Pasta With Zucchini & Basil | Cook for Your Life
Spaghetti With Zucchini and Basil- cook for your life- anti-cancer recipes

Pasta With Zucchini & Basil

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4 out of 5 stars (based on 55 reviews)

Clock Icon for Prep Time 20 min prep
Person Icon for Serving Size 4 servings
Carrot Icon for Number of Ingredients Size 15 ingredients

In the late summer and early fall, zucchinis come into their own at farmers’ markets, as do juicy tomatoes and aromatic fresh herbs such as basil.

Here’s a quick, easy recipe based on the classic pomodoro... pasta. For this recipe be sure to buy the small, firm zucchini for this delicious summer pasta dinner.

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps to prevent free radicals from causing damage to our cells, which can lead to the development of chronic disease. Tomatoes are also good sources of vitamin C and vitamin K. Ramp up the fiber, vitamins, and minerals of this sauce by adding a few shredded carrots, including their peels.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound zucchini, stem and root trimmed, diced small
  • 1 cup jarred marinara sauce (or 1 cup Quick Tomato Sauce, see below)
  • 8 ounces whole wheat penne, fusilli, orecchiette or other type of short pasta
  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, to garnish (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh basil, marjoram, parsley, or thyme, chopped, to garnish (optional)
  • Pinch of salt, or to taste
  • Pinch of black pepper, or to taste

For the Quick Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 small dried red pepper, seeds removed (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Missing an Ingredient?
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Nutrition Facts


332 cals


12 g

Saturated Fat

2 g

Polyunsaturated Fat

2 g

Monounsaturated Fat

8 g


50 g


5 g


2 g


12 g


583 mg


  1. To make the tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a wok or heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer add the garlic and sauté until golden. Do not let it burn or it will become bitter. Add pepper to pan, if using. 
  2. Add the tomatoes and sauté. There will be a lot of spitting and hissing as the wet tomatoes hit the hot oil. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the tomatoes down until they are reduced by about half and have taken on a more orangey hue, after cooking for about 20 minutes. Adjust the seasoning by adding salt to taste. If the sauce looks like it's drying out too much, add a little water. Add the optional Parmesan cheese and taste for seasoning before serving. Will keep for a week in the fridge, and for up to 6 months in the freezer.
  3. To make the pasta: In a medium- to large-sized saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until it starts to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add zucchini and saute until soft. Then add tomato sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper, keeping the sauce at a lazy simmer on medium-low heat to prevent over-reducing. 
  4. Bring water for the pasta to a boil. Once boiling again, add pasta and cook until al dente, usually 1-2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time on the package. 
  5. Right before pasta is fully cooked, remove pasta with a large, slotted spoon, skimmer, or strainer basket and transfer to pan with tomato sauce. Add ¼ cup of pasta water as needed to loosen sauce slightly until it coats noodles when stirred. Add cheese and fresh herbs, if using, taste for salt and pepper, and serve.

Chef Tips

Tear delicate basil leaves into pieces instead of chopping them to bring out the oils. If you are in chemo, add them in step 4.

This recipe is the quickest, simplest way to bulk up pasta with more veggies – and, makes for a great fridge-cleaning dish. If you want to add already-cooked, unfrozen veggies, you could add them at the same time you add the tomato sauce to the pan in order and warm them through. If frozen, allow time to thaw the veggies first.

For the sauce, instead of canned tomatoes, you could use 1½ pounds of ripe plum or beefsteak tomatoes, coarsely chopped.

Meal Prep Tip: Make the tomato sauce ahead of time to have it on hand for this recipe and other pasta dishes. The sauce freezes well, so consider making a double batch and freezing the extra for later use.

Registered Dietitian Approved

Our recipes, articles, and videos are reviewed by our oncology-trained dietitians to ensure that each is backed with scientific evidence and follows the guidelines set by the Oncology Nutrition for Clinical Practice, 2nd Ed., published by the Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, a professional interest group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Society