Italian zucchini soup is a wonderful light soup that’s perfect for taking all that summer zucchini and turning into a meal. Made with broken spaghetti, hand-crushed canned tomatoes, fresh basil, and parsley, this soup is perfect with Pecorino Romano cheese and some crusty Italian bread.
Italian zucchini soup with broken spaghetti is truly a nostalgia-invoking dish for me.
I can still hear the sound of my grandma breaking the spaghetti in her kitchen as she’d prepare to make this soup with the zucchini from our garden.
Similar to pasta e lenticchie, or pasta e patate, this soup is economical and is founded on the “waste not-want not” mentality that was so prevalent among first and second-generation Italian-Americans during the 1900s.
Years later, this is still a favorite soup of mine because it’s cheap and so simple that it can be made in under 30 minutes – proof that even the simplest of recipes can transcend generations.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Dice 1 medium onion, chop 6 cloves of garlic, and cube 4-5 medium-sized zucchini. Chop a 1/4 cup of basil and a 1/4 cup of parsley. Break a 1/2 pound of spaghetti into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Heat a large pot to medium-low and add 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the onions. Saute the onions for 4-5 minutes or until soft and add the garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add the hot red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds and then add the zucchini. Turn the heat up to medium and saute the zucchini for about 10 minutes until fairly soft.
- Add a 14-ounce can of hand-crushed tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Season the tomatoes and zucchini with salt and pepper.
- Add 6 cups of water and bring the soup to a simmer. Add the broken spaghetti to the salted pot of water and begin to cook until al dente.
- Once simmering, taste test the soup and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Turn off the heat and add the al dente broken spaghetti. If the soup is too dry add more of the reserved pasta water and thin to your liking.
- Add the basil and parsley and give the soup a mix. Serve the soup in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and grated Pecorino Romano cheese along with crusty Italian bread on the side. Enjoy!
Top tips for Italian zucchini soup
- The zucchini. If possible, use medium or small-sized zucchini as they tend to have fewer seeds and taste better. The zucchini pictured above in the ingredient pic is on the larger side because that was what was available.
- The pasta. Broken spaghetti is used for this recipe because that’s how my family made it. You can use any small-sized pasta you like though. Small shells or small bowties would work well.
- The tomatoes. I used canned tomatoes that I crushed by hand. If you have fresh plum tomatoes and want to use those, I recommend blanching first and removing the skins.
- The cheese. I love serving this with Pecorino Romano cheese but you can also use Parmigiano Reggiano. If you have a Parmigiano Reggiano rind, you can add that to the zucchini soup for more flavor.
Jim, isn’t this made with cucuzza?
Many Italian-American gardeners grow snake zucchini or cucuzza (slang gagootz). Cucuzza can be found in Italian and Sicilian markets and likely was grown as a way to pay homage to their homeland.
It’s a gourd that grows massively and rewards one with a bountiful harvest of squash and leaves. They are typically grown on a large hanging wood trellis and can often grow 4 feet or larger.
The leaves of the Cucuzza, also known as tenerumi, are often chopped up and added to the zucchini soup. If you grow cucuzza, definitely use those leaves.
More zucchini recipes
If you’re looking for more ways to use zucchini, here are some of our favorite recipes!
- Sausage stuffed zucchini boats – Scooped out zucchini boats loaded with sausage, tomato, and cheese.
- Roasted zucchini pasta – Bite-sized zucchini pieces are roasted and tossed with pasta in a spicy marinara sauce.
- Pasta alla Nerano – Zucchini, Caciocavallo cheese, fresh basil, and pasta in a creamy sauce.
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Italian Zucchini Soup
- 1/2 pound spaghetti broken into bite size pieces
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for serving
- 1 medium onion diced
- 6 cloves garlic chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 4-5 medium zucchini cubed
- 1 14 ounce-can plum tomatoes hand crushed, see notes below
- 6 cups water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup basil chopped
- 1/4 cup parsley chopped
- Pecorino Romano for serving
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Heat a large pot to medium-low heat and add the olive oil along with the onions. Saute for 4-5 minutes or until soft then add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes longer or until lightly golden.
- Add the hot red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more then add the zucchini. Turn the heat to medium and saute the zucchini for about 10 minutes or until fairly soft.
- Add the tomatoes to the pot and continue to cook for a few minutes. Season the tomatoes and veggies with salt and pepper then add the water and bring soup to a simmer.
- At this time cook the broken spaghetti until al dente.
- Once simmering taste test the soup and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Once satisfied, turn off the heat and add the al dente broken spaghetti, basil, and parsley. Mix together.
- If the soup is too thick add a bit more water. Serve the soup in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and grated Pecorino Romano cheese along with crusty Italian bread on the side. Enjoy!
- 14-ounces of plum tomatoes is equal to half a standard American can. Alternatively, you can use 3-4 fresh plum tomatoes that have been blanched to remove the skins.
- Any small pasta can be used, but broken spaghetti or linguine work really well for this dish.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave.
- For more flavor, Parmigiano rinds can be cooked in the soup while simmering.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.