Zucchini and Lemon Pasta Bake
Penne pasta submerged in bubbly béchamel sauce, dressed up with fontina, zucchini, and a crunchy Panko breadcrumb topping—perfect as a side for everything from grilled chicken to pan-seared steak.
Servings: 4 to 6
Total Time: 75m
Prep Time: 15m
Cooking Time: 60m
For the topping:
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the pasta:
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced thin
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 16 ounces penne pasta
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated fontina or gouda cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Fresh chopped herbs
- Prepare to bake—Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, melted butter, and salt until evenly mixed. Set aside. In a medium bowl, toss zucchini slices with lemon juice. Set aside.
- Boil the pasta—Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook penne almost to al dente—about 2 minutes less than cook time on package. Drain, transfer to a Dutch oven, and toss with 2 tablespoons butter until pasta is evenly coated. Set aside.
- Make the sauce—Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to create a roux. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream while whisking constantly. Heat to a simmer and continue whisking until sauce begins to thicken—about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, fontina, and Parmesan and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and pour into Dutch oven with penne.
- Assemble and bake—Add zucchini to noodles and stir to combine everything evenly. Smooth surface of pasta mixture and cover with the breadcrumb mix. Bake on center rack of oven sauce is bubbly and breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes after baking. Served topped with a sprinkling of fresh herbs and grated Parmesan cheese.
No Penne? No problem!
Sub in any tube-shaped pasta or try it with shells or elbow macaroni. It’s all good!
Browning Too Soon?
If breadcrumbs are browning too quickly, loosely cover Dutch oven with foil and continue baking till sauce is bubbly.