Creamy Pasta with Zucchini, Leeks, + Lemon

This simple pasta recipe leans on leeks, squash, and lemon for simple and fresh flavors. And if you’ve never grated zucchini and cooked it down into a creamy, luscious sauce, let me change your life! In this recipe, grated zucchini cooks down with aromatic leeks and garlic until soft, and turns into a sauce with starchy pasta water, lemon, and goat cheese. Light and creamy, this dish pairs well with the clean and crisp flavors of a  a good chilled white wine. Bring it all together with grated parm, fresh herbs, and more lemon wedges for serving. Feeling creative? Check out the Riffs section beneath the recipe to see how you can spin this recipe with ingredients you may already have on hand.

Creamy Pasta with Zucchini, Leeks, + Lemon

Grated zucchini cooks down with aromatic leeks and garlic until soft, and turns into a sauce with starchy pasta water, lemon, and goat cheese. It's the most luscious, delicious pasta sauce, and the perfect way to use up seasonal zucchini or squash.

Prep:
10
min
cook:
35
min
total:
45
min
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 4 small zucchini, grated
  • 1 lb dried pasta
  • 5 oz goat cheese, room temp
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more for serving
  • Few pinches chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, or chives
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Optional: crushed red chili flakes

Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter in a heavy bottomed dutch oven or large pot over medium high. Add leeks and sweat for about 5 minutes, or until soft and almost translucent, stirring occasionally. Season generously with kosher salt.
  3. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute.
  4. Add grated zucchini and cook down for about 15-20 minutes, or until its saucy, releases most of its moisture and the mixture reduces by about half. Season generously with kosher salt.
  5. When the zucchini has been cooking for a few minutes, cook the pasta just shy of al dente, as it’ll finish cooking when you toss it into the zucchini mixture.  Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water - you’ll use this for your sauce.
  6. When the zucchini has cooked down, add the cooked pasta, goat cheese, grated Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir until combined and creamy, tasting to make sure the pasta is cooked to your liking. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more pasta water to loosen up the sauce as needed.
  7. Serve with generous amounts of grated parmesan, chopped fresh herbs, cracked black pepper, and crushed red chili flakes, if desired.

Let's riff
  • The Leeks:  Sub in shallots, red onions, or yellow onions.
  • The Zucchini: Use any grated summer squash in place of zucchini.
  • The Pasta:  Short pasta with nooks and crannies are great for catching all that sauce, and longer pastas like bucatini are ideal for twirling. You can’t go wrong with any pasta shape here.
  • The Goat Cheese:  Goat cheese adds a little tang and a welcome creaminess, no cream required. Sub in ricotta if desired. If needed, omit the goat cheese entirely and up the amount of pasta water and grated parm, and mixed until creamy.
  • The Dairy-Free + Vegan Swaps: Omit the Parm and goat cheese. Top with nutritional yeast.
  • The Gluten-Free Swaps: Use gluten-free pasta. I like Eat Banza.

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Annetta Merchant
May 20, 2024
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May 9, 2024
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March 31, 2024
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March 28, 2024
Sherman Cruz
March 25, 2024
Ludie Key
March 23, 2024
Gini
March 20, 2024
Loved the soup. Croutons too much trouble. Fast in a cup!
Ray Beall
March 16, 2024
Richard
February 22, 2024
send me fruits to add with another fruit to cure disease
Deneen Medland
April 17, 2023
Kelle Trouton
April 17, 2023
Caroline
January 23, 2023
I made this same amazing salad with the following additions: I used a bed of chopped romaine hearts, and squeezed the juice of all the trimmed cara cara oranges, plus 1/2 lemon, added a drizzled of Tupelo honey on top. The herbs: chopped fennel fronds and mint. Everyone went crazy for it!
Marcus
YUM! Definitely going to pair this with a nice and funky natty white next time!
Caroline
January 23, 2023
I made this same amazing salad with the following additions: I used a bed of chopped romaine hearts, and squeezed the juice of all the trimmed cara cara oranges, plus 1/2 lemon, added a drizzled of Tupelo honey on top. The herbs: chopped fennel fronds and mint. Everyone went crazy for it!