s just as delicious in zucchini pasta.
    • Recipe variations: This lemon zucchini pasta recipe is naturally meatless. To ensure it’s vegetarian, be sure to use your favorite rennet-free parmesan. To take it a step further & make it vegan, opt for your favorite non-dairy parmesan.
  • Storage & Reheating: Leftover lemon zucchini pasta will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for 2-3 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding an extra splash of water or cooking stock to loosen up the brown butter sauce as needed, until warmed through.

Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

An overhead shot of lemon zucchini pasta on a pink plate atop a cloth napkin on a white marbled surface. A gold fork sits on the plate, and a dish of toasted breadcrumbs rests beside it.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest for more unfussy recipes that pack a big punch of flavor!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 6.29.17

    This sounds like such a delicious summer dish. I eat zoodles all year long, but love when the store is overflowing with them in the summer 😉

  2. 6.27.17

    this looks so divine and so many possibilities with different toppings!

  3. 6.21.17
    Tiffany said:

    I’m so happy summer has arrived! I always fawn over zoodle pictures and this looks so good, especially with the shrimps. Your pictures are amazing!

  4. 6.20.17

    Omg this looks so incredibly satisfying Jess!!! I’m drooling!

  5. 6.20.17

    this makes me SO excited for summer!! gorgeous photos and recipe! looks so fresh and healthy!

    • 6.20.17
      jess said:

      That’s why I love this recipe – it’s summer in a bowl! Thanks, g! xx

  6. 6.20.17

    the color in this dish is STUNNING. and i just bought some zucchini at the farmers market this morning :))) pinned and making STAT!

    • 6.20.17
      jess said:

      Thank you so much Ellie — I seriously hope you give it a try! Farmer’s market zucchini would be perfect – lucky you, farmers market-ing on a Tuesday! xx