Zucchini Ribbon Pasta with {light!} Creamy Lemon-Basil Sauce

This is the first summer in a long time that I didn’t plant a garden.  You guys know that with my background in horticulture and my current-ground (yes I made that term up, why doesn’t anyone else say it?) in food, that a vegetable garden is something I’m passionate about.  I am really missing a backyard abundant in tomatoes, zucchini, and fresh herbs this year.  The reason why we didn’t plant anything earlier this spring is because we’re moving!  We’re building a house right now (not far from where we currently live, in Idaho) and the thought of tending my precious garden all summer long and then leaving it behind just when everything was ready to eat pained my heart.  Although now I’m kind of regretting that decision because our house probably won’t be done until after the growing season so had I planned that better, I could have been up to my ears in squash right now.

Random side note about house-building:  We stop by our new house almost every day to check on the progress.  And every day while my husband and I are walking around measuring things and imagining light fixtures, my 3 boys are building some sort of city/fortress/battleground/modern art with random construction supplies left in the garage.  We always tell them not to touch anything and naturally, they always ignore us.

This one was from last night.  As we were driving away, it dawned on me that the crews who come in to work every morning must scratch their heads every day wondering how this stuff magically appears.

Buuuut, back to the food.  I was thinking about my non-existent garden the other day and started craving sweet little tomatoes and tender zucchini.

I created this recipe to be a healthy one!  I’m in a calorie-counting phase of life at the moment, so I wanted to show you how you can still have really delicious, filling food- even pasta and cream sauce,  and stick to a healthy diet.  There are a few great tricks in here, so pay attention folks.  Let’s get cookin’.

Here’s one of the secrets to this recipe.  It’s a trick I sometimes use on my kids.  Shhhh… Slice a zucchini in thin slices vertically.  I used a mandoline to make it quick and easy.  If you don’t have a mandoline, it’s a pretty useful kitchen gadget.  I use this one– it’s inexpensive and works great!  If you don’t have a mandoline, you can use a vegetable peeler.  You want them about 1/8 inch thick.

Now cut them the other direction, like this:



Can you see where we’re going here?  What do those look like?  Noodles, baby!  If you want to really trick your kids, peel off the green stuff first and mix it with spaghetti)  We’re going to drop these zucchini noodles right into the pot with the pasta, at the end.  Since it’s the same size and shape, it blends in perfectly.  This allows you to get much more on your plate, with less calories.  Win-win!  We’ll come back to the zucchini.

Next you’ll need some little tomatoes.  I’m using a 10oz carton you can buy at the store.  it’s about 2 cups.

Quickly saute those up; it only takes a couple of minutes.  You should stop when they look a little blistered and just barely start to burst.  At this point they’ve released some sweetness and it’s caramelized in the pan to develop a whole new depth of flavor.

Scoop those little guys out of the pan and set them aside.  Chop up a few cloves of garlic and give them a quick saute in your same pan.  Once those are golden, add a little chicken broth.  As the chicken broth simmers, you can scrape all of the little browned bits off the bottom of the pan- they add tons of flavor here.

Now for the secret to our sinfully creamy sauce.  Kate and I almost never use fat-free cream cheese.  We don’t recommend it for baking, and I don’t really like it in dips, but the one place it does work really well is when it’s melted into a sauce, like this.  We just need the creaminess, and fat-free cream cheese has significantly less calories than even the reduced fat kind.  Obviously feel free to use any of the three, but know that fat-free works great.

In the printable instructions I explain the best way to get the cream cheese melted and the sauce smooth, so make sure to read that [note: don’t just drop it in the sauce!]  but when it’s all done it’s super creamy and flavorful.  And we only used 3 ounces of cream cheese, that’s less than 1/2 of a block.  When that’s nice and smooth, toss in some fresh basil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Stir it up and then add in the cooked pasta and zucchini.  See how creamy that is?  It’s not drenched and heavy, it’s just a light coating that adds both flavor and texture to the pasta.

You can stir the tomatoes in, or I like to just place them on top because they look so pretty.

You get those super sweet tomatoes, with pieces of fresh basil and creamy sauce-coated pasta and just a hint of lemon and garlic.  It’s the perfect bite.

Now here’s the awesome part.  This recipe makes 4 generous main dish servings.  Like, that whole bowl you see in the pictures- and in that entire bowl of deliciousness, there are only about 286 calories.  Two hundred and eighty six!  So if you think you have to give up pasta and creamy sauces when trying to eat healthy, think again.  That even leaves plenty of caloric room to toss some grilled chicken on top.  And maybe eat a cookie.  (I won’t tell if you don’t.)

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon

Zucchini Ribbon Pasta with Creamy Lemon-Basil Sauce

  • Author: Sara Wells
  • Yield: 4 1x



  • 1/2 lb (or 8 oz) fettuccine
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 10 ounces grape tomatoes (about 2 cups)
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 34 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 ounces fat-free cream cheese
  • 1 cup very loosely packed basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice, more if desired


Prepare a pot of water and cook pasta according to package instructions.  Cut ends off zucchini and slice along the long direction, cutting the zucchini into about ⅛ inch slices.  Cut each of those slices into long pieces, about the same size as the fettuccine (see photos above for explanation).  Set zucchini aside.

Heat a medium size skillet to medium heat.  When hot, add 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Add tomatoes and give them a little sprinkle of kosher salt and a few cracks of black pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3-4 minutes. Just until they start to burst and look blistered.  Remove tomatoes from pan and place in a small dish, covered, and set aside.

Add another 1 teaspoon olive oil to the empty pan and add garlic.  Stir constantly on medium-low heat for about 30-60 seconds.  Add chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer and use a spatula to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes and then reduce heat to low.

Place cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl and soften for 20-30 seconds, until it can be easily stirred smooth.  Ladle in a couple spoonfuls of the chicken broth mixture into the cream cheese and stir to combine.  Once the mixture is smooth, add it to the pan with the remaining broth mixture and whisk until smooth and creamy. Add chopped basil and lemon juice and stir to combine.  Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.  (Lemon lovers can also squeeze in extra lemon juice at this point.)

When pasta is just about done, add zucchini strips to pot (so they’re cooking with the pasta).  Boil for about 2 minutes, or until tender.  Drain zucchini and pasta and combine with sauce.  Gently toss in tomatoes, or simply add them on top of each serving. Garnish with additional basil if desired.



  • Serving Size: 4
  • Calories: 294kcal
  • Sugar: 6g
  • Sodium: 674mg
  • Fat: 4g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 51g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 14g
  • Cholesterol: 3mg


    1. what Jonathan answered I am startled that some people can profit $8461 in four weeks on the internet. have you read this web page >>> Click2go.notlong.comAT

  1. This looks awesome. I can’t wait to try it. We’re also building a house right now, and although it’s not going to be done on time, they’re only taking one extra week. I live in Georgia and that seems to be pretty standard around here. Good luck! I hope your house is done on time or close to it!

  2. This sounds like a perfect summer dinner. I feel your garden pain. We planted on but the deer have eaten everything. Last Sunday I had dozens of green tomatoes and I was so excited for them to ripen but the deer ate them all before I got any. They also ate the leaves off my zucchini plants before the flowers could turn into anything edible. Boo hoo!

      1. We just finished dinner and this was DELICIOUS! My zucchini strips didn’t look as noodley as yours and I’m pretty sure I need a mandolin for my birthday next month. 🙂 This is my favorite kind of recipe because with each delicious bite I thought of another variation that would also be great — add broccoli or spinach, use artichokes or asparagus instead of tomatoes, use tomatoes, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli and spinach all together for a very vegetableish version. There are so many possibilities and they all sound delicious! Thanks for a fantastic recipe!

  3. Don’t know how you do it, but I always end up wanting to make all of your recipes. I first saw the name and I’m not a fan of zucchini, but then I started reading and it all just sounded so appetizing and easy and such a wonderful summer meal. And it’s hard to make things sound appetizing these days as I’m experiencing morning sickness right now. Argh!

    1. If you’re not a zucchini fan, this is perfect for you! If you peel it first, you won’t even notice it in there. Good luck with the morning sickness, that’s the worst!

  4. Our house was done exactly the 120 days they said it would take to build! Good luck on your move. Cant wait to make this yummy pasta tomorrow night.

  5. This sounds great! My boyfriend and I are on a diabetic diet, so if I throw some chicken in this, it’ll be perfect for us. And I’ve got lots of homemade Greek yogurt, so I’ll sub that for the cream cheese for some extra protein.

    Thank you for this!

  6. This looks awesome. This might be my next dinner party contribution.

    On a side note, I wanna see the finished product of what your boys do with the construction scraps.

  7. Mmmmm sounds delish! Can’t wait to make this. Also, thanks for the mandoline recommendation. I’ve been wanting to get one for a long time – but there are so many out there and some are sooo expensive. I hate it when I’ve spent money on something (even if it’s only a small amount), only to get it home and find that is sub-par in quality. I’ve already added the mandoline to my amazon cart. 🙂
    You two are so great, my family and I cook from your cookbook and/or site several times a week. Good luck with the house! The good news is, no matter how frustrating things are right now, it will all be worth it when you are in your fabulous new home!

  8. My husband’s boss has done that exact thing you feared!! Everything in his garden will ripen in about two weeks, and the new owners take possession on Friday, and they are moving tomorrow! Their house was on the market for about a year and a half, so I think he though nothing of planting a garden with the housing situation the way it is right now… Maybe you could have done some container gardening though?? Maybe still with the heat we’re having…long summer?

    So is there anything to use instead of cherry tomatoes? I’ve got kids that love green veg but not tomatoes…trying to think of something that would give me some carmelization…

  9. I can’t wait to try this recipe out! I have tried for the second summer in a row to have (containers) a garden, but slugs and animals keep getting most of the crop:(
    My husband and I have built 3 houses over 25 years and they have all been completed within a week or so of the date we were told they would be. There is hope!

  10. Ooh, sounds delicious! Thanks so much for posting a new low-cal dish! We are counting calories right now too & seeing all the yummy dessert posts lately has been rough on my sense of self control. 😛 We’ll definitely be trying this recipe ASAP though! 🙂

  11. YES Our house was done on time and we loved every second of building!
    It’s been about 5 years now but I would do it all over again in a second!
    Can I suggest taking many many photos of the process especially of things that are covered up or under flooring that way you have a good idea where things are located etc …Enjoy!

  12. There is hope as others have said, however, I’m sorry to be the 4128th person to say it ain’t likely! We moved into our new house in March but we were supposed to be in by last Nov.-Dec. And I sure feel your pain about missing out on your garden during this building process. We had to live in a rental during the build and had to give up our wonderful garden with our zillions of strawberries which I missed turning into a year’s worth of your incredible strawberry sauce.
    Best wishes on your new house and future garden!

  13. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!! I am not a fan of cooked zucchini, but I AM a fan of something new and low-cal,low-fat and healthy to eat!! I am determined to lose weight and when I see posts like this my heart literally sings. SINGS I tell you! You rock.

  14. OOOOHHH You are fabulous! Just trying to figure out what to do with the my zucchini and cherry tomatoes, and feeling guilty I haven’t hardly used any of my basil this year yet. HOORAY for a great solution. If you lived closer, I’d bring you a giant box. Thanks again. PS-made your chicken skewers (again using up zucchini) and they were fabulous!! We are using the leftover (clean) marinade as salad dressing and loving it. I think I’ll make a pasta salad with it as well. You guys make cooking 300 times better.

  15. Just made this for lunch and WOW, the portions are HUGE! So Yummmmmmyyyy!!! It’s like a healthy fettucine alfredo, but without the guilt too. I added some grilled chicken to mine sine I’m pregnant for some protein. Can’t wait to make this again!!

  16. Oh My! This. was. SOOOOOOOOOOOOO. GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tomatoes, basil, and zucchini from our garden. Wow! This is definitely a keeper! I used my pampered chef julienne peeler and it was the same size as spaghetti. Perfect! Thanks so much!

  17. This looks so great! I have gone through every zucchini recipe in my
    bag of tricks and this one is sure to be a keeper! I feel like I am wearing
    myself out on zucchinis this summer although winter will be here before we know it and I will so miss my favorite veggie!

  18. I made this for dinner tonight, I couldn’t believe how yummy and creamy it was. I ended up using low fat cream cheese because I got it for free with a coupon. My hubby and 3 kiddos loved it. I’m keeping this one on rotation for the summer. Thank You! Please keep the healthy/low calorie recipes coming.

  19. Loved this (hubby did too)! Used goat cheese in place of cream cheese (needed to get rid of it) and pasta water instead of broth. Very tasty and looking forward to trying with cream cheese next time. Definitely keeping handy for times when we have more zucchini than we know what to do with….like now 🙂

  20. Ooohh! Made tonight, with some grilled shrimp on top. Delish! Definitely a keeper, and I think the pasta and sauce will stay warm for a bit while shrimp is grilling when we have company.

  21. Bummer about the garden this year but I’m sure you’ll make up for it next year at the new house. I do have a garden exploding with zucchini and tomatoes (if you were closer I’d say come get some!) so this will be on the menu next week for sure!

  22. This was delicious! I didn’t have fettuccine, so I just cut the zucchini the same size as the Gemelli I was using. I’m also not a huge fan of cooked tomatoes, so I just cut up some fresh Romas and it was absolutely delicious! I’ll probably add some grilled lemon chicken to this for protein next time, but it was amazing as is.

  23. This looks great. I would probably use whole wheat pasta for some extra fiber – I find that pasta is one place in which I can happily sub whole wheat and get 99% of the satisfaction. (Unlike, say, bread…)

  24. Just made this!! YUM. Sent my vegetarian sister a picture of it saying “BE JEALOUS!” And the next thing you know she showed up at my door for takeout! Great recipe and fun to make too!

  25. My whole family LOVED this! Even my kids! We made it twice in just a few days because it was such a huge hit. Thanks for the yummy, fresh summer recipe!

  26. My favorite OBB recipe is the Zucchini Ribbon Pasta with Creamy Lemon-Basil Sauce, is amazing!! I cooked it for my whole family and they were in love with the pasta!! It is simply amazing, I’m love with it!!

  27. This is WONDERFUL! I’ve been doing weight watchers for the last while and I counted this to be 7 points per serving (6 if you use a cooking spray instead of oil)! I am thrilled to eat creamy pasta! Roll on more recipes like these for us poor saps who cant stay away from your dessert section 😉

  28. We had this tonight and it was a big hit for everyone! Thanks for sharing, I’d love to see more of these types (healthy, full of veggies and kid friendly) of recipes!

  29. I made it tonight for my family and it was delicious! I just got a gadget called the veggetti it makes veggies into strands and it worked perfectly thanks for the recipe.

  30. Made this as part of the Fit & Fast meal plan- my husband and I both loved it! He asked if he could take some leftovers to work for lunch the next day 🙂

    The sauce was pretty thin originally, but thickened up a lot more as it cooled- I stirred it a few times and let it sit for >15 minutes, and it was perfect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.