Lemony Pasta with Fried Zucchini and Basil

3 bowls of Lemony Pasta with Fried Zucchini and Basil

Sometimes, zucchini tastes best in disguise: Chocolate zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, deep fried zucchini flowers. All of the vegetable’s best iterations mask its natural flavor.

To be fair, most of those zucchini recipes were invented in late-August panic attacks about using up extra produce from the garden— the goal was to use as much of the vegetable as possible, not necessarily to embrace the flavor.

This extra lemony pasta with fried zucchini keeps the summer squash close to its natural form while enhancing its natural taste. You’ll actually be aware of the fact that you’re eating zucchini— but I promise you won’t mind.

It’s good hot or cold, so if you’re looking for a zucchini pasta salad recipe, this one is easy to whip up in the morning before an afternoon summer cookout. Make the recipe as directed, then allow it to cool to room temperature. I think it tastes better at room temp than ice cold, so feel free to leave it on the picnic table and graze all evening.

Don’t be afraid of the “fried” part— it’s shallow-fried, not deep-fried, and most of the fat gets drained off on paper towels. I do ask that you stand over a stove of simmering olive oil and tend to (quite a few) rounds of zucchini, but that’s the most labor-intensive part of the recipe.

And it is so, so worth it.

Plus, the pasta-to-vegetable ratio is about equal, if not leaning more in the vegetable’s favor, making this a great meat-free summer meal for vegetarians or those of us who enjoy forgoing animal protein every now and then.

This pasta with zucchini recipe is straightforward and easy to memorize, so you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Then, you’ll know exactly what to do if you wake up on a warm Saturday morning and find your garden overrun with gourds.

You’ll just smile, knowing that dinner will be a cinch.

Let’s make Lemony Pasta with Fried Zucchini and Basil

Start by boiling a pot of salted water. Then, pick your pasta. I prefer short pasta (farfalle, penne, rotini) for this recipe, but use whatever you like. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than package directions (you’ll finish it in the sauce), reserve one cup of pasta water, and drain.

While the pasta’s on, heat a high-sided skillet with more olive oil than you’re probably comfortable with, (trust!) and add a bunch of sliced zucchini. Fry until golden brown. Remove the zucchini from the skillet, make a quick sauce with a lot of garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, pasta water, and a good handful of Parmesan. Add the pasta back to the sauce, toss, taste, season, and eat.

One bowl of Lemony Pasta with Fried Zucchini and Basil

The zucchini gets a thin, crisp layer on the outside while it turns creamy and custard-like on the inside. The luscious vegetable contrasts with the al dente pasta and the bright, lemony garlic sauce. A flurry of basil leaves freshens everything up.

The zucchini gets crisp on the outside, custard-like on the inside, and greater than you ever thought the humble gourd could be. Paired with al dente pasta in a lemon-garlic sauce with a flurry of basil leaves, it’s a fresh, fun dinner that I’ll be eating all season.

Full of seasonal produce and fresh herbs, Lemony Pasta with Fried Zucchini and Basil reminds your palate that it’s officially summer, and shows what zucchini is capable of— no disguise necessary.

Lemony Pasta with Fried Zucchini and Basil

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Dinner American
By Samantha Serves: 3
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 25 minutes Total Time: 40 minutes

This easy zucchini pasta recipe is a delicious way to use up all that summer produce. It's great as a meat-free main dish for vegetarians or as a zucchini pasta salad for your next cookout.


  • Salt
  • 8 oz (about 250g) penne, farfalle, or other short pasta
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 small zucchini, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil or mint, torn or thinly sliced
  • Freshly cracked black pepper



Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta 1 minute less than package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.


Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet (preferably with high sides) over high heat until the oil is shimmering and looks like it's thinned out slightly. Add half of the zucchini and fry until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the fried zucchini to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini.


Turn off heat and add the garlic to the now-empty skillet, swirling the pan to ensure that the garlic doesn't burn. Turn the heat on to low and cook the garlic until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the red pepper flakes, lemon juice and zest, Parmesan cheese and ½ cup of pasta water. Bring to a simmer and whisk the mixture until well-combined.


Add the pasta to the skillet with the lemony sauce and toss, stirring constantly for about 1-2 minutes, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce sticks to the pasta. Add more pasta water if the sauce seems dry. Mix in the fried zucchini and basil. Taste and add more salt if needed.


To serve, top each portion with more Parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper.


  • 390 Calories


To make this as a zucchini pasta salad, follow the recipe as directed, then allow it to cool to room temperature. I think it tastes better at room temp than ice cold, so feel free to just leave it on the picnic table and graze 'til dinner. To double the recipe and use up the whole 16oz box of pasta, I'd suggest doubling the amount of everything except the zucchini. Frying 8 zucchinis will take you all day! When it's time to toss the pasta in the sauce, I'd suggest tossing it in the pasta pot rather than the skillet so that you have more room.

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  • Reply
    August 30, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    5 stars
    This recipe looks amazing! Mouthwatering photos!

    • Reply
      August 30, 2018 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks Grace! 🙂

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