This Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto is a favorite pasta night in our house! The cream sauce starts with a base of caramelized onions, amazing flavor here! Meanwhile the zucchini and mushrooms roast in the oven, then prosciutto is draped over the top and baked until crispy. It all comes together with big shavings of Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme leaves for a cozy bowl of comfort food that is purely delicious!
I am a true pasta lover, and I always aim to balance that starchy comfort food with lots of veggies and bold flavors. This mushroom zucchini pasta is perfect for garden season when all you want to do is use up zucchini, but really it's excellent year round!
A simple cream sauce, an Alfredo, is so much easier than you think. No need to buy jarred sauce, start with fresh ingredients, real cream, and Parmesan cheese!
And I'm turning into a bit of a crispy prosciutto enthusiast! That lovely Italian ingredient takes on an all new twist when you bake it until crisp. Try it on this Creamy Cauliflower White Bean Soup or in an Italian Mixed Greens Salad!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Zucchini and Cremini Mushrooms - Zucchini and mushrooms are all about how you cook them. Cook them slowly over low heat and they get watery and mushy. Here we are tossing them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and roasting them together in the oven so their flavors intensify.
- Salt and Pepper - This recipe uses the basic seasonings added along the way. It's best to measure out the salt and pepper, and then use some to season the roasting vegetables, some to flavor the onion as it caramelizes, and some to flavor the sauce as it forms.
- Prosciutto - Not just prosciutto but crispy prosciutto! When the veggies are nearly done roasting, prosciutto is draped over the top and back into the oven so it can crisp. That light flakey and salty crispy prosciutto adds huge flavor to this pasta! I like to buy prosciutto from the deli counter. Ask them to slice it very thin and not put paper in between. This way you can pay for just the amount you need and not the weight of the paper. A pricey ingredient, but a little goes a long way!
- Linguine Pasta - You can use any long pasta here such as linguine, spaghetti or fettuccine. Really, the short pastas would work fine too, penne, bowtie, or rigatoni.
- Olive Oil - A good amount of olive oil is needed to caramelize the onion. Too little and it turns dry and burns. Use 1 full tablespoon.
- Onion - This humble vegetable turns fairly magical when it is caramelized. This simply means cooked slowly in a skillet over low heat so the natural sugars in the onion caramelize to a golden brown color. This is done while the zucchini and mushrooms roast in the oven.
- Garlic - Fresh garlic is essential to a basic cream sauce. Garlic bulbs last for weeks in a bowl on the counter, so I always recommend them over the pre-chopped garlic in a jar.
- Cream - Ah, cream. A little cream and you can make a pasta dish out of anything! It thickens on its own just by reducing, so there is not need to add flour.
- Pasta Water reserved from boiling the pasta - The secret of pasta sauce making! Don't pour the water you boil the pasta in down the drain! It's liquid gold, pull out about 2 cups just before draining. Ladle it into a glass measuring cup. This starchy pasta water stretches the cream to form the sauce, an amount enough to coat the pasta. It helps everything thicken and come together, and is later used to adjust the consistency if it gets too thick.
- Spinach - A handful of fresh spinach wilts right into the sauce, adding healthy greens and vibrant color. You could substitute kale or arugula.
- Fresh Thyme - I've found that in the winter months, buying a little box of fresh thyme or fresh rosemary goes a long way. They are a few dollars, but they last in the fridge for quite a long time. They really add great flavor, especially when the fresh summer produce seems so far away!
- Parmesan Cheese - Buy a block of Parmesan cheese and use a vegetable peeler to get big shavings. A block is usually a better value and will last a lot longer than the pre-shredded bags.
See recipe card for quantities.
This Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Pasta is made of 3 components cooking at the same time:
- Roasting the Vegetables
- Boiling the Pasta
- Making the Sauce
Roasting the Vegetables - Preheat the oven to 425° convection bake, this means the fan is blowing which is good for roasting.
Wipe any dirt off your mushrooms and cut them in half or quarters, depending on size. Chop your zucchini to be about the same size as the mushrooms. Quarter the zucchini lengthwise and then chop it into 1 inch pieces. You want fairly large chunks so they don't burn in the oven.
Slice your onion, mince your garlic, and measure out your salt and pepper. You'll add salt and pepper along the way through the recipe, so it's best to pre-measure out the amount you will need so you don't over or under salt.
Toss the mushrooms and zucchini on a large sheet pan with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a good pinch of the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
After your veggies have roasted for 20 minutes, drape the thin slices of prosciutto over the veggies and roast another 10 to 12 minutes.
They will finish together, the zucchini and mushrooms being dark brown and roasted, while the prosciutto will be crispy. Let them sit on the stove top until you're ready to add them to the sauce.
Boiling the Pasta - Meanwhile, as you get the veggies in the oven to roast, start a pot of water to boil. Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water and cook the linguine to al dente, about 10 minutes. BEFORE DRAINING the pasta, pull out 2 cups of the starchy cooking liquid using a ladle or measuring cup. This will be used to make the sauce. Drain the pasta and reserve it in a colander until you're ready to add it to the sauce.
Making the Sauce - Start the sauce while the vegetables are roasting in the oven and the pasta water is set to boil. All 3 components will take about the same time so get them all going at once. Caramelize the onion in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium low heat. Season them with another pinch of the salt and pepper.
Caramelizing onions just means cooking them slowly over low heat so their natural sugars can develop and turn golden brown. Give it an occasional stir while the veggies are roasting.
The onions do not need your constant attention, they should cook slowly, turning darker and darker as they go.
When they are a dark golden color, add the garlic and cook it for just another minute.
Then add the cream, spinach, thyme leaves and the remaining salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. Reserve the other cup for later, you may need to adjust the sauce if it gets too thick.
Let your sauce simmer over low heat another 5 minutes. It will thicken and reduce as it cooks.
All 3 components should be finishing up roughly at the same time and are ready to put together. When the sauce has thickened a bit, you can add the drained pasta and some of the Parmesan cheese. Really toss it well with tongs so that each strand is coated.
You can stay over the low burner here, continuing to thicken your sauce as it coats the pasta. Add a bit more of the pasta water as you go if it feels too thick.
When the vegetables are roasted and the prosciutto is crisp, add about half the pan to the pasta and toss well. I like to add the other half over the top so you can really see it! Garnish with more Parmesan cheese shavings and fresh thyme leaves.
Chef Tip: A cream sauce is constantly in motion. As it's getting tossed with the pasta, the pasta is absorbing the sauce. This is a good thing, it's taking on its flavor, but it will also appear that the sauce is disappearing! This is where you can add another splash of the pasta cooking water and keep tossing.
The longer it sits on the burner, the thicker it will get. Always keep the burner low, or turn it off when you sit down to eat. You can toss with more pasta liquid to loosen it up when you come back for a second bowl.
Storage - This pasta with zucchini and mushrooms is delicious the next day for lunch! Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You may want to add a splash of milk before reheating in the microwave or on the stovetop.
This is not a great dish to freeze or make ahead.
What to Serve With this Pasta
Pasta night is always great served with a big green salad and garlic bread. Try this Italian Mixed Greens Salad, you can even add a bit of extra prosciutto when crisping it for the pasta to add to the salad!
The caramelized onion adds a really unique flavor to the cream sauce. My tip here is to be patient and let it caramelize! This is a slow process, so start the onion when you start roasting the veggies. Don't skimp in the olive oil, use 1 Tablespoon or it will dry out. Then just give it an occasional stir and let the natural sugars in the onion work their magic, golden brown and amazingly delicious!
Get in the habit of pulling out that pasta water, it's essential for sauce making. But, if you do forget, you can use regular water, chicken stock or milk. I wouldn't add more heavy cream, 1 cup is enough or your sauce will get too rich.
Yes, you could leave out the crispy prosciutto for a vegetarian dish. You may want to add extra veggies if you do this. You could easily do 2 zucchinis or add some cauliflower to roast.
Yes, chicken would work really well with the flavors of this dish. Either add a handful of shredded rotisserie or leftover chicken, or make this Cast Iron Skillet Chicken Breast and slice it over the top.
More Favorite Pasta Recipes!
If you made this recipe, I'd love to hear how you liked it! Be sure to leave a star rating and a comment below!
Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto
For the Roasted Veggies
- 1 zucchini
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 10 grinds fresh black pepper divided
- 3 to 4 slices prosciutto sliced thin
For the Sauce
- 1 pound linguine pasta
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion sliced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 to 2 cups pasta water reserved from boiling the pasta
- 1 handful fresh spinach
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese shaved
- Preheat the oven to 425° convection bake (this means the fan is blowing which is good for roasting). Wash zucchini and cut off ends. Slice in quarters lengthwise, and then chop into 1 inch pieces. Wipe dirt from mushrooms and cut in half or quarters to be uniform in size. Toss veggies on a large sheet pan with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and half of the salt and pepper (pre-measure it so you can add it to the dish as you go). Bake 20 minutes.
- Set water to boil and cook pasta until al dente. Set a timer, about 10 minutes for linguine. RESERVE 2 CUPS OF THE PASTA COOKING WATER BEFORE DRAINING.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet (large enough to hold the finished pasta dish) set over medium low heat, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Add onion slices to caramelize with a pinch of salt and pepper. This means cook them slowly, over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until they turn golden brown in color. This will take about as long as the veggies take to roast.
- After 20 minutes, when the roasting veggies are close but not quite done, take them from the oven and drape the prosciutto slices over the veggies. Return to the oven for 10 to 12 minutes to crisp the prosciutto and finish cooking the veggies.
- When the onion has reached a golden brown color, add the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.
- Add the cream, 1 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water, the spinach, thyme and any remaining salt and pepper to the sauce. Stir and simmer about 5 minutes over medium low heat to thicken.
- When the cream sauce has thickened slightly, add the Parmesan cheese and the drained pasta and toss well with use tongs. Toss in about half of the roasted veggies and pieces of the crispy prosciutto to the sauce. Add the other half to the top of the finished pasta dish. Serve with more Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme leaves.
- Use a measuring cup, ladle or coffee mug to pull out 2 cups of the starchy pasta cooking liquid before draining your pasta. Reserve it in a glass measuring cup, this will be used when making the sauce.
- You will use 1 cup of the pasta water when first making the sauce. Save the other cup in case you need to adjust the consistency. After the sauce sits awhile, like when you come back for a second helping, it may have thickened too much and adding a bit of the pasta water will loosen it back up. You may need some of it, all of it, or you may not use it at all.