Pasta with Zucchini & Onion

My friend, Italian-wine aficionado Ciro Pirone, recently posted a photo of pasta with zucchini on his informative Twitter feed @Vinofilosofia. It looked so appetizing that I asked him for the recipe. His response: “Senza ricetta…tutto ad occhio (No recipe, all by eye.) I sauté a little onion and then add thinly sliced zucchini, salt and pepper, and cook low, covered; halfway I add half a glass of water and let cook till they fall apart. Toss in the pasta and some parmigiano!”

So last night, I decided to have a go at preparing this dish, which my research revealed to be quite popular in Italy, with many variations, including some with beaten eggs like a carbonara and others with diced pancetta.

What appealed to me most about Ciro’s recipe, however, was its simplicity: just a few ingredients (4), a few minutes of prep work (5), and relatively simple cooking (sauté, simmer, and toss). As Ina Garten might say: “How easy is that?”

The only variations I made from the original recipe was adding a little wine after sautéing the zucchini, substituting Pecorino Romano for the Parmigiano, and garnishing with a sprinkle of parsley. And perhaps next summer, when they are available, I’ll add some chopped zucchini blossoms to the sauté.

From start to finish, it took approximately 45 minutes to prepare this tasty pasta, with its silky sauce of sweet onion and grassy zucchini. The perfect vegetarian dish for meatless Mondays, which, by the way, is one of our New Year’s resolutions.

As this is our last post of the year, let me take this opportunity to send, from our table to yours, our wishes for a happy and peaceful New Year.

Pasta with Zucchini and Onion



3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise and then sliced into thin half moons (see photo below)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano
Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped, optional
8 ounces short pasta,, such as casarecce, penne, fusilli

Sliced zucchini & diced onion


1. In a large sauté pan, sauté the onions with a little salt over medium heat, until soft and translucent, not letting them color. About 7 minutes.

Starting onions
Softened onions

2. Add the zucchini, a little salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. About 7 minutes.

Adding zucchini
Softened zucchini

3. Add the wine, raise the heat a little, and cook for about 1 minute.

Cooking off wine
Adding some water

4. Cover and reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, adding about 1/4-cup of water after the first 5 minutes.

Finished cooking

5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions until about 2 minutes shy of al dente.

6. When done, add the pasta to the sauce, toss, and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes. If necessary, add a little pasta water to loosen the sauce.

Adding pasta

7. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, reserving some to serve at the table.

Adding cheese

8. If you wish, sprinkle with some parsley.

Adding parsley
Tossed and done

9. Transfer to warmed pasta bowls and serve with additional cheese.

Plated pasta

Wine Pairing: Verdicchio, Falanghina, Sauvignon Blanc


9 thoughts on “Pasta with Zucchini and Onion

  1. Roland, I sometimes read your blog not because I am looking for recipes (although I do that often enough!), but because I am looking for Roland. It is wonderful to imagine you are here in our house, making one of your magical meals and teaching your avid student (me) at the same time. Happy New Year to you both. We will send you the tail end of 2019 when we are through with it here on the East Coast!

    1. Thanks so much, Martha. I miss you guys as well and remember so many dinners both in Cambridge and DC. Ou sont les neiges… Our wishes for a happy and peaceful new year.

  2. No recipe, all by eye — Ha! So great. That’s just how all great old recipes are. Last week on Christmas Eve, Tricia wanted to make a traditional Slovak nut roll that both of our grandmothers made while we were growing up. So we trudged down to our storage crates and dug out 3 of her grandmother’s old cook books. Oh the fun looking through those. All of from produced by her church’s ladies groups that included everyone’s best recipe. And they too included directions like “a handful of flour” or “enough sugar”. But the nut rolls still turned out amazing. So just the fact that this recipe is “No recipe, all by eye” is enough for me.

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