A simple zucchini mushroom pasta recipe that's packed with fresh garden flavors and topped with crispy lemony breadcrumbs. An easy vegetarian summer dinner that's great for weeknight cooking.
You can't go wrong when you toss together a bunch of fresh ingredients, especially vegetables, with pasta. And that's why this dish works so well. Earthy mushrooms, tender slices of zucchini, crispy lemon-flavored breadcrumbs, and sweet and spicy basil leaves form a tasty summer combo that you'll love.
Zucchini gets a bad rap from the home gardener. Yes, zucchini does grow quickly and profusely. But if you pick them often, and don't plant too many, you won't have a problem. And yes, zucchini on its own, cooked in some boring way like steaming, will not be delicious. But when you season it well and pair it up with interesting flavors, zucchini is a welcome addition to summer cooking.
If you need more zucchini recipe ideas, try my Zucchini Curry or Simple Stuffed Zucchini. Another idea I just tried for the first time is quick zucchini pickles. Instead of cucumbers, you use zucchini. They were much better than expected!
This simple dish combines sauteed zucchini and mushrooms with onions, garlic, and red pepper in a light white wine sauce. Of course, there's pasta, too. Here's everything you'll need:
- Pasta - Such as penne, rotini, or another small shape with some texture to it
- Onion - Just a basic white onion is all you need
- Mushrooms - I like Baby Bella mushrooms, but whatever you have is fine. You can save a few minutes and by the presliced package.
- Garlic - Because you can't have a pasta dish without it
- Zucchini - Look for small to medium zucchini for the best flavor
- Red pepper flakes - For just a hint of spice
- White wine - To create a light sauce to coat the pasta
- Lemon - We'll need both the zest and juice
- Bread crumbs - Crunchy breadcrumbs with lots of texture, like panko, are great
- Basil - Fresh, not dried
🍷 Substitutions and Variations
Yellow squash - If you only have yellow squash, that works fine instead of zucchini.
Wine - A good flavored vegetable (or chicken) broth is a fine substitute for the wine if you don't have it or don't consume alcohol.
Spicy - For more spice, use ¼ or ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes.
Creamy - As is, this dish has a simple, very light white wine sauce. If you want to make more of a creamy zucchini pasta dish, add a splash or two of heavy cream in the last minutes of cooking.
Sun-dried tomatoes - Would make a great addition. Roughly chop and toss them in when you add the zucchini to the pan.
Here's how to make zucchini mushroom pasta:
Slice the zucchini and mushrooms. Chop the onion. Mince the garlic. Zest and juice the lemon. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. Save 1 cup of pasta water, drain, and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over low heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and add lemon zest and ½ teaspoon salt.
Add 2 tablespoons oil to the pan. Over medium-high heat, saute the onion and red pepper for 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook until mushrooms have softened, about 5 minutes.
Carefully pour in the white wine (or broth). Simmer until reduced in half.
Toss in the zucchini and cook until tender, about 5-8 more minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the pasta and lemon juice to coat. Then top with torn basil leaves and the lemon breadcrumbs before serving.
💭 Top tips
- Save 1 cup of the pasta water before draining. You may want to add a bit to the pan if you find the pasta too dry and want things a little saucier. It's also good to add if/when reheating leftovers.
- Try not to overcook the zucchini! If you've ever had mushy zucchini, you know how terrible it can be. It's why so many people hate the poor vegetable. If you slice it thin and aren't using giant pieces, it won't take long to cook and it's why it's the last thing you add into the pan.
I would try adding chicken to make this a chicken zucchini mushroom pasta dish. Add cubed, lightly salted chicken pieces after sauteeing the onions and before adding the mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes to lightly brown, then continue with the recipe as written. The dish may turn out drier, so definitely use that extra pasta water if needed. Ground sausage is another idea.
Simple. Don't overcook it! Since it won't all fit in one single layer in the pan, make sure to toss it around every once in a while as it cooks.
I only remove the seeds from zucchini when the zucchini is very large and has large seeds. For small to medium-sized zucchini, I don't bother.