I firmly believe there is no shame in taking shortcuts now and then, and make sure you sit down and eat a meal rather than always rushing around. Savouring your food is as important to a solo cook and eater as it is to a family, or when you’re cooking for a crowd. And good cooks always keep a few staples handy for quick meals like this one–we don’t go out and buy new ingredients every day!Signe Johansen

A skillet filled with spaghetti with zucchini, lemon, and basil, with a fork resting in it and a bowl of Parmesan on the side.

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Lemon, and Basil

4.41 / 5 votes
Here’s a quick, lemony vegetarian pasta dish that can easily be adapted to other greens: try it with asparagus, broccoli or broad beans when you tire of zucchini.
David Leite
Servings2 servings
Calories411 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • Sea salt
  • 3 1/2 ounces spaghetti, linguine, or pasta of choice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium (3 oz) banana shallot or 2 to 3 smaller shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • A pinch of chile flakes
  • 1 medium (8 oz) zucchini, roughly grated or chopped
  • Leaves from a few sprigs of fresh basil
  • Grated zest* and juice of 1/2 small unwaxed lemon, preferably organic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated, to serve
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, to serve


  • Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water and the pasta.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil, add the shallot and cook until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chile flakes and cook for 1 minute more.
  • Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and cook just long enough for the zucchini to soften and absorb some of the flavor from the garlic, shallot, and chile, 4 to 7 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, add the basil leaves and allow the basil to wilt slightly. Add the lemon zest and juice.
  • Add the pasta to the skillet. Stir, adding a little pasta water, if necessary to thin the sauce.
  • Serve hot, with plenty of grated Parmesan and pine nuts scattered on top.


*What’s the best way to zest a lemon?

Some people have big opinions on this—on this very site, you might not be surprised to learn. But what our fearless leader says is true—most of us are using our zesters wrong. The problem is that we’re holding the zester upside down. That’s right…You should be holding the lemon beneath the zester and the zester above it, with the channel facing up (grates facing down). That way, you’re not continually having to check how much zest you’ve removed. Use your lower hand to rotate the lemon as you zest to your heart’s desire.

Adapted From


Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 411 kcalCarbohydrates: 47 gProtein: 10 gFat: 22 gSaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 12 gSodium: 14 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 6 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2018 Signe Johansen. Photo © 2018 Patricia Niven. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I was having company for dinner and had planned to make grilled lemon basil chicken. I hadn’t decided on side dishes and then I saw this recipe for spaghetti with zucchini, lemon, and basil. I know it sounds like a lot of lemon and basil for one meal but it actually worked out very well.

I like the idea of having my starch and vegetable in one dish, makes things easy. I used rotini pasta because that is what was in my pantry. I think a small pasta like this might be a better choice because it is easier to get a complete bite without the sauce slipping off. This pasta dish is light and fresh. The lemon flavor was understated, the toasted pine nuts gave it a nice crunch.

The recipe says to grate or chop the zucchini. I chopped mine rather small but I think I’d leave it in bigger pieces next time for more texture. This dish would be great with many different vegetables. I’ll be trying it again with asparagus, yellow squash, eggplant, and/or tomato. There are so many possibilities. I doubled the recipe for the 4 of us and I’m glad I did as there wasn’t much leftover. I served the grilled chicken sliced on top of the pasta with a Caesar salad and my guests raved.

I LOVED this easy pasta with very few ingredients but loads of flavor! The spaghetti with zucchini, lemon, and basil comes together in no time, looks and tastes great and it’s made with ingredients I usually have on hand. What more could you want? Easy enough for a weeknight, tasty enough to serve to company.

Simply put, I loved this spaghetti with zucchini, lemon, and basil. The combination of the lemon and basil was bright and zesty, while the pine nuts and parmesan added richness. I used chopped zucchini and loved the play of textures with the softened zucchini, crunchy pine nuts, and tagliatelle noodles. Next time I’d love to try grating the zucchini to see how it affects the texture of the sauce.

Because I used diced rather than grated zucchini, it took 7 minutes rather than 1 to soften. I love the versatility of this dish and look forward to trying it with other vegetables, too. It comes together in 30 minutes and looks fabulous in a large skillet on the table. Definitely a showstopper!

I’m a little carb phobic so when I eat my carbs they better be good! This recipe for spaghetti with zucchini, lemon, and basil didn’t disappoint. Using a few quality ingredients and very little time at the stove, this was a springtime feast, a delicious combination of flavors and textures, and a dish that would please most. We chose to eat it as an appetizer but I did find my husband sneaking spoonfuls from the pan well after dinner had been served. I look forward to summer when there is a bounty of local zucchini – this will be a perfect dish.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Spaghetti Carbonara

This spaghetti carbonara recipe tosses pasta with eggs, cheese, guanciale, pancetta or bacon, and pepper to form a creamy sauce. Quick and easy.

25 mins

Pasta with Butter and Parmesan

Whether you’re five or fifty-five, sometimes nothing is more satiating than a plate of spaghetti with butter and cheese.

20 mins

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Yes. Soft, pillowy gnocchi bathed in a luxurious blue cheese sauce can be on your table in under 30 minutes. Wonders never cease.

25 mins

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 4 stars
    Yum! A quick, perfect summer dish with a lot of flavor! I made it with the traditional zucchini but will be making it again and trying the other vegetable suggestions!