This 20-minute zucchini noodles recipe closely mimics the experience of eating real pasta. The cheesy, garlicky strands are unbelievably good! And if you use pre-spiralized zucchini, it's as easy as can be.
Zoodles with butter and parmesan are amazing. The first time I made them I was delighted - they are so close to the experience of eating real buttered noodles!
I've been making this recipe often over the past few years. It's so delicious. Savoring the cheesy, garlicky strands, I always think to myself, well, it's not EXACTLY like real pasta, but it's surprisingly close! (By the way, another good option is to use spaghetti squash noodles).
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make zucchini noodles. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Fresh zucchinis: Try to find young, firm zucchinis.
Butter: European butter tastes best.
Garlic: Mince it yourself or use the stuff that comes in a jar.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, reduce the amount you use, or the dish could end up too salty.
Red pepper flakes. They add flavor and color. They don't actually make this dish spicy. But you can omit them if you'd like.
Grated Parmesan: It's best to use finely grated parmesan and not coarsely shredded.
Given that you can now use packaged premade zucchini noodles, which wasn't an option a few years ago, this is a very easy recipe. It's literally ready in ten minutes. Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
You start by making the noodles. You can cut them by hand or use a spiralizer. Or buy them already spiralized! That's easiest, of course.
Next, cook the strands and some minced garlic in butter. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and parmesan. That's it!
Expert tip: don't overcook them
Overcooking the zucchini strands will result in them being soggy. It's actually much like cooking pasta al-dente. You want the strands to still have a "bite." You don't want them too soft.
So make sure you don't cook them longer than necessary in the first step of cooking, before adding the garlic. Then, after adding the garlic and letting it cook briefly, turn the heat off immediately.
Frequently asked questions
I started making this recipe back in 2014. Back then, I used a sharp knife to thinly slice fresh zucchinis into thin strips. I was frankly too scared to use a mandoline slicer. I'm on the clumsy side, and it didn't seem worth the risk.
Later, I learned that one can buy a spiralizer, supposedly a safer instrument for spiralizing vegetables. Stubbornly, I continued slicing the zucchinis by hand. 🤦♀️
As I write here to update this recipe, in 2021, I am so happy that grocery stores now sell packaged zoodles (I get mine at Whole Foods). So convenient! And they are sliced much more evenly than my hand-spiralized zucchini.
Unfortunately, they don't. Like many other substitutes, this is an excellent one, and I do find it's very satisfying and amazingly close to the real thing. But it's still a substitute, making it appropriate for those willing to compromise a bit in order to meet their goals.
Don't overcook them! They only need about 5 minutes in the pan, maybe even less if your pan is hot. It's just like pasta - you want it al-dente, so you don't overcook it.
Variations and substitutions
Here are a few ideas for you for varying the basic recipe:
- Instead of butter, you can mix store-bought pasta sauce into the noodles. In that case, I would use ⅓ to ½ cup sauce and omit the spices.
- Try mixing cooked shredded chicken into the noodles. Bacon bits are another tasty option.
- You can try using good olive oil instead of butter. I prefer butter, but olive oil is also very good.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for about 3 days. Reheat them gently, covered, in the microwave on 50% power.
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Zucchini Noodles with Butter and Parmesan
- 2 medium zucchinis unpeeled, ends trimmed (total weight 14 oz, 400g)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- Using a sharp chef's knife, slice each zucchini lengthwise into very thin slices, as thin as you can. Slice each of those slices into thin, noodle-like strands. Don't worry about it if your slices aren't even.
- Alternatively, make your life easy and buy packaged zucchini noodles at the grocery store. I get mine at Whole Foods.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When melted and foamy, add the zucchini noodles. Cook, stirring often, until just tender, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 more minute. Turn the heat off.
- Add the kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and parmesan. Mix and serve.