This creamy summer pasta with zucchini & corn is a must make dish that the whole family will love! It's quick & easy to make, full of fresh flavor, and completely customizable.
I have always had a thing for smooth and creamy pasta sauces...and soups. They're just superior in my eyes. Even though this recipe has a cream sauce, it's not too thick or heavy so it's definitely suitable for late summer.
This summer pasta is vegan, can easily be made gluten-free, and only takes 20 minutes to make. I love to serve this as a main dish but it would also be great paired with a vegan caesar salad or as a side itself to portobello mushrooms or veggie burgers.
There are so many ways to make a creamy vegan pasta sauce. I know cashews are super popular when making cream sauces, but I wanted to keep this summer pasta recipe nut-free.
- Pasta: Because this recipe has a cream sauce, I recommend choosing a short pasta (like fusilli or rigatoni) or a long, wide pasta (like fettuccine or tagliatelle). Cream sauces stick best to these shapes. I personally used fusilli!
- Summer Vegetables: we'll be using zucchini, corn, and spinach. Zucchini and corn are some of my favorite summer produce! You can use corn fresh off the cob or canned, whole kernel corn. Spinach is actually a cooler weather produce, but it pairs really nicely in this dish.
- Shallot: for added flavor! Shallots are a bit sweeter and more mild than regular onions.
- Garlic: and tons of it, baby!! You know I love my garlic.
- White Wine: have you ever wondered why people cook with white wine? It's because it enhances and intensifies the flavor of the food! You can use your favorite dry white wine (like a pinot grigio) or just basic cooking wine for this recipe.
- Vegan Butter: to sauté our veggies in and to enhance the flavor of the cream sauce!
- Pasta Water: Don't strain your pasta so fast!! Pasta water will not only add flavor but it will help to thicken the sauce and better bind the pasta and sauce together.
- Vegan Heavy Cream: this acts as the base of our cream sauce. All of the other ingredients that we've discussed above are what will infuse the flavor into the cream.
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese: yes, we're going there. This helps to make the sauce ultra creamy and cheesy, and what's better than that?
I love this recipe because it's so quick and easy to make.
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions, minus 1 minute. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce. Before draining, save ½ cup of pasta water! To do so, just dip in a measuring cup or ladle, transfer to a bowl (or leaving in the measuring cup) and set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of vegan butter over medium high heat. Add the diced zucchini and corn and sauté for 5 minutes, or until tender. You don't want the zucchini to be mushy! Remove the vegetables and transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- To the same skillet, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter. Add the diced shallot and sauté until translucent, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the white wine, heavy cream, ½ cup of pasta water, and parmesan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Add your pasta and all veggies to the sauce and stir until heated through and everything is fully coated and the spinach is wilted. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
- Top with fresh parmesan, serve immediately, and enjoy!
I love this recipe as is, but it's totally customizable! Try out some of these variations and/or substitutions and let me know how you like them:
Change up your veggies! What's so great about this dish is that you can really make it all year round. I'm only calling it a summer pasta because of the in-season vegetables we're using. If you want to keep it summery but don't love zucchini or corn, try cherry tomatoes, asparagus, or eggplant. If you love mushrooms, broccoli, kale, or cauliflower (more winter veggies), those would work fantastically too!
If you can't find vegan heavy cream or don't want to use it, replacing it with plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk and 1-1 ½ tablespoons of flour (essentially creating a roux) would give you the same results.
Make this dish high in plant-based protein by adding a can of white beans! White beans pair perfectly with these veggies and the cream sauce.
Make this recipe gluten-free by using your choice of gluten-free pasta.
- Don't replace the shallots and garlic with their powdered alternatives. I've tested it with both the real deal and with garlic & onion powder and have found that you end up needing a lot of of the powder, and even then it just isn't as good.
- Reduce the sauce to a simmer and allow it thicken for 5-10 minutes. The sauce will be runny at first but it will stay that way if you keep the temperature too high rather than reducing it all the way down.
- Don't overcook the zucchini. You want it to have a nice bite to it and not get mushy, so only cook it for about 5 minutes.
- Undercook the pasta by a minute or two and allow it to finish cooking in sauce.
- Save the pasta water!! Not only do we add pasta water to the sauce, but it's always good to save extra for any leftovers you might have.
This pasta will stay fresh in the fridge in an air tight container for up to 3 days. I recommend saving extra pasta water that you can use when reheating. To reheat, add a little pasta water and leftover pasta to a pot, cooking until warmed through. Or, you can put in the microwave for a minute and 30 seconds, stirring halfway through.
Short pastas like rigatoni, bow ties, or cavatappi, or flat, long noodles like fettuccine, tagliatelle, or pappardelle are best suited for cream sauces.