Pasta with Turkey and Zucchini

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Dinner, Main Course Italian
By Kelly Djalali Serves: 2-4
Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cooking Time: ~20 Minutes Total Time: ~30 Minutes

Pasta with Turkey and Zucchini is lightly creamy with butter and Parmesan, savory with ground turkey, tender zucchini, garlic and fresh thyme.


  • 1 lb. Ground Turkey (or chicken, beef or pork)
  • Drizzle Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Small Onion, diced
  • Kosher Salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4-1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tsp. Fresh Thyme
  • 3-5 Cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 small, or 1 large Zucchini, sliced into half moons 1/8-1/4-inch thick
  • Black Pepper
  • 1.5 tbsp. Kosher Salt (for the pasta water)
  • 12 oz. Casarecce or Penne Pasta
  • 4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Flaky Finishing Salt, optional instead of the grated parmesan



Get a pot of water set to boil with 3 quarts of water, covered. While that is getting going let's get a skillet going over medium-high heat with the ground turkey. Since the turkey is pretty lean, I am going to help it out with a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the ground meat, breaking it up as it cooks.


Once the meat is cooked through, add the onion. Give the onions and turkey a sprinkling of kosher salt. Sauté and stir occasionally until the onion softens. Then add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme. Stir and sauté until the thyme is fragrant.


Add the minced or pressed garlic and stir to combine. As soon as the garlic becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds) turn the heat to medium-low.


Add the sliced zucchini to the pan with the meat and aromatics. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Stir the zucchini into the meat mixture and keep the heat on low or medium/low. Stir occasionally as we turn our attention to the pasta. Taste the meat and zucchini mixture along way for seasoning. Add more kosher salt if needed.


By now the water should be boiling. Add 1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt to the pot, stir and then pour in the pasta. Set a timer for 9 minutes. Give it a stir every now and then to prevent sticking. At the nine minute mark, test the doneness, it should be just shy of al dente. Scoop out 1 cup of pasta water and set aside. Then drain the pasta, but don't shake the colander to get the excess water off.


Set the burner to low and add the butter to the now-empty pasta pot. Add the drained pasta to the pot. Then add the grated Parmesan. Pour in about 1/4 cup of the reserved hot pasta water. Vigorously stir the pasta with the butter, cheese and pasta water until the cheese and butter are melted and the starchy pasta water has emulsified the mixture into a light creamy sauce coating the pasta.


Then add the zucchini and meat mixture to the pasta. Stir together to fully combine. Add more hot pasta water as needed to keep the sauce glossy and smooth. Once we add the meat and zucchini, the sauce will become even lighter as it coats the zucchini and turkey.


Cut the heat and we are ready to serve. Serve in a wide shallow bowl and drizzle each serving with a little olive oil and add a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. You can sprinkle on any extra fresh thyme too. If you want to skip the added Parmesan, sprinkle with a little flaky finishing salt.