Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest Recipe

Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest

Our spring has been so warm and sunny for so many weeks, it feels like we’re living a perpetual July.

Although this is terrible news for farmers, who need a wet spring for their crop, Parisians have been enjoying this gift of a weather obliviously. Drinks and meals out on sidewalk terraces have become a daily pleasure, as have light dresses and strappy sandals.

Produce stalls bear witness to this meteorological oddity as well: we already have darkly sweet cherries and, to my delight, French-grown organic zucchini, when neither normally appear so soon.

This bowl of pasta is the first thing I cooked with the first zucchini I bought: I tossed spelt fusilli with zucchini half-moons sautéed with garlic, and added chopped almonds and fine strips of lemon zest.

A simple dish that sings with bright flavors and wholesome nutrition, both of which are much needed when your own kitchen and living room are a chaos of rubble and dust with wires coming out of the walls.

It’s a simple dish, one that can be put together in under twenty minutes while listening to the radio in a kitchen that’s not yours but that you’re growing fond of. A simple dish, yes, but one that sings with bright flavors and wholesome nutrition, both of which are much needed when your own kitchen and living room are a chaos of rubble and dust with wires coming out of the walls.

The combination of zucchini, almonds, and lemon zest is one I’d never had, or thought of before: it was a happy case of improvisation gone right, drawing on ingredients from my temporary pantry. But the trio is a solid one, the almonds bringing a sweet crunch, the lemon zest an aromatic punch. I like it so much I’ve made the dish twice more since that inaugural time.

As you’ll see in the recipe below, I use a small energy-saving tip to cook my pasta: I bring water to a boil, add the pasta, cover, and turn off the heat. I then cook the pasta in that near-boiling water for as long as I would if the water were actually boiling. I know it is hard to believe, and it may even seem a little sacrilegious, but the pasta comes out perfectly al dente*. This method is actually more forgiving — if you leave the pasta in the water a moment too long it still tastes fine — and it saves a few minutes’ worth of energy.

* Note that I’ve successfully tested this on two kinds of electric stoves that do remain hot for a little while after you’ve turned them off. You may have to cook your pasta the classical way if you’re using an induction or gas stove.

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Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Serves 2.

Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest Recipe


  • 200 grams (7 ounces) short pasta; I use spelt fusilli
  • olive oil for cooking (i.e. a cheap one)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 medium zucchini, about 600 grams (1 1/3 pounds), sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 scant teaspoon harissa, or other garlic chili sauce
  • 40 grams (1/4 cup) skin-on almonds, roughly chopped
  • the zest of 1 organic lemon, cut into fine strips (I use a zester such as this one)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice from that same lemon
  • a good finishing olive oil (i.e. a good one that would be wasted if cooked)
  • fine sea salt, freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the pasta, give it a stir, cover, and turn off the heat. Cook until al dente, for however minutes is recommended on the package; the water is hot enough to cook the pasta as quickly as if the water was still boiling. (This doesn't work on all types of stoves ; see caveat above.)
  2. While the water is heating for the pasta, start cooking the zucchini. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, until lightly golden. Add the zucchini and harissa, sprinkle with a little salt, and stir well to combine.
  3. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the zucchini is softened and golden in places. Add the almonds, stir, and cook for 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat but keep warm.
  4. A few minutes before the pasta is cooked, ladle out a little of the hot water and pour into 2 pasta bowls; this will preheat them and ensure the pasta doesn't get cold too fast as you eat. (Don't forget to pour out the water before serving the pasta.)
  5. When the pasta is cooked, drain, add to the skillet, and place over low heat. Add the lemon zest, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and a glug of finishing oil. Toss to combine and divide between the two bowls. Grind some pepper on top and serve.
  • Love it when fresh produce come into season (despite the ominous global warming issue). Definitely going to try this soon. Always love quick and easy!

  • Gorgeous – I cook this kind of pasta dish all the time and it’s so delicious (although I’ve never added almonds, lovely idea!). If you ever get zucchini blossoms those are another really lovely thing to add for more of an oozing sauce.

  • Sounds delicious — a light and lovely spring dish! Lemon zest just perks anything up, doesn’t it?

  • How fun! Chocolate and Zucchini presents: Zucchini Pasta :D this looks and sounds delicious. Happy Tuesday!

  • Sounds beautiful – have used courgettes before but drowned them in tomato sauce… going to give this ‘Spring’ version a go next time I’m cooking with courgettes.

    As always, lovely post…
    Shilpa x

  • Finally, someone cooks pasta the same way as I do!! I always feel too guilty to admit I cook pasta with the lid on, heat off because I don’t think it’s a proper way to cook the noodle, though it always turns out good. I am so glad we share the same thoughts!!

  • I have some baby zucchini in the fridge who are eagerly awaiting this treatment!

    What a good tip about the pasta too – I’ll have to try it!

  • I love a flavorful, bright pasta dish and this sounds terrific! And the inclusion of harissa is a stroke of genius.

  • Today is the first day in a long time that the sun is shining here in Boston. Most of this spring has been chilly with a constant drizzle. The plants are happy but us human-folks, not so much. Love the energy-saving pasta-cooking tip. Isn’t there just something so nice about the combination of zucchini and almonds?

  • So yummy sounding! Now I’ll have to go back to the store!

  • This looks amazingly delicious and simple. I have all the ingredients on hand, so I’m definitely making it, and soon!

  • Sheila

    I use the same technique to boil eggs. And yes, they come out just the way I want my hard boiled eggs to come out – cooked but not dry.

  • pam

    did you see this on smitten kitchen last year? i must have made it four times last summer.

    • No, I didn’t! If you have a link, I’d be curious to see Deb’s version.

      • I believe Pam is referring to this recipe. It’s done as a salad, and is extremely delicious. I make it whenever I feel like having pasta salad.

        Your version looks lovely as well, I would never have thought of using chili with the zucchini and can’t wait to try it.

      • pam

        here you go! mine always had plenty of basil and feta.

      • Thank you both for the link!

  • Liz Thomas

    Right, that’s tonight fixed. I’m tempted to add a touch of mint!

    It sounds lovely and I’m off to the shop for almonds now.


    • Let us know how it turns out! I would normally have added fresh herbs, too, but didn’t have them on hand. I’d probably go with flat-leaf parsley, but mint (a touch, as you suggest) sounds lovely.

      • Liz Thomas

        This was delicious — didn’t have harissa so added just a few chilli flakes.. “Hint of Mint” and a little flat leaf parsley. It was really, really, good. Definitely a keeper.

        Only thing was that my courgettes disintergrated somewhat but I think that is because the Chinese grown ones we get here are the pale green version (I think Middle Eastern in origin) and they are not as firm as the dark green ones. The Chinese call them “Jade Melons” which is rather charming!

        The pasta cooking tip doesn’t work with my gas cooker. I had to drain it off, then cook again in boiling water from the kettle. I can see how it would work with an electric hob though with the surface staying hot.

        • Thanks so much for reporting back, Liz! I’ve clarified the method to say it works on electric (non induction) stoves.

  • Interesting tip, I’m going to try it! Glad to see you’re still whipping up good food despite being in a temporary kitchen – we’ve had a super warm spring too which I’m glad of since I need to catch as much sun as possible before I head into Southern hemisphere winter but I do feel bad for the farmers.

  • I used the same ingredients for make a zucchini rissoto with plenty butter, but next time i will try with pasta, will be more healthy, but just using 60g pasta /serve

  • I might put an Italian spin on it by adding some fresh basil, and substituting pignola nuts/pine nuts for the almonds. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Huh, that is interesting – had heard to do the turn off heat thing when making hard boiled eggs but never pasta. Will have to try it.

  • This sounds like a winning combination.
    Cougettes are plentiful and I have garlic growing in the garden. I just need to find a good supply of almonds to replace the sometimes dry and potentially tooth hazardous specimens that sometimes come out of our supermarkets.

  • I admit, cooking pasta that way does seem a bit sacrilegious, but I’m now the not-so-proud owner of an electric stove for the first time in my life (I can’t stand it) so I’m willing to give it a shot! Do you stir at all? How does the pasta not clump together?

    Also, great recipe. I love light pasta dishes like this for spring. The ground almonds sound like a great addition.

    • You just stir the pasta once after you’ve added it to the water, possibly a second time halfway through if you feel worried, but I’ve read (in Ideas in Food I think) that the initial stir is enough to prevent clumping.

  • Rachel

    Pasta with zucchini, lemon and pine nuts is one of my late spring/early summer standbys, but having recently had a bad experience with some rancid pine nuts (they make everything you eat taste bitter for several days after – ugh!) I’m very happy to have an alternative. I may try this with a bit of basil or mint.

    • Sorry you had to suffer from the pinenut mouth syndrome — I only buy organic pinenuts from Italy now (though very infrequently because they’re pricy!), and won’t touch one of unknown origin.

  • Such a lovely and simple salad!

    • Thanks, Gena! I actually eat it as a hot pasta dish, but it would be lovely as a salad, too.

  • Wonderful!!

    It gives flavor to the cooked pasta!
    I also cook that way sometimes.
    Love your Blog!
    I’m from Brazil and have a dessert blog.


  • It does sound like an unusual combination.Sounds like something to try.

  • What a fantastic combo and a perfect mid- week dinner! Love your blog.

  • Pascale

    Made in Belgium yesterday ! Was delicious ! I only added a red mullet filet on top of each portion. It is a good combination because of the lemon. Definitely a keeper …

  • Beautifully fresh,simple, healthy and tasty!

    Thanks for the post :)

  • Clotilde, I made a pasta last week with similar flavor, but I shaved the zucchini in large ribbons (lengthwise), and served with pappardelle pasta, it turned out so good, the shape of the zucchini kind of echoed that of the pasta

    unfortunately, my pictures turned out pathetic, so no blog. :-(

    anyway, zucchini and pasta is a perfect combination! Next time I’ll add almonds to mine as you did

    • I love papardelle, and even without pics, I can imagine how good this must have been. :)

  • The recipe sounds lovely, but I am really excited about your pasta cooking tip. Who knew?!

  • That was superb! I must admit I added a few anchovies, as I just had my mouth set for their saltiness (and I love pasta with anchovies, garlic, chilli and broccoli, so reckoned it would work). It was a warm evening, so we sat outside to eat it – felt like a mini-holiday.

    • The anchovy addition sounds lovely, Mary! As does your broccoli pasta. Have you perhaps posted the recipe for that on your blog?

  • Elizabeth

    Just made zucchini pasta receipe, fabulous.
    The lemon adds a bit of magic.
    We are in Sydney Australia and were in Paris in April. We miss the lifestyle very much. Thank you for your receipe.
    We ate many days at Pousse Pousse and thought we were in heaven.

    • I’m so glad you liked this recipe, Elizabeth, and also that you had such a great time in Paris!

  • How lovely! I’ve been making tri-colored fusilli pasta with lemon-infused olive oil and broccoli at least twice a week for about a month now. I love zucchini and I never thought about adding almonds. This is a great twist. I will definitely be making this within the week!

  • I have just cooked this and it was HEAVENLY! Thanks so much for the recipe. I didn’t have any harissa paste but instead ground coriander with caraway and cumin and mixed that with powdered chipotle. The lemon flavour combines so well with the harissa spices and also I like the contrast of textures. I have put photos and written a little about it on my blog.

    • I’m glad you had good success with this recipe, Tessa, thanks for featuring it on your blog!

  • SO GOOD. I could have eaten the entire thing, but I decided to go ahead and share the yumminess with my husband. I will definitely be having this again…SOON!

    • I’m so glad, Brooke! (And I commend you for your generous, sharing spirit. :)

  • I was debating on what to make for dinner tonight when I stumbled across this recipe. It sounds delish, and I have all the ingredients on hand. Yay for happy accidents!

  • Fa Ruce

    What a great tip! Let’s all do small energy savings! I’m at your side!

  • Sounds delicious!

  • The energy saving tip is great. I now do that whenever I cook pasta. Thanks for sharing!

  • jon miller

    I love zucchini and I never thought about adding almonds. This is a
    great twist. I will definitely be making this within the week.

  • html color

    i dont think that i can make it like this anyway in my lifetime :( it is saddening but i will do try all my best. thank you for teaching.
    html color

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