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Zucchini Pesto with Toasted Garlic
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Nutty zucchini pesto with fresh basil leaves, toasted garlic, and crumbled Parmesan is just the thing to toss with noodles for a quick late summer dinner.
Recipe Type: Dinner
Keyword: zucchini pesto
Makes: 6 generous servings
Author: Elizabeth Stark
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (raw, hulled pumpkin seeds), soaked in 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1 medium zucchini shredded with the large hole side of a box grater (about 2 cups shredded)
  • 2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 - 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon plus 2 tablespoons juice
  • 2 - 4 tablespoons water as needed
To Serve
  • 1 pound short pasta such as casarecce or campanelle, cooked to al dente in salted water
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used sun gold)
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan, crumbled
  • Black pepper
  • 6 lemon wedges
  1. Cover the pepitas in boiling water and set aside to soak for an hour or more. Strain just before using.

  2. Create a stack of 2 - 3 paper towels (or use a clean flour cloth), arrange the shredded zucchini on top, and cover with more towels. Roll into a tight bundle and press and ring to get all the moisture out.
  3. Rinse and pat dry the basil leaves, roll in paper towels or a flour cloth, and gently press to dry. Leave in a roll until needed.
  4. Set a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and then the garlic. Cook, moving the garlic and spooning hot oil over it, for 1 - 2 minutes, or just until the garlic takes on a light golden hue. Remove to a small dish. Add 1 - 2 tablespoons more olive oil to the same skillet and add the zucchini. Sauté just until the zucchini has wilted, but still retains it's vibrant green color. Spoon zucchini out of skillet.
  5. In the bowl of your food processor, add the garlic, zucchini, basil, strained pumpkin seeds, and the lemon zest and juice and pulse to reduce. With food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. If needed, add up to 4 tablespoons water to thin the mixture.
  6. Toss pesto with hot pasta. Toss tomatoes with a pinch of flaky sea salt and scatter over the pesto pasta. Finish with crumbled Parmesan (if using) and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with lemon wedges.

  7. Pasta can be made ahead and refrigerated – just keep the tomatoes separate until you serve the pasta to keep it from getting soggy. Let it come to room temp before serving.