Our Zucchini Noodles with Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce and Pesto is a great way to get your pasta fix without all the calories. We toss zucchini noodles and a little bit of whole-wheat spaghetti with sweet blistered cherry tomatoes, creamy ricotta, and a touch of parmesan cheese. We finish it off with a drizzle of pesto and serve!
Zucchini Noodles with Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce and Pesto
There really isn’t anything more summer than a bowl full of farmer’s market zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and fresh pesto.
Our Zucchini Noodles with Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce also happens to be low-carb (hi zucchini noodles and whole-wheat pasta), low in fat, and infinitely delicious. Here’s what’s happening:
We combine a scant amount of whole-wheat noodles (for fiber) with a healthy dose of zucchini noodles, a smidge of creamy ricotta and parmesan cheese, and a super easy burst cherry tomato sauce. We drizzle everything with our favorite pesto and finish it off with a little bit of sea salt. Simple and so summery.
Cherry Tomatoes. A brust cherry tomato sauce is one of my favorite way to use up all the cherry tomatoes we get in the summer. You can use whatever cherry tomatoes you can find, but I’m partial to a medley of different colors and shapes.
Garlic. A big flavor in our burst cherry tomato sauce is fresh garlic, we add a generous amount – 6 cloves. I like to slice it really thin so almost every bite has a little sliver of garlic in it.
Pasta. You could use 100% zucchini noodles, but I like to add a little bit more fiber and heft to the recipe, so we add in just a little bit of whole-wheat noodles to bulk up the dish.
Zucchini. Whoever came up with the idea of zucchini noodles should win a James Beard Award because it’s genius, and we’ll talk more later on how exactly to make zucchini and cook zucchini noodles, but I do want to note that I use about three large zucchinis for this particular recipe.
Cheese. We use a combination of whole-milk ricotta and nutty parmesan. For most recipes, I really want you guys to use whole-milk ricotta, but for this particular recipe, you can swap it our with low-fat.
Pesto. Since it’s summer, I always have a batch of our Homemade Basil Pesto on hand, but if that’s not something you keep in your fridge, your favorite store-bought pesto will work great.
How to make zucchini noodles
If you don’ have a spiralizer, these days you can usually find zucchini noodles at your local grocery store. Regardless, if make your own or not, you want to do a couple of things first. Because zucchini has quite a bit of moisture in it, when it cooks it releases a lot of liquid.
I combat the extra moisture by adding the zucchini noodles to a colander. I sprinkle them with about a teaspoon of salt and let them sit for about 10 minutes. I then transfer them to a dish towel and squeeze out any excess moisture. You want to be firm, but not aggressive.
Now you’re ready to cook!
Let’s make Zucchini Noodles with Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce
Blister the tomatoes. You don’t really need to cook the tomatoes completely, you just want them to blister and peel from the heat, so I add them to a screaming hot skillet with just a touch of olive oil and wait until they start to burst.
Boil the pasta. Once you add the tomatoes to the pan, drop the pasta into a pot of boiling water.
Cook the zucchini noodles. Zucchini noodles need virtually no time to cook, 1-2 minutes is all your need. Otherwise they will get soggy and won’t have the texture we’re looking for.
Toss together. After the zucchini cooks for a few minutes, add the cooked whole-wheat pasta, ricotta, and parmesan. Toss until everything is combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle pesto on top.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- You can easily leave out the ricotta, just burst a few more of the tomatoes for a straight-up burst Cherry tomato sauce,
- Do NOT overcook the zucchini noodles! This is so important, they really only need to cook for a few short minutes until they are a perfect replacement for pasta. If you cook them too long, they will become watery and soggy.
- Add in crushed red pepper flakes for a little bit of heat.
- Grate in a little bit of lemon zest for a hint of citrus.
- Add seared shrimp or chicken to bump up the protein.
Other healthy pastas we love
- Pasta with Chickpeas is a great way to get a lot of protein without meat. It’s packed with crispy chickpeas, spinach, and loads of garlic.
- Our Baked Cauliflower Gnocchi with Chicken Sausage is one of our favorite easy dinners. Everything is made on one sheet pan and done in less than 30 minutes.
- Another great mix of whole-wheat noodles and zucchini noodles is our Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Burrata.
- 3 medium zucchini, spiralized (or 8 cups spiralized zucchini noodles)
- 4 oz whole-wheat spaghetti (optional if you want a little more fiber)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 14 oz cherry tomatoes
- 5 large garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup basil pesto
- Large skillet
- Add zucchini noodles to a large colander. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss. Let the noodles sit while you cook the tomatoes and the pasta.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season liberally with salt. Cook the pasta until aldente.
- Heat a large skillet to a medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Once oil is hot. Add tomatoes. Toss in the oil and then let them sit for a few minutes until they start to blister. Once they start to blister, shake the pan, add the garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and let the tomatoes and garlic cook another 1-2 minutes.
- Take the zucchini noodles and place in a dry dish towel. Firmly, but not agressively squeeze out any excess moisture from the noodles. Make sure the noodles are no longer than 12 inches. If nedded, cut with kitchen shears.
- Add the zucchini noodles to the cherry tomatoes and garlic. Toss to combine. (You want some of the tomatoes to burst and expel their juice, but not all of them,) Cook for 1-2 minutes and then add whole-wheat noodles, ricotta, and parmesan cheese, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. DO NOT OVERCOOK the zucchini noodles. You want them to be slightly wilted, but still have a nice bite to them similar to aldente pasta. Transfer to serving dish and drizzle with pesto.