Zucchini Pesto Pasta

Zucchini Pesto Pasta

Zucchini Pesto Pasta

I was extremely fortunate to volunteer at the top food event in Chicago a few weeks ago: the Green City Market BBQ. One of the best run events in the city – and far superior to last year’s Chicago Gourmet – the BBQ features 65 chef’s from the city’s finest restaurants and sells out quickly, so while crowded it wasn’t overcrowded, and they didn’t run out of food!

Spiaggia's Crostini

Spiaggia's Grilled Zucchini & Pestyo Crostini

There were so many amazing dishes featuring exotic meats like elk and goat to  the predictable but always delicious pork belly. But it was a vegetarian offering that really stood out for me: “grilled zucchini and pestyo crostini” from Spiaggia. There was something so pleasing about the simple, fresh, bright flavors that I was inspired to try it at home. Mind you, I don’t claim to cook Spiaggia-type food (it’s one of the top restaurants in Chicago), but I did want to try my hand at reinterpreting the flavors.

My version uses spaghetti (today it was dried whole wheat but fresh would be ideal) instead of crostini (toasted bread) to make it an entree, but I think this zucchini-pesto combination would also be fabulous as a sandwich with chicken.

Pesto: lots of fresh basil Pesto: toasted pine nuts Pesto: grind pine nuts

Pesto: grind basil Pesto: drizzle in olive oil Pesto: blend in parmesan cheese

The first thing I had to do was make the pesto, an Italian sauce made from blended basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. This recipe makes much more than you’ll need for the zucchini pasta, but it’s versatile and freezes very well so definitely make the whole thing.

Next I went to work on zucchini. I used stripped zucchini that have the same flavor as regular, which I sauteed with sliced onion until both were lightly caramelized then tossed them with homemade pesto and cooked spaghetti noodles. Voila, a fantastic summer weeknight dinner.

Zucchini Pesto Pasta: striped zucchini Zucchini Pesto Pasta: saute zucchini and onions Zucchini Pesto Pasta: stir in pesto

Here’s the recipe for zucchini pesto pasta:


1/2 cup pine nuts

2 cloves garlic

4 cups packed basil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Heat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, about 3 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the pine nuts because they can burn quickly. Cool the pine nuts to room temperature.

Combine the pine nuts and garlic in a food processor. Blend well, then add the basil. Pulse until well blended then slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the motor running. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Serve pesto with pasta, vegetables, fish or chicken. Freeze leftover pasta pressed into a thin layer in a plastic bag and break off small pieces as you need them.

Zucchini Pesto Pasta – serves 4

1/2 pound spaghetti noodles

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 onion, sliced into long, thin strips

2  medium zucchini, halved then sliced thin into half-moon shapes

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pinch pepper

2 tablespoons pesto

2 tablespoons pasta cooking water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water and drain the pasta.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the pesto and 2 tablespoons pasta cooking water. Add more water if necessary to thin out the sauce. Mix in the cooked pasta and lemon juice. Serve warm.

  • Pam posted: 03 Aug at 12:00 pm

    I made this last night with some striped zucchini from my friend’s garden and it was very easy and delicious. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Jackie posted: 06 Aug at 2:13 pm

    Pam, I’m so glad you liked the recipe! And I’m jealous you got the zucchini straight from the garden!

  • Heirloom Tomato Tart | Foodie Reflections posted: 26 Aug at 1:49 pm

    [...] 2 teaspoons pesto sauce [...]

  • Melanie Vasquez posted: 29 Oct at 9:21 am

    Hi there!

    This looks delicious! I love italian food, especially when is mixed with something spicy.
    I just want to ask ’2 tablespoons pasta cooking water’ – what is this ‘water’ and is there something special about it?

    Thank you,

  • Jasmy posted: 30 Oct at 6:56 am

    Great recipe! Having a food processor is great for whizzing up a quick pesto, it takes no time at all and is fresh and delicious.

  • Melanie Vasquez posted: 01 Nov at 7:19 am


    I made the “Zucchini Pesto Pasta” and it was very delicious. I also added special sicilian souce.


  • Charles Kovacs posted: 03 Nov at 1:19 am

    hmmm This Zucchini Pesto Pasta is so mouth watering, I hope my mom could still make this for me. So DELICIOUS!

6 + = seven

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