30 minute zucchini pesto pasta with buttery mushrooms is the ultimate summer main for a busy weeknight, outdoor picnic, or lunch on the go.This verdant pasta makes use of two of summers most abundant pieces of produce: zucchini and basil! I even thought about changing the recipe name to Peak Season Pasta, but those buttery mushrooms were too good to not get a strong byline.
Orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta) serves as a kind of catcher’s mitt for the bright pesto sauce, but switch it out for any pasta you have on hand.Rather than using pine nuts in the pesto, I look instead to chopped walnuts to add richness plus some brain-healthy omega-3’s. Feel free to double up the pesto recipe and use leftovers throughout the week to dollop over grilled meat or fish, slather on sandwiches or wraps, or drizzle over fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes.
Or just use it as an excuse to eat more pasta (as if we needed one).While the pesto may seem like the star of the show here, we can’t overlook its trusted sidekick: pasta water. The salty, starchy liquid gold is what helps create a luxuriously smooth sauce that glosses over the noodles like a dream.
Once your pasta is al dente, use a liquid measuring cup to scoop up 1 cup of pasta water before draining it. Use the reserved pasta water in small increments to allow it to emulsify with the oil from the pesto and turn into a creamy, noodle-coating sauce.
I’m convinced that using pasta water properly is what separates the pasta you order in an authentic Italian joint from that Tuesday night stuff you made in college (with the help of Prego). Game. Changer.
This pasta comes together in a flash and will quickly become a household favorite. Plus, it holds up beautifully when made ahead, so consider tomorrow’s desk lunch conquered.
- 2½ cups fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
- 3 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 medium zucchinis, sliced into coins
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 6 oz. mushrooms of choice (baby bella, portobello, oyster, shiitake), roughly chopped
- 12 oz. dry orecchiette pasta
- Combine basil, ¼ cup of the oil, walnuts, cheese, lemon juice and zest, garlic, ½ tsp. of the salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes in a food processor; blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add zucchini; cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from skillet. Reduce heat to medium and add butter. Once melted, add mushrooms. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown. Combine mushrooms with zucchini. Season with remaining ½ tsp. salt
- Cook pasta according to package instructions in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining pasta. Turn off heat and add drained pasta back to pot along with zucchini, mushrooms, and pesto; toss to coat. Add ½ cup reserved pasta water and stir vigorously until sauce appears emulsified and coats noodles. Add additional pasta water as needed to reach desired consistency.
- Divide pasta evenly into each of 5 bowls. Garnish with additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil.