This is hands down one of the best-tasting garden-fresh pasta recipes to cook right now. In fact, it’s so delicious we ate it for lunch four times last week. All you need is a little extra virgin olive oil, garlic, shallots (or onion), zucchini, and a variety of vine-ripened Italian tomatoes for the sauce. We used a combination of Pera d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo Pear), Cuore di Bue (Ox Heart), Cornabel San Marzano, and baby Datterini grape tomatoes), but any variety of sweet homegrown or farmer’s market tomatoes will work.
We currently have abundant tomatoes and zucchini coming out of the garden which makes fresh vegetable pasta easy to prepare. It’s already a healthy vegan pasta, but we’ve made it super “summer healthy” by using whole wheat pasta and just 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil for two adult servings. But feel free to use your favorite pasta and increase the olive oil to a full tablespoon if you want.
What Types of Tomato Varieties Make the Best Homemade Pasta Sauce?
Growing your own tomatoes for pasta sauce is easy and rewarding. If you’re fortunate enough to have space to grow a vegetable garden (even if it’s just a sunny balcony or window box) you’re lucky. Planting seeds (or starter plants), watching them sprout up, caring for them through harvest time, and then eating them is one of the single most exciting and fulfilling things to do.
If you’re serious about making homemade tomato-based sauces, you’ll need to choose what kind of tomatoes you’ll grow. I’ve outlined three of our favorite Italian tomato varieties that produce intensely sweet and naturally robust sauces (pictured in the garden above). These tomatoes are comprised of less water, more meaty flesh, and have low acidity making them a perfect choice for making homemade pasta sauce and tomato paste. You can look for these tomato seeds online (or from a savvy local nursery). Once you’ve grown your own tomatoes the first year, you can harvest and save seeds to be used the following year.
- Pera D’Abruzzo (Abruzzo Pear). This tomato has a shape similar to a pear (hence the name). It has a high sugar content with medium acidity, few seeds, and dense pulp (flesh) making it especially great both for eating fresh and for canning and preserving. L’s mom and dad are both originally from the Abruzzo region of Italy where this tomato comes from and it makes excellent tomato sauce. We travel to Abruzzo yearly to buy locally-canned tomato passata, and whole tomatoes for the year. These tomatoes are full of intense tomato flavor and have received the “Excellenza Regionale” (Regional Excellence) stamp of approval.
- Cuore di Bue (Italian Ox Heart). This tomato is meaty, has few seeds, is low in acid, and is classified as an heirloom beefsteak variety. These are some of the largest tomatoes grown in Italy, and can easily grow to be the size of a softball and weigh up to a pound (500g) each (and even up to 3 pounds isn’t unheard of). They’re perfect for eating and making sauces. You’ll most often find them for sale in the grocery stores here starting when they’re still light green and somewhat pink, but miraculously full of bright tomato flavor. They’re tasty in salads or homemade sauces.
- Cornabel San Marzano Gigante (or any San Marzano variety). This long oval, pointy bell-shaped San Marzano tomato has very few seeds, is low in acidity, and is sweet and delicious. I’ve grown them in window box planters and in a real garden plot and they do well in either situation, but they grow larger when planted in a plot of land. They’re sweet and bright making them perfect for salads or for making sauces.
Why We Love This Summer Garden Pasta
- It’s crazy delicious and only uses 6 ingredients
- It’s ready in 30 minutes or less
- It’s super healthy
- A great way to get kiddos to eat more veggies
- And inexpensive pasta to make
- A perfect way to use up abundant homegrown zucchini and tomatoes
Italian Summer Garden Spaghetti w/Zucchini & Fresh Tomato Sauce Ingredients
It’s hard to believe how good this pasta sauce is given there are only five ingredients (6 if you count salt). This is owed to using the highest quality of each of them which will ensure the tastiest outcome. This is simple Italian cooking at its best.
- whole wheat spaghetti pasta (sub your favorite pasta)
- homegrown Italian tomatoes (sub other garden-fresh variety)
- extra virgin olive oil
- garlic clove
- shallot (sub onion)
How to Make Spaghetti w/Zucchini & Fresh Tomato Sauce
Feel free to make this sauce one or two days in advance for even easier weeknight dinners or dinner parties. You can also portion and freeze it if you have an abundance of tomatoes or zucchini you need to use up.
- Remove the skins from the tomatoes. Score the tomatoes and drop them into boiling water and allow them to blanch for a minute or two, or just until the skin starts to curl away from the flesh. Remove the tomatoes to a bowl and when cool enough, remove the skins (and save for vegetable stock, or discard). Coarsely chop or squeeze the cooled tomatoes with your hands to gently crush them. Set aside.
- Sauté the garlic and shallots. Add the olive oil, garlic, and shallots to a medium-sized skillet and sauté over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant and blistered and the shallots are just starting to turn golden brown.
- Sauté the zucchini. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the sliced zucchini and sauté until golden brown tossing everything occasionally, about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt to taste, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook for about 7 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and slightly reduced. Remove the lid and continue cooking over medium to medium-high heat stirring occasionally to allow the sauce to reduce even further while you boil the pasta. Turn off the heat when your sauce has thickened and most of the liquid is gone. The sauce should be a bit shiny at this point (see step-by-step photos).
- Cook the pasta. Add the pasta to boiling salted water and cook to al dente or desired doneness. Two or 3 minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, turn the heat back on the skillet with the sauce, remove about 1/4 cup of starchy pasta cooking water and add it directly to the sauce and stir to combine. Cook just until the sauce turns glossy and has absorbed the starchy water. Adjust seasonings if necessary, strain the pasta noodles and add them directly to the sauce and toss quickly to coat the noodles, serve immediately with grated cheese if desired, Enjoy!
Spaghetti w/Zucchini & Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce step-by-step recipe photos
Dishes to Serve with Zucchini & Fresh Tomato Pasta
If you’re looking for other dishes or desserts to complete your pasta dinner, below are a few of our favorite starters, sides, and sweet endings for inspiration.
- Mozzarella-Parmesan Butter garlic toast
- Diver Scallops au Gratin (Capesante Gratinate)
- Summer Starburst Vinaigrette with salad greens
- White Chocolate Creme Brûlée Cheesecake w/Biscoff Cookie Crust
Looking For More Pasta Recipes?
If you’re looking for other delicious pasta dinners, below are a few of our favorites. Some are super quick and easy while others take a little more time to pull off.
- Italian Prosciutto Cotto and Mozzarella Lasagna
- Anniversary Pasta (Spicy Shrimp Tomato-Alfredo Sauce w/Rigatoni)
- How to Make Venetian Duck Ragù w/Bigoli Pasta (Bigoli al Ragù d’Anatra)
- Asparagus & Ham Lasagna (w/Asparagus Bechamel)
- Classic Lasagna Bolognese (authentic Italian recipe)
- Radiatore Pasta with Sautéed Zucchini + Corn
- Shrimp Fettuccini Alfredo Pasta Recipe (w/Parmigiano Cream Sauce)
- Baked Ziti with Ragù (from Scratch)
- 15-Minute Shrimp Pasta w/Garganelli (the Italian Way)
- Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Cook Pasta Like A Roman)
- Tagliatelle al Ragù (Northern Italian Beef Ragù w/Pasta)
- Cajun Style Royal Red Shrimp Pasta for One (or a crowd)
- Triple Shrimp Trighetto Pasta (Creamy Shrimp Pasta)
- Mediterranean Pigtail Pasta Salad with Shrimp (Featuring Sautéed Vegetables + Fresh Mozzarella)
- Italian Langoustine Shrimp Scampi w/Rigatoni Pasta (Mezze Maniche agli Scampi)
- Italian Duck Ragù w/Pappardelle Pasta (Pappardelle al Ragù d’Anatra)
- Abruzzese Almost-Bolognese (Lasagna al Ragù w/Porcini Béchamel)