The Perfect Weeknight Spring Penne Pasta with Zucchini and Fresh Mint

This 6-ingredient pasta is perfect for a weeknight dinner in spring, with a hit of fresh mint at the end of cooking that brightens up the savoriness from heavy cream and cheese.


Last Saturday I hosted friends for drinks and dinner, and decided to test three of Gianfranco’s pasta recipes on them. This penne with zucchini and mint was by far the favorite—and probably the simplest.

But that’s the thing about Gianfranco’s recipes. They’re delicious and beautiful in their simplicity. It’s a simplicity that really allows the flavor of each ingredient to shine. There are no spices competing for flavor or multiple herbs trying to shine through. It’s cream and cheese and a bit of mint to lighten the whole thing up.

This recipe would probably be delicious with just the heavy cream, olive oil and salt. But it’s the hit of mint at the end that really makes it unique.

Penne pasta with zucchini and mint

Cooking Notes

Fresh, firm zucchini is a must for this recipe. That is all.




2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4 -inch rounds
Kosher salt, to taste
8 ounces penne
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2-3 tablespoons Parmigiano reggiano


  1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Place the zucchini rounds in the heated skillet without crowding the bottom. Patiently, brown the zucchini rounds until both side are cooked, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and turn off the heat.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large sauce pot, bring 6 cups salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta as per the package instructions until just slightly al dente. When pasta is almost done, turn the fire back on in the skillet with the zucchini over low heat and add the heavy cream. Add the pasta to the skillet and gently toss all the ingredients together until combined.

  3. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with chopped mint and cheese (adding more if you like). Season with more salt, if needed, and serve.