Sunshine Pasta - A Simple Summer Dish
Nina Herndon
June 29, 2022
August 16, 2023

I don’t know if my time working at the Olive Garden or my disordered eating beliefs convinced me that pasta was “bad,” but I never used to eat pasta. Funny enough, I married a woman whose favorite dish is anything with pasta!

A couple of years ago, we started making Spaghetti Aglio e Olio With Lots of Kale, and it has since become the inspiration behind the almost weekly staple in our house. I love that it’s filled with vegetables – you can use any you’d like, it’s easily adapted for every season – and it’s ready in about 20 minutes. I’ve impressed many a friend with this almost effortless dish.

Right now, you can find this on our Summer Retreat menu. We serve all of our meals buffet-style so that you can pick and choose precisely what you want on your plate. That means you’ll find the seasonal summer vegetables and roasted chicken (not included in this recipe but can be easily added) served on the side. 

I hope you enjoy it! And just a friendly reminder: no food is “bad,” and you are allowed to eat things you want. 


  • 12 oz dry penne, or your favorite, pasta
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 16 oz baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large lemon, 1 tsp zest, and all the juice
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese


Cook Pasta 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add Penne and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Roast Vegetables

  • While pasta is boiling, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and butter in a large skillet or cast iron over medium heat.
  • When the butter and olive oil are hot and bubbly, add the onions, mushrooms, and squash, stirring to coat in the oil mixture.
  • Spread the vegetables evenly in the pan, and let cook – without stirring – for 5 minutes. 
  • After 5 minutes, add minced garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the vegetables and stir. 
  • Spread the vegetables evenly again, and cook without stirring for another 5 minutes.

Combine & Serve

  • Over medium heat, add the drained penne to your vegetables and ¼ cup of reserved pasta water; stir to coat and turn off the heat. Stir in the remaining 3 Tbsp olive oil, basil, lemon juice, and zest.
  • Serve warm, topped with as much parmesan cheese as you’d like.

Tip to Reduce Food Waste

Toss your leftover Sunshine Pasta with our Summer Tomato Salad for an easy pasta salad to enjoy the next day.

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Nina Herndon

Nina believes women have an incredible ability to help one another, and is driven to cultivate safe spaces for them to do so. Over the years she has helped her mom to grow Retreat in the Pines to reach as many women as possible.

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