Zucchini and Pasta with Fresh Ricotta and Basil Pesto

5 from 5 votes

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Zucchini and Pasta with Fresh Ricotta and Basil Pesto represents the pinnacle of summer fare. While using all fresh ingredients, from farmers market produce to homemade ricotta cheese, this ranks as one of this summer’s best meals.

A bowl of pasta
Zucchini and Pasta with Fresh Ricotta and Basil Pesto Recipe from Platter Talk

We are in love with summer.  For one thing, there are few places more pleasant than finding yourself surrounded by  the green rolling pastures of Wisconsin in mid-August. Furthermore and most relevant to our purpose here, it’s not just the most beautiful time of the year here, it is also the most delicious.

What is it?

a mortar with basil

It isn’t simply the summer food and weather that we love in Wisconsin.  It is living and breathing the season that we cherish but most of all experiencing it. Bike rides down quiet country roads while watching the corn grow on a daily basis, and swimming in the cool spring-fed lakes. For those of us who live here, these are all obviously rights of summer passage in Wisconsin.

In our family there is yet one more big part of summer here in Wisconsin. It seems like each weekend finds us at our favorite farmers market. Every. Single. Saturday. In Wisconsin,  everyone has their favorite place to eat fish on Fridays. And by the same token everyone has their favorite farmers market.

Our favorite farmers market is in the small summer town of Elkhart Lake, just a stone’s throw from our quite weekend cottage oasis, thus making it an enjoyable convenience. This farmers market is a place where we have come to know people. A place where we always bring the kids. And a one-horse town where we can grab lunch and a glass of wine in the afternoon. It is Nirvāṇa to our family and consequently an integral part of our weekend life.

What’s in this?

As you may have guessed, the fresh produce for this Zucchini and Pasta with Fresh Ricotta and Basil Pesto all came from this farmers market and in addition it includes:

  • Zucchini, yellow and green
  • Fresh basil
  • Hardneck garlc
    • This garlic has a firmer neck (stalk) than the softneck garlic often found in supermarkets.
    • Unlike the softneck variety, hardneck peels easier.
    • This  garlic carries flavor nuances indigenous of the soil in which it grew, similar to wine.
    • Hardneck garlic has a shorter of just 3 to 4 months, so enjoy it early!

You may have also picked up by the title of this Zucchini and Pasta with Fresh Ricotta and Basil Pesto, the produce is not the only fresh component to this dish.

a pan of ricotta cheese
Our Ricotta Cheese from Scratch. Make this and amaze yourself.

A week or so ago we showed you how to make this Ricotta Cheese from Scratch.  Nothing could have complimented today’s recipe any more completely, because of its freshness and due to its light, creamy  character.

a bunch of food in a skillet with fresh basil
This dish finishes in one of our favorite cooking vessels: the timeless cast iron skillet.

Cooking tips

We enjoyed this  Zucchini and Pasta with Fresh Ricotta and Basil Pesto so much that we made it twice within a week. In doing so, we learned a thing or two about this recipe that I want to pass on.

  • More isn’t always better. Due to their moisture content, don’t overdo it with the vegetables. A couple of small zucchini are sufficient. Certainly no more than a pound of it. Too much zucchini adds an overabundance of water to the dish.
  • Size doesn’t always matter, therefore stick to smaller and thinner slices of the zucchini. It sears faster, is firmer, and finally, it is less watery.
  • As always fresh is always best. Consequently, we preferred the version of this dish that uses ricotta made on that day (assuming you’re going to make your own – c’mon, you know you want to try this!) Ricotta dries out a bit with time and because of this the fresh stuff lends a creaminess that everyone went gaga over.
  • Rather than soft and lightly cooked, we preferred the sautéd onion and zucchini with a little brown on their edges. In addition to the added color, this gives a nice texture and a bit of a sweeter finish.
  • Finally, use the leftover whey to add moisture to the dish if necessary. As a result, you’ll be amazed at the flavor that it adds.
A bowl of food
Fresh cherry tomatoes are a great option for this dish. We can’t imagine why you wouldn’t add them.

Although we left them off the above list of ingredients, you likely noticed we threw in a couple of cherry tomatoes for some added color and flavor. And yes, they most certainly came from our little bucolic farmers market as well.

A jar of tomatoes marinating with basil
Don’t miss our Marinated Farmers Market Tomatoes Recipe; it’s all fresh and all summer.

Taste the Summer

Every summer it seems that I designate a favorite meal or two, probably because summer is my favorite season. This Zucchini and Pasta with Fresh Ricotta and Basil Pesto handily won this distinction for 2016 and hence we have another great farmer market recipe for you. We hope you will make it and also feel certain you will love it.  I close this post by wishing you only the best of summer and also thank you for reading Platter Talk. It means the world to us.  -Dan

A bunch of pasta in bowls
Summer Zucchini, Fresh Ricotta & Basil Pesto Over Pasta



Other delicious pasta recipes

Summer Zucchini, Fresh Ricotta & Basil Pesto Over Pasta

5 from 5 votes
Adapted from the New York Times
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings


  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 pounds zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces.
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 ounce basil, about 2 cups loose leaves
  • 1 pound ziti or other dry pasta
  • 8 ounces ricotta, about 1 cup (See recipe)
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan, pecorino or a mixture, about 1 cup, plus more for serving
  • i small handful cherry tomatoes, optional


  • Put a pot of water on to boil because you'll want to get that going while you work on the other steps. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the onions and zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, stirring frequently until lightly browned and caramelized. Gently fold in optional cherry tomatoes and finally, turn off heat.
  • Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle to pound garlic, basil and a little salt into a rough paste (or use a mini food processor). Stir in 3 tablespoons olive oil.
  • Add pasta to the boiling water and boil per package instructions but make sure to keep pasta quite al dente. Drain pasta,while reserving 1 cup of cooking water.
  • Add cooked pasta to zucchini in skillet and also turn heat to medium-high. Add 1/2 cup cooking water (or preferably, reserved whey from ricotta), then the ricotta, crushed red pepper and lemon zest, stirring to distribute. Check seasoning while adjusting if needed. Cook for 1 minute more. Mixture should finally look creamy. Add a little more pasta water or whey if necessary while using caution not to add too much liquid. Add the basil paste and also half the grated cheese. Quickly stir to incorporate. Spoon pasta into warm soup plates and finally sprinkle with additional cheese. Serve immediately.


Calories: 411kcal, Carbohydrates: 63g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 28mg, Sodium: 237mg, Potassium: 466mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 663IU, Vitamin C: 16mg, Calcium: 227mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Tried this recipe?Mention @plattertalk or tag #plattertalk!

Have a taste of a couple of our other, Best of Summer Meals , from previous years.

A plate of food with cheese melted over it
Chicken Meatball Sub Casserole
A wooden spoon and roasted eggplant
Sweet and Savory Grilled Eggplant   

Meet the Platter Talk Guys

Dan & Scott split their time between Wisconsin and Southwest Florida and are dads to six boys. Good food runs through their veins, and they love showing others how to cook easy recipes.

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  1. 5 stars
    Everything about this recipe is calling out to me! It sounds so fulfilling yet fresh at the same time! And I love that the ingredients came from a Farmer’s Mkt.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Renee. You pretty much hit on all of the highlights of this meal that make it so appealing! I hope you try it soon and hope you are having an amazing summer season!

    1. Howdy, Neighbors! Thanks for the comment and hoping your summer was amazingly delicious as ours!

  2. This looks so good Dan! I love making fresh ricotta, I just wish I made it more often! Looks gorgeous and summery, I just want to make pasta now after seeing this recipe and @thingsImadetoday 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Absolutely delightful recipe. Home made ricotta is on my longtime wishlist but reading this makes us want to make it soon. I loved your tips about hardneck garlic, i did not know about this. Thats also the beauty of farmers market, you can know so much from the farmers and other people shopping with you at the farmers markets. Am gonna look for it next weekend 🙂