Zucchini Carbonara

in Carbonara, Pasta, Pork, Zucchini

Penne & Zucchini Carbonara

Tell me we’re not alone. You know what? You don’t even have to reassure me. I know we’re not alone.

I know we’re not the only ones who became completely enamored by the idea of growing our own produce. With the vision of walking into the backyard, sun shining & birds chirping, with a pair of scissors to snip greens, tomatoes, and herbs for a quick lunch salad.

I know we’re not the only ones who planted an over-ambitious veggie garden. We’re not the only ones who now have zucchini coming out of our ears. In May.

Penne & Zucchini Carbonara

And to think, I didn’t think two plants would be enough!

If you forced me to come up with a single word to describe our gardening experience thus far, I could only say “rewarding.” And I still would be selling it short.

What’s not short? The zucchini. From the crook of my elbow to the tip of my middle finger is 14.975268 inches. And the smallest zucchini in our fridge right now is about an inch shy of that. I knew we were in trouble two weeks ago when we grew bored of grilled zucchini planks so we’re trying to be a little more creative when it comes to preparing zucchini. Creative enough to make me happy while still aiming low enough as to not freak out the less adventurous eater in the house. It’s a fine line to walk. We usually all win if we happen to end up on the side that has pasta.

In the vast bookmarked recipe file I keep in my head, the one that has long-since taken over the area where I used to store my ATM PIN number and the place where I left my phone and car keys, I’ve had an idea from Jamie Oliver tucked away for just such an occasion: Squash Carbonara. He whipped up a pot of Fettuccine Carbonara and threw in some squash.

Penne & Zucchini Carbonara

We took our very favorite carbonara and paired it with one of the baseball bat-sized zucchini from the garden. We replaced half of the pasta with zucchini. This is a great, great way to healthify dinner, lightening the dish, increasing fiber, and reducing the carbs. Everything gets a wonderful coating of the velvety smooth sauce – that’s cream free!

Penne & Zucchini Carbonara

A deceptively healthier carbonara, replacing half of the pasta with zucchini.


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 slices of bacon, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 12-16 oz zucchini, cut into pieces the same size as penne
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 - 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 8 oz penne


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 3/4 cup of pasta water before draining (if you plan to have leftovers, reserve up to 1 cup and add a few Tbsp of pasta water when reheating - it helps bring the creaminess back to the sauce.)
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook bacon pieces to a crisp and remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.
  3. Add black pepper and cook for two minutes.
  4. Add zucchini and cook 5-7 minutes, until nicely browned, stirring occasionally.
  5. Whisk egg, yolk, Parmesan, and 1/4 cup pasta water in the bowl with the bacon.
  6. Add drained pasta, scrape the contents from the zucchini pan into the bowl (oil and zucchini), and toss, adding splashes of pasta water to create a creamy sauce.
  7. Serve topped with extra Parmesan.


Yields: 4 servings

Adapted from Fettucine alla Carbonara

Estimated time: 30 minutes

16 comments… add one
  • Maybe its time to check out the book deceptively delicious from the library. I read that you can puree the zucchini and put it into cookies and sweets. I just don’t know if it takes the place of another ingredient or you just add it the batter. I eat 2 (small) zucchini every day and I can’t get enough but I think it can be funny that people plant so much zucchini in their gardens and they don’t even like it.

  • For some reason that could only be pure hatred for the grower itself, my zucchini refuses to actually grow. There’s tons of leaves and they are, for sure, becoming invasive and taking over my entire garden box. But they have a huge feeling of disdain for me and refuse to actually produce any real vegetables.

    As soon as they do, I’m making this!!!!!

  • Yum..love zucchini! Here it won’t grow until much, much later in the summer (Buffalo, NY), but I can love on your recipes from afar in the meantime! This looks fantastic. I love zucchini in pasta dishes. I love zucchini in stir fry, too. We can only plant some herbs this year, but I so wish we could have a veggie garden at our apartment!

  • I really want to start my own garden, but not sure how it’s done here in the desert. 🙂 Your photo is just beautiful, by the way!

  • I wish we could have a garden of substance here! We used to have an amazing garden, well 2 actually in our old house. Now the deer eat everything, and other animals just attack it. *sigh So I have to rely on the local farmer’s market for fresh produce. But when they have zucchini – I am so making this dish!! I looks amazing! Thanks!

  • We have a fairly small yard and each spring I ponder giving up some of our grass for a garden. I know it would be beyond rewarding (assuming anything grew) but so far I’ve been content to rely on the farmer’s markets. Maybe next year I’ll finally be brave enough. This dish is a really creative way to use up zucchini – love it!

  • zucchini is quite the dangerous plant. You think it’s going to be totally benign and then it overtakes your life and your soul. It’s sneaky.

    I’ve made zucchini carbonara before and it’s actually my FAVORITE way to eat carbonara! And you feel all good and virtuous about eating your veggies!

    One of my favorite zucchini recipes that I’ve made is to put some shredded zucchini into make and cheese. So good.

  • By which I mean…mac and cheese.

  • Isn’t it awesome have home grown zucchini?! My mom and I plant them every year and I am always so surprised by how much we end up having. Our favorite is to just cook them in some olive oil and salt and pepper them. Simple, but so good! I love this recipe though!

  • My parents have this beautiful garden in the backyard and I have zero knowledge on that .. but the fun of it can be amazing, SO I have decided to start with a tiny pot of herb 🙂
    I am huge huge pasta fan and this dish is looking so bright and beautiful!

  • Hey girl! This pasta looks fabulous. I know you all ready won a Get Grillin’ prize but we would love if you linked up more of your amazing recipes to share with everyone. Who knows, you might win again 😉
    It is vegetarian week at Get Grillin’ please submit up to any 3 recipes (they don’t have to be grilled) to our link up. This one would be perfect!
    This week we have a ManPans giveaway. http://su.pr/3GCtXU

  • I love carbonara and I love roasted vegetables, but it never occurred to me to combine the two. I have made this several times and I LOVE it.

Leave a Comment