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Quick, Healthy Zucchini Basil Pesto

A simple recipe transforms excess zucchini into healthy zucchini basil pesto with spinach, parmesan, garlic and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a quick weeknight meal!

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Quick, healthy zucchini basil pesto | A fast, easy recipe for extra zucchini with basil, spinach, parmesan and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a fresh vegetarian dinner.

There’s no denying it – I make, and we eat, a lot of pasta. It’s fast, easy, and delicious, and I really need all of those things in my life and my meal plans. At the same time, I’m all about finding ways to add variety, use seasonal produce, and make that pasta more healthy for us. Enter one of my favorite recipes that accomplishes all of these tasks: quick and healthy zucchini basil pesto.

Without a doubt, zucchini is one of the most prolific late summer vegetables. I don’t keep a vegetable garden – my thumb is pitch black, I swear that plants wilt a little if I even glance at them in the store – but I see the crazy piles of zucchini at farmers markets and grocery stores. And I understand from people who do somehow manage to grow actual plants in the actual ground that you can hardly keep up with the zucchini at this time of year. They sort of just keep coming.

Which leaves you with a lot of zucchini!

Quick, healthy zucchini basil pesto | A simple recipe transforms extra zucchini into pesto with spinach, parmesan and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a fresh vegetarian dinner.

It’s pretty common to bake zucchini into breads and muffins and cakes, because it adds a lot of moisture without an overpowering flavor. But if you’re interested in a savory way to incorporate zucchini straight into your main dish, well, you’re in the right place.

We’re going to take grated zucchini, squeeze a bit of that moisture out, and combine it with garlic, parmesan, spinach, basil, pine nuts, and a little seasoning. A quick spin in the food processor takes you from this:

Quick, healthy zucchini basil pesto | A simple recipe transforms extra zucchini into pesto with spinach, parmesan and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a fresh vegetarian dinner.

to this:

Quick, healthy zucchini basil pesto | A simple recipe transforms extra zucchini into pesto with spinach, parmesan and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a fresh vegetarian dinner.

Yum!

Toss that pesto with some cooked pasta, sprinkle with more parmesan and pine nuts, if you like, and dinner is served!

Cross my heart, this tastes just like “regular” basil pesto, but you’ll do a happy dance knowing that you and yours are gobbling up zucchini and spinach in every bite. 100% approved by both the picky toddler and the teenager who “doesn’t like” zucchini. 🙂

Goes great with a glass of dry white, too!

Quick, healthy zucchini basil pesto | A simple recipe transforms extra zucchini into pesto with spinach, parmesan and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a fresh vegetarian dinner.

A quick note on the method – I resisted buying a food processor for several years even after I began to cook often at home. Why oh why did I wait so long!? This thing is a workhorse. Food processors make things possible that would otherwise be, if not impossible, then prohibitively time-consuming or just plain annoying. The hardest part is hauling it up onto the counter. Even clean-up isn’t bad – everything that gets dirty goes straight in the dishwasher.

If you think, as I once did, that food processors are for other people, I urge you to reconsider. The first time you hear that little whir and watch all your ingredients fuse together with the press of a button, you’ll be a believer.

Bombarded with ALL THE ZUCCHINI!? Turn a few into this healthy pesto w/ parmesan and pine nuts!Click To Tweet

The pesto also goes very well with grilled chicken breasts, if you’d like to add a little more protein. This meal works especially well for my family because the pasta provides something relatively hearty for my two vegetarians, and it’s easy to grill a couple of chicken breasts separately for the carnivores.

Quick, healthy zucchini basil pesto | A simple recipe transforms extra zucchini into pesto with spinach, parmesan and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a fresh vegetarian dinner.

While you’re at it, why not use some more zucchini to whip up a batch of moist, wholesome zucchini chocolate chip muffins? Or these baked turkey meatballs packed with shredded zucchini and carrot?

Not only will you be eating well with all this good stuff around, but between the pasta, the muffins, and the meatballs, you’re sure to get some green veg in even the pickiest eater – without a tantrum or fight!

Now that’s something we can all cheer for! Enjoy! 🙂

p.s. For new recipe photos and the occasional behind-the-scenes pic, follow me on Instagram! Or give me a follow on Facebook or see what I’m pinning on Pinterest! ♥

Quick, healthy zucchini basil pesto | A simple recipe transforms extra zucchini into pesto with spinach, parmesan and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a fresh vegetarian dinner.

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Quick, Healthy Zucchini Basil Pesto

Prep

Total

Yield 4-6 servings

A simple recipe to transform excess zucchini into healthy zucchini basil pesto with spinach, parmesan and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a quick weeknight meal! Yummy as-is for vegetarians, or add some grilled chicken for extra protein.

Ingredients

For the Pesto:

  • 2 cups grated zucchini (from 1 large or 2 small zucchini)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

To Serve:

  • 16 ounces (500 grams) pasta
  • additional parmesan and pine nuts, as desired

Instructions

  1. In a food processor fitted with the shredding disc, grate the zucchini. Scoop zucchini out of the bowl and into a clean dish towel. (The towel might absorb some green color, which should wash out, but use an *old* clean towel to be safe - or paper towels.)
  2. Wrap the shredded zucchini up in the towel, and squeeze with your hands to press some of the water out into the sink. Replace the shredding disc with the metal blade, and return the (somewhat more dry) shredded zucchini to the bowl of the food processor.
  3. Add the garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, basil, spinach, salt, and pepper to the zucchini and process until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly add olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  4. Stir pesto into cooked pasta, and serve with additional parmesan and pine nuts, as desired. Pesto will keep at least 3-4 days in the fridge; store with a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto in a tightly sealed container. (The olive oil minimizes the pesto’s contact with air, which keeps it fresher longer.)

Adapted from Running to the Kitchen


Quick, healthy zucchini basil pesto | A simple recipe for extra zucchini with spinach, parmesan and pine nuts. Toss with pasta for a fast, fresh vegetarian dinner.

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Tasha K
    August 25, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Looks delicious! Do you know if it freezes well?

    • Reply
      Monica
      August 25, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      It does! Freeze in an airtight container and allow to thaw in the fridge before giving it a good stir and proceeding as you normally would. It should keep at least 2-3 months. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Kelsey Renee | Blue Cheese Bungalow
    August 11, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I really love this post and the pasta looks delicious! We eat a lot of pasta too so I like to switch it up now and then. Zucchini is so versatile isn’t it? Shared and saved for later. Can’t wait to try.

    • Reply
      Monica
      August 11, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks, Kelsey! I’m so happy you like the idea!

  • Reply
    Ginny
    August 6, 2017 at 12:20 am

    What a beautiful fresh pasta recipe! I would like to make a gallon of that pesto!

  • Reply
    Allison - Celebrating Sweets
    August 5, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    This looks SO good! And a great way to sneak in a few extra veggies! Can’t wait to try it. Pinned!

  • Reply
    Garlic + Zest
    August 5, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Good to know that I’m not the only one with a black thumb! Luckily – there’s enough zucchini in the market that I don’t have to grow it myself! This pesto looks delicious! I’m sure it’s good on pasta, but I think I might like to slather it on a sandwich instead of mayonnaise. That’s allowed, right?

    • Reply
      Monica
      August 5, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      Ooooh, that sounds like a wonderful idea! I’m thinking it would be super good with some crusty bread and roast turkey or chicken breast!

  • Reply
    Ayngelina Brogan
    August 5, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    I’ve made a lot of pesto but I never thought to add zucchini, I love this as a healthy trick to pasta too. Thanks for the tip!

  • Reply
    Rebecca | Let's Eat Cake
    August 5, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I have such a weakness for pesto, so thank you for sharing this healthier version! It looks so vibrant and delicious!

  • Reply
    Beth
    August 4, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    OMG! I LOVE this! I have so much zucchini in my freezer from last year and I have been wanted to use it up because I have new ones coming in! I’m going to make QUARTS of this!! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    August 4, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    I have to try this! I have courgettes multiplying in my vegetable crisper and this would be a great way to use them up. PLUS, I happen to have all the ingredients on hand already! Definitely making this tomorrow!

  • Reply
    Tina Dawson | Love is in my Tummy
    August 4, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    My basil plant is pending a good trim – it’s gotten a bit wild. And now I know what I’ll be making with all those cuttings!

  • Reply
    Brian Jones
    August 4, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    That sounds lovely pesto pasta is a real mid week lazy day lifesaver in our house.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    August 4, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    This looks delicious! I would never have thought of using zucchini in pesto but this is definitely something I will have to try!

  • Reply
    sue | theviewfromgreatisland
    August 4, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Omg so beautiful ~ I never thought to add zucchini to my pesto, but it makes a lot of sense ~ great way to use up the glut right now 🙂

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