This zucchini pesto pasta recipe features your choice of al dente pasta and tender-crisp bites of zucchini tossed with fresh pesto, but not just any pesto. It’s made with basil, garlic, almonds, olive oil, AND zucchini. Full of goodness and veggies, It’s the perfect variation of classic pesto for summer.
If zucchini is one of your favorite veggies, you will love this zucchini pesto pasta. Cook pasta and zucchini and toss it with homemade pesto made with…you guessed it, more zucchini! This is a great way to use up the extra zucchini in the summer.
This pasta with zucchini pesto is quick, easy, and perfect for a meatless Monday. Hold the parmesan or use vegan parmesan, and you can make your zucchini pesto pasta 100% vegan. It’s also kid-friendly, and everyone agrees it’s delicious!
Ready to make zucchini pesto for your pasta? Here are a few things to remember about the ingredients before we start.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Here’s what you’ll need to make zucchini pesto with pasta:
- Extra Virgin Olive oil: Make sure it’s cold pressed and good quality!
- Zucchini: When zucchini are picked before maturity, they retain less water and have better flavor, so look for deep green small to medium-size raw zucchini.
- Basil: This wouldn’t be pesto without vibrant, fresh basil.
- Nuts: I like using almonds, but cashews, walnuts, pine nuts, and pistachios are perfectly suitable alternatives.
- Garlic: Adds savory flavor to the pesto.
- Lemon (optional): The zest adds a lemony, refreshing touch, while the juice adds a bit of zing, and it helps to keep the basil a vibrant green color.
- Dry pasta: Choose pasta with nooks and crevices to trap the sauce, like fusilli and penne. Or use long noodles like linguine, bucatini, fettuccine, or spaghetti.
- Reserved pasta water: Helps thin the zucchini pesto into a smooth pasta sauce.
- Salt & black pepper
How To Make
- Prep the zucchini: Wash and dry the zucchini, then chop them into roughly 1/3″ cubes. You can chop the zucchini into bigger pieces, but they’ll need to cook for longer.
- Cook garlic and zucchini: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Then, add the minced garlic, lower the heat to medium, and sauté until fragrant (30 seconds). Next, add the zucchini, season immediately with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook on medium heat until the zucchini is tender-crisp (5-8 minutes).
- Pulse to make pesto: Add almonds, basil, lemon zest, and half of the cooked zucchini (no need to cool) to the bowl of your food processor, and pulse until the mixture becomes a smooth zucchini pesto sauce.
- Prepare the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add your pasta to the boiling water, and cook al dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain well.
- Combine pasta and pesto: Add the pasta to the skillet with the remaining cooked zucchini and the pesto. Then, gently stir in a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water until the pesto is a creamy, velvety consistency.
- Serve: Serve homemade pesto pasta hot topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese (or vegan parmesan!). Enjoy!
How to Store
Storing: You can keep this pesto in the fridge in a glass-sealed container for a day. Fresh basil leaves tend to oxidize once cut, so drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top to keep the pesto from turning brown quickly. It’s still delicious even when not as vibrant and pretty.
The pasta will keep well in the fridge for 1-2 days and can be eaten cold or a room temperature.
Freezing: I don’t recommend freezing the whole dish, but you can freeze extra zucchini pesto in a freezer-safe container or ice cube trays for up to 6 months. Just thaw it in the fridge 24 hours before using it.
- Season the zucchini with salt immediately after adding it to your hot pan. This helps keep the zucchini crisp, as the salt begins pulling moisture from the zucchini immediately, leaving plenty of time for the excess liquid to cook out.
- This zucchini pesto is perfect as it is, but if you want to give it a spicy kick, add some red pepper flakes or toss in extra garlic cloves for a boost of flavor.
- If your food processor isn’t very powerful, pulse the almonds into a fine meal first, then add the remaining pesto ingredients, and continue pulsing until smooth.
- You can also add some fresh cherry tomatoes to your pasta for some extra flavor and a burst of color.
- Zucchini pesto pasta is best served hot, but it’s also tasty at room temperature or chilled.
Many pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but I use almonds as they’re not as pricey. As for other types of nuts that you can use, try walnuts, macadamia nuts, and pecans.
For a nut-free zucchini pesto, swap almonds for sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds.
Basil oxidizes and loses its vibrancy soon after being cut, so it only lasts for about a day, but if you store it properly in the freezer, it lasts up to 6 months.
Yes. To make gluten-free zucchini pasta, use your favorite gluten-free dry pasta, like corn, quinoa, lentil, or brown rice gluten-free pasta.
Use a handheld spiralizer to make zucchini noodles or your favorite low-carb pasta instead of dry pasta for low-carb and keto-friendly zucchini pesto pasta.
Why I Love This Zucchini Pesto Pasta
- It’s quick, easy, and great for busy weeknights.
- Hold the parmesan, and it’s a vegan main course the whole family will love.
- The pesto also goes well as a condiment with simple meat and seafood entrees.
- Easy to make gluten-free and low-carb.
Other Pasta Recipes You’ll Love
- Tuscan Kale Pesto Pasta
- Basil Pesto Pasta
- No-Cook Creamy Tomato Pasta
- Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Sage
- Creamy Vegan Mushroom Pasta
- Vegan Creamy Tomato Pasta with Herbs
- Asparagus Pesto Pasta
- Hummus Pasta
If you try this zucchini pesto pasta recipe, please leave a comment and a rating and let me know how much you liked it!
Zucchini Pesto Pasta
- 12 oz dry pasta - 360g
- 2 pounds zucchini - 800g
- 1/3 cup almonds - 45g – or cashews, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios
- 1 cup basil - 35g
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of ½ lemon - optional
- 1/2 cup pasta cooking water - reserve before draining
- Parmesan cheese - optional
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season it with salt.
Prepare the zucchini pesto
- Wash the zucchini, trim the ends, then cut them into small cubes (around 1/3 inch). You can cut them into bigger pieces, but it’ll take longer to cook them.
- Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large pan. When hot, add the minced garlic, turn the heat down to medium, and sauté for 30 seconds. Then add the zucchini, season immediately with salt (this will help release the water from the zucchini), and pepper. Cook for about 5-8 minutes until slightly soft but still a bit crisp.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the almonds, basil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and half of the cooked zucchini – no need to cool (reserve the other half for the pasta). Pulse until you get a creamy, smooth zucchini pesto (note 1).
Prepare the pasta
- As soon as the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, stir, and cook according to package instructions. Once your pasta is cooked al dente, reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain.
- Add the pasta to the large pan with the cooked zucchini, add the pesto, and gentry stir, adding a bit of pasta cooking water at a time until you get a creamy, velvety consistency.
- Serve hot, although this zucchini pesto pasta is also delicious at room temperature or cold. You can top it with grated parmesan for cheesy flavor (vegan or not).
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