Zucchini and Thyme Pasta Sauce

Sugo di Zucchine e Timo

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta, making



Appears in

Every time I bring to the table pasta with zucchini, my Victor tells me it puts him in mind of a cartoon in The New Yorker. A painter is working at an easel set up in front of a pond, and a woman, presumably his wife, is saying “Claude, not another lily pond!” I admit it, I have a zucchini addiction, but if there is sameness I never tire of it, for within it I find, as Monet did in his lilies, infinite variety.

The elements of this sauce are not different from some of the other zucchini recipes in this chapter: zucchini, onion, and tomatoes. But the taste is different, with a clarity and graciousness that is its own, featuring a combination of vegetable and herb—zucchini and thyme—that I have always found especially apt.


  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons very finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups fresh, firm, ripe tomatoes, skinned with a peeler, seeds scooped away, and cut up, or canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the table


Suggested Pasta

Here is a sauce that is equally satisfactory when matched with either homemade or boxed dry pasta. Of the homemade variety, either fettuccine or the square ones known as tonnarelli, would be the best choice. If you opt for boxed pasta, choose fusilli, spaghetti, or penne. If you can find it, the longer, skinnier penne known as pennini would be a highly desirable shape to use.

  1. Soak the zucchini for about 20 minutes in a basin of cold water. Scrub them under running cold water using a brush or rough cloth. Cut off both ends, then cut the zucchini lengthwise into narrow strips. You should get about cups.
  2. Put the oil, butter, and chopped onion in a medium skillet and turn the heat on to medium high. Cook the onion, stirring from time to time, until it becomes colored a pale gold.
  3. Add the zucchini strips, turn them over with a wooden spoon to coat them well, and cook until they become deeply colored.
  4. Add the tomato, turn it over once or twice, add salt, pepper, and thyme, and turn all ingredients over two or three times. Cook at a steady, but moderate simmer for about 15 or 20 minutes, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, as described in the Note.
  5. Cook and drain the pasta, toss it immediately and thoroughly with the sauce, and serve at once, with the grated Parmesan on the side.