If you're looking for an easy and tasty Instant Pot zucchini recipe, this dish is an absolute must-try and will surprise you in many ways. Inspired by Meghan Markle's zucchini pasta, this recipe uses only a handful of ingredients that turn into a creamy, flavorful braised zucchini sauce that will make everyone think you slow-cooked it for 4-5 hours. Except, it only takes 30 minutes with the Instant Pot. Let us show you how to do it!
Meghan Markle's Zucchini Pasta
Megan Markle is more known for her royal status than her cooking skills BUT this recipe for slow-cooked zucchini pasta sauce has made waves on the Internet.
In her interview with Delish back in 2018, Markle described it as 'filthy sexy mash', that's perfect on a bowl of pasta. "The sauce gets so creamy, you'd swear there's tons of butter and oil in it, but it's just zucchini, water and a little bouillon," Meghan said in that interview and although she didn't provide a full recipe, she did mention that it's slow-cooked for 4-5 hours.
The slow cooking transforms the zucchini into a caramelized, rich, ragu-like mushy sauce that's surprisingly creamy and tasty.
Upon doing extra research, we discovered that this dish is similar to Stanely Tucci's favorite zucchini spaghetti (Spaghetti alla Nerano), in which the zucchini slices are deep-fried and then finished in a pan as a slightly mushy sauce for the pasta.
Both recipes intrigued us enough and with so much zucchini around, we decided to make Meghan Markle zucchini pasta using the Instant Pot.
Our Instant Pot Version
Meghan uses only zucchini, water and a bit of bouillon for her zucchini sauce but we wanted to build out the flavors and give the sauce more richness and gloss.
In addition to zucchini, water and bouillon or stock cubes/powder, we added olive oil, onion, garlic, chili flakes, lemon zest and juice (these brighten up the sauce and lemon pairs so well with zucchini.
Using the Instant Pot, we cut down the slow-cooking time from 4-5 hours of the original recipe to about 30-40 minutes, which involves pressure cooking and sauteeing the sauce to get the right consistency and flavor.
Did We Love It?
We'll be honest, halfway through cooking, this dish didn't look very promising: raw zucchini doesn't taste like much and mushy zucchini doesn't look that appetizing. But, give it some patience and trust the process, and you will be rewarded!
The pressure cooking quickly breaks down and braises the zucchini, while the setting stage will evaporate the liquid, thicken and caramelize the sauce, concentrating all the flavors and creating a creamy texture.
The result is a hearty pasta sauce that uses up seasonal summer produce (aka zucchini), is easy to make, and packs a ton of flavor. It's savory, and subtly sweet with a creamy mouth feel without using any butter, cream or cheese. It's really good and we can see what all the hype is about. Plus, it's vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly.
Here is what you need to make this zucchini sauce pasta.
- Green zucchini -do not peel!
- Olive oil - choose good quality, extra-virgin olive oil as it adds a lot of flavor
- Onion and garlic
- Vegetable stock bouillon cubes or bouillon powder
- Salt and chili flakes
- Pasta - we love rigatoni but you could use penne, fusilli, spaghetti or fettuccine here.
- Optional: Parmesan cheese to serve
How To Make Zucchini Sauce In Instant Pot
You will find the full recipe, nutritional information and storage tips in the card below. Here are some step-by-step instructions to guide you along.
Prepare zucchini- slice it in 3-4 slices vertically, then slice each thick slice into large strips and dice those into small cubes.
Step 1. Using the Saute setting, cook onions in olive oil for 2 minutes until softened.
Step 2. Turn the Saute setting to MORE (simply press the Saute button more than once to cycle through heat modes). Add diced zucchini, another tablespoon of olive oil and cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring a few times.
Step 3. Add the garlic, chili flakes, vegetable stock cubes or stock/bouillon powder (about 1 tablespoon of 2 cubes). Add ½ cup of water. Stir everything and cover with a lid.
Step 4. Pressure Cook on HIGH for 1 minute. Once done, quickly release the pressure.
Step 5. Open the lid. Add lemon zest, juice of ½ lemon, and another tablespoon of olive oil.
Step 6. Saute on MORE for about 8 minutes. Stir every 2-3 minutes, no more than that. The liquid will bubble away and the sauce will thicken. Then turn down to NORMAL for 2-3 more minutes, stirring more frequently and scraping the more browned, caramelized parts of the sauce off the bottom of the pot.
Serving The Sauce
Serve it with your favorite al dente pasta (we love rigatoni) and finish it with a touch of Parmesan or crushed croutons or garlic breadcrumbs.
Stir the leftovers into rice, quinoa or black beans for extra flavor. You can also serve it as a dip and spread it on sourdough toast; it's equally delicious cold.
- Use green zucchini (known as summer squash) as that will give you the best flavor and lovely color.
- Make sure to cut zucchini into small cubes so that it cooks down properly.
- Use good quality olive oil as a lot of the flavor comes from it.
- Only use ½ cup water, there is plenty of juice in the zucchini.
- Make sure to saute long enough after cooking for the sauce to reduce and start caramelizing/browning, which will start to happen as some of the liquid evaporates.
- When stirring this sauce with pasta, add a splash of pasta cooking water.
- The sauce is lovely with added grated Parmesan or Pecorino but is equally good dairy-free. For a vegan version, you can top the pasta with garlic breadcrumbs or nutritional yeast flakes or dairy-free cheese alternative.
- This zucchini sauce can be served with almost any pasta shape but as it's very flavorsome, avoid small-shaped pasta as there would be too much sauce in each mouthful.
The zucchini sauce will keep for up to 4-5 days in the fridge. The generous amount of olive oil is great for keeping it fresh. We recommend storing it on its own and making fresh pasta so you get the best texture and can dilute the sauce with a little pasta water as needed.
The sauce can be frozen but its texture will get affected so we don’t recommend it.
Using Up Leftovers
Leftover zucchini pasta sauce is great for using in other dishes. It was fabulous stirred into a pumpkin risotto, added to a vegetable stew or lentil stew, or stirred into a simple dish of Instant Pot black beans or quinoa for extra flavor.. It’s also very nice on toasted sourdough.
If you’re looking for more recipes with zucchini, check these out.
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Instant Pot Zucchini Pasta Full Recipe
- 1 onion medium, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 zucchini medium, cut into small cubes, 1.4 lb / 650 g
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 cubes vegetable stock or 1 tablespoon veggie stock powder
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes or powder
- ½ cup water
After pressure cooking
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoon lemon Juice of ½
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- parsley chopped
- Parmesan optional for garnish
- Turn the Instant Pot on Saute setting, Normal mode. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, diced onion and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes, until softened.
- Turn the Saute setting to MORE (simply press the Saute button more than once to cycle through heat modes). Add diced zucchini, another tablespoon of olive oil and cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring a few times. Press Cancel to stop the Sautes setting.
- Add the garlic, chili flakes, vegetable stock cubes or stock/bouillon powder (about 1 tablespoon of 2 cubes, equivalent to making 2 cups of stock but you're only adding the dry stuff). Then add ½ cup of water. You don't need to add more than that because zucchini will release plenty of liquid. Stir everything and cover with a lid.
- Secure and set to Pressure Cook on HIGH for 1 minute. The Instant Pot will take about 5-10 minutes to come to pressure and then the timer will begin. Once done, quickly release the pressure.
- Open the lid. Add lemon zest, juice of ½ lemon, and another tablespoon of olive oil (this is optional but adds more flavor and gloss). Press the Saute setting button and cycle to MORE heat mode.
- Saute on MORE for about 8 minutes. Stir every 2-3 minutes, no more than that. The liquid will bubble away and the sauce will thicken. Then turn down to NORMAL for 2-3 more minutes, stirring more frequently and scraping the more browned, caramelized parts of the sauce off the bottom of the pot.