Pasta with Zucchini

Someday, science will catch up with my summertime needs and create a popsicle that sustains life.

Until then, I’m looking for every shortcut that will keep me from having to turn on the stove or oven any more than absolutely necessary.

Today, my shortcut was a big batch of Pasta with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Creamy Lemon-Yogurt Sauce. Yes, I had to turn on the stove, but only for about 15 minutes. No biggie. And in return, I made enough of this healthy, satisfying pasta to give me lunch for the next four days.

The only time-consuming thing about this pasta is slicing the zucchini. I like to divide each zucchini in half horizontally, and then take each half and trim enough away from its four sides to straighten them. So, I wind up with a bunch of small bricks of zucchini that are easy to slice thin.

That said, don’t get too anal about the slicing. If each one doesn’t come out perfectly, it’s no big deal. You just want them all to be more or less the same size and thickness so that they’ll cook in the same amount of time.

As for the lemon-yogurt sauce, I know what you’re thinking: can’t I just use lemon-flavored yogurt?

No, because lemon-flavored yogurts are sweetened, and you don’t want your pasta sauce to taste like pie filling.

The sauce itself is just a quick blend of plain Greek yogurt, Parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper. The Greek yogurt makes this pasta rich and creamy without having to add a lot of fat, and it gives you some flexibility with whether you want to warm up your leftovers or eat them straight from the fridge. The yogurt also helps in giving this pasta a big nutritional boost: more than 14 grams of protein per serving!

Finally, a big bowl of pasta made for big bites and absolutely no guilt.

I guess the all-popsicle diet can wait.

Pasta with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Creamy Lemon-Yogurt Sauce

Adapted from Jillian Michaels’ “The Master Your Metabolism Cookbook”

Serves 4 (calories: 303 per serving)

  • 8 ounces whole wheat linguine (or your pasta of choice)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium (8-ounce) zucchini, cut into thin strips (3 inches long and 3/4 inch wide, like a big stick of gum)
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook about 9 minutes, or according to the package directions. Remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water, and set it aside. Drain the pasta. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, Parmesan, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, and cook just until wilted, flipping them over occasionally with a spatula. (The zucchini will be soft and somewhat see-through.)
  4. Use a spoon or spatula to push the zucchini aside so a space on the bottom of the pan is clear. Add the garlic, and cook for 15 to 30 seconds, until golden but not really brown.
  5. Mix the garlic into the zucchini.
  6. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
  7. Transfer the zucchini mixture to the yogurt mixture, and stir to combine. Add the drained linguine, and toss gently to combine. Add the reserved pasta cooking water a tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to thin it. Divide among four bowls and serve.

Nutritional Info (Per Serving): 303 calories, 7g fat, 14g protein, 49g carbs and 255g sodium.