December 8, 2022

Canadiannpizza

Cooking Is My World

Summer Pasta – Chelsea’s Messy Apron


Dinner

Dinner

This easy Summer Pasta is light and fresh-tasting with loads of summer produce — cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini, baby spinach, and red peppers. We toss the veggies in a light cream sauce with spaghetti and ground Italian sausage for a restaurant-quality meal right in your home!

Next time, try one of our refreshing summer pasta salads like this Mediterranean Pasta Salad, Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad, Italian Pasta Salad, or Greek Pasta Salad.

Overhead image of Summer Pasta

 Summer Pasta Recipe

This pasta recipe is brimming with flavor and good summer produce — crisp corn, roasted red peppers, shredded zucchini, baby spinach, and sweet cherry tomatoes. The cream sauce is light and fresh-tasting while still delivering a restaurant-quality feel. The sauce is a lot lighter than most pasta recipes because we use the liquid from the tomatoes and zucchini to contribute a good amount of sauciness instead of solely relying on cream and butter.

Process shots-- images of sausage being cooked

Summer Pasta Ingredients

Some of the ingredients in this dish are worth diving deeper into:

  • Mild Italian sausage: Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage — either works and both are delicious. Make sure to remove the casings before cooking
  • Corn. We tested this recipe with both frozen and fresh sweet corn — either works great. For fresh corn, you can boil or grill it before cutting off the kernels if preferred. We like the corn to retain its crispness, so we just cut it off and add it in uncooked!
  • Cherry tomatoes. We love the sweetness and juiciness of cherry tomatoes — this type of tomato is a must for the Summer Pasta sauce!
  • Roasted red pepper strips. To save loads of time roasting peppers, you can buy pre-roasted (and chopped/sliced) pepper strips. You can find these roasted red pepper strips near canned pasta sauces, jarred pesto, or near ingredients like artichoke hearts.
  • Parmesan cheese: For the perfect melt and to ensure the measurement is accurate (so the dish isn’t too salty), use a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it on the small holes of your cheese grater. Measure and add!
  • Heavy cream. We don’t recommend swapping out the heavy cream. There isn’t a lot, but the small amount pulls everything together, adding such an incredible richness and thickness — it’s a key ingredient to making the best summer pasta! Half and half/milk/other substitutes simply won’t thicken the same.
  • Basil. While optional, the basil at the end adds an immense flavor and freshness to this dish. 

Process shots of Summer Pasta-- images of all the veggies being added to the pan and then it all being sautéed, then cream and cheese being added.

How To Make Summer Pasta With Zucchini

Here are our top tips for this Summer Pasta recipe:

  • Salt the pasta water: Make sure the pasta is well salted as it cooks, since salting the water is the only chance you have to season the actual spaghetti. 
  • It’s easy to go on autopilot and dump in the whole package of spaghetti, but this Summer Pasta is perfect with 8 ounces (there won’t be enough sauce to cover 16 ounces). Many packages contain 16 ounces, so save the other half to make this dish again some other time!
  • Increase the sauce as desired: Sometimes the pasta absorbs more sauce or you just want an extra saucy meal, so don’t be afraid to add in a few splashes of the reserved pasta water until the sauce is exactly how you like it!

QUICK TIP

Do you struggle to remember to pull out pasta water before draining the pasta? I know I do! Here’s a trick: Place the colander in the sink with a mug or heat-safe measuring cup in the center. When you go to drain the pasta, you’ll be reminded to pull out some water first!

Process shots-- images of the spinach, sausage, and pasta being added to the pan

STORAGE

Summer Pasta Storage

This recipe is best enjoyed the minute the sauce is emulsified. In fact, this is when all Italian-type pasta dishes taste their best!

You can certainly store leftover summer pasta, but you’ll likely need to add some more heavy cream to loosen the sauce again as you reheat the pasta. Leftover pasta will be softer, but still plenty flavorful. Because of the pasta and dairy in this dish, it isn’t a great candidate for freezing and thawing.

Overhead image of Summer Pasta

More Summer-Inspired Dishes:

Summer Pasta

This easy Summer Pasta is light and fresh tasting with loads of summer produce — cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini, baby spinach, and roasted red peppers. We toss the veggies in a light cream sauce with spaghetti and ground Italian sausage for a restaurant-quality meal made at home!

Summer Pasta

This easy Summer Pasta is light and fresh tasting with loads of summer produce — cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini, baby spinach, and roasted red peppers. We toss the veggies in a light cream sauce with spaghetti and ground Italian sausage for a restaurant-quality meal made at home!

Instructions

  • PREP: Cut cherry tomatoes in half (or quarters if large). Chop spinach coarsely. If using fresh corn, shuck it and then cut off the cob. Drain red pepper strips and give a quick coarse chop. Grate zucchini on the large holes of a grater. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

  • SAUSAGE: Heat a large cast-iron skillet/pot (big enough to hold all the pasta later) over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add sausage and cook, breaking apart until browned, about 6-8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove sausage to a paper-towel-lined bowl. If there is an excess of grease (more than 2 tbsp), drain some off.

  • VEGGIES: To the center of the pan, add 2 tbsp. butter, halved cherry tomatoes, corn, red peppers, zucchini and 1 tbsp minced garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I add 3/4 tsp of each, but add to preference). Add in 1-1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning. Sauté, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes or until most of the excess liquid has evaporated.

  • PASTA: Once water is boiling, generously salt the water — I add 2 tsp salt. (Heads-up: remember to save some pasta water–See Note 5.) Cook the pasta according to package instructions–minus 1 minute from what the package indicates. Drain.

  • FINISHING: Back to the sauce: reduce heat to low and add 1/2 cup cream, and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Stir. Bring to a low simmer and simmer until thickened and cheese is melted, about 1-2 minutes. Next add 4 cups chopped spinach, the cooked sausage, drained cooked pasta, and a squeeze of lemon (if using). Switch to tongs. Tossing constantly, gradually add in the last 1/3 cup Parmesan, a tablespoon at a time, until pasta and sauce are nicely emulsified (Note 6). Add an extra splash of cream or reserved pasta water (if needed) to thin the sauce. Toss until creamy and the sauce coats the pasta. Taste, adding extra salt/pepper if needed. Top individual plates with additional grated Parmesan and basil (add to taste) if desired. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Mild Italian Sausage: Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage — either works and both are delicious. Make sure to remove the casings before cooking. 8 oz. is half of a standard 16-ounce package (or use half of a 19-ounce package for a slightly meatier sauce).
Note 2: Spaghetti: Make sure to only use 8 ounces (this is half of a standard 1 pound/16 ounce package). There isn’t enough sauce to coat all 16 ounces of pasta.
Note 3: Corn: We tested this dish with both frozen and fresh sweet corn — either works great. For fresh corn, you can boil or grill it before cutting off the kernels if preferred. We like the corn to retain more crispness so we just cut it off the cob and add it in!
Note 4: Parmesan cheese: Use a block of Parmesan and grate it on the small holes of a grater. Alternatively, use finely grated Parmesan cheese. (Parmesan from the can will be too salty and won’t melt into the sauce nicely.)
Note 5: Saving pasta water: We want to save some pasta water to thicken the sauce. Here’s a trick to remember: set a large colander in the sink with a glass or ceramic mug in the center of the colander. When you drain the pasta, you’ll see the mug and be reminded to fill it first.
Note 6: Emulsifying: Toss until you get the sauce clings to the spaghetti instead of falling to the bottom of the pan. (The final step of tossing the cream sauce, hot pasta, and reserved pasta water is one of the secrets to good pasta dishes. It’s called emulsifying and that’s how you get a luxuriously smooth and incredibly flavorful sauce.)

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 654kcal | Carbohydrates: 56.1g | Protein: 24.1g | Fat: 37.7g | Cholesterol: 84.8mg | Sodium: 680.5mg | Fiber: 4.6g | Sugar: 7g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.