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Pesto Di Zucchine (Zucchini Pesto)

Pesto di zucchine is a flavorful green sauce for pasta, pizza, and beyond. It’s so flavorful yet simple, versatile, and veggie-packed. Plus this recipe is completely dairy-free.

Pesto di zucchine, which translates to zucchini pesto, is a variation of the classic Italian basil pesto. Traditionally it’s made by incorporating freshly grated zucchini and then removing the excess liquid before blending it up with garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, parmesan, fresh basil, salt, and olive oil.

Because this recipe has no dairy, lightly charring the zucchini adds more umami or savoriness and depth of flavor. For more pesto recipes, try red pesto, arugula pesto, or cilantro pesto.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil – adds loads of flavor and gives it the right consistency.
  • Garlic cloves – these get quickly cooked in olive oil to mellow out the flavor and reduce the harshness of raw garlic.
  • Zucchini – the smaller the zucchini, the sweeter the flavor, so opt for small to medium zucchini over larger ones.
  • Fresh basil – contributes to the green color and the classic pesto flavor.
  • Fresh lemon juice – this really brightens up the sauce.
  • Pumpkin seeds – these get lightly toasted to create another layer of flavor and are a great nut-free option that works really well with the other ingredients.
  • Nutritional yeastadds a cheezy, umami flavor.
  • Kosher salt – really enhances and brings out all the flavors in the pesto. Season to taste.
  • Freshly cracked black pepper – to taste.

How to Make Pesto Di Zucchine

Step 1. Trim the ends off the zucchini and then cut them lengthwise into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Set them aside while you toast the pumpkin seeds.

Step 2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the pumpkin seeds to the dry pan. Toast them for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and lightly fragrant, stirring frequently so they don’t burn. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Step 3. Add one tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet along with the smashed garlic cloves. Saute until the garlic cloves are golden brown, then remove them from the pan and set aside. Bump the heat up to medium-high and add the sliced zucchini in a single layer. Cook until it’s lightly charred on both sides. Repeat this process until you’ve cooked all the zucchini.

Step 4. Add the toasted pumpkin seeds, garlic, charred zucchini slices, fresh basil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and the rest of the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until mostly smooth, but still has some texture. Add more salt as needed, to taste.

Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

Please remember that recipes are just a starting point

How can you make this pesto di zucchine using what you already have? Here are some ideas…

  • No zucchini? – you can also use yellow summer squash or squash blossoms for a similar taste and texture.
  • No pumpkin seeds? – sub pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios, slivered almonds, or cashews.
  • No nutritional yeast? – you can leave it out.
  • Not dairy free? – sub parmesan in place of the nutritional yeast.

Frequently Asked Questions

What cuts bitterness in pesto?

Raw garlic has a very bitter, harsh taste. To minimize the bitterness in pesto, saute the garlic first in a little olive oil before blending it with the rest of the ingredients.

How do you store pesto?

Store pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  

Can you freeze pesto?

Pesto freezes really well. First, spoon it into a silicone ice tray. Once it’s frozen, you can easily pop out the pesto cubes and transfer them to a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. When ready to use add the cubes directly to a warm skillet or let thaw in the fridge overnight.

How to Serve

Serve zucchini pesto over spaghetti, linguine, or your favorite pasta. It’s also delicious on eggs, roasted vegetables, or a protein of your choice such as chicken or lemon butter fish.

You can also serve it as a dip with crackers or as a sauce for pizza.

More Zucchini Recipes

Pesto Di Zucchine (Zucchini Pesto)

5 from 2 votes
A bowl of homemade zucchini pesto.
Pesto di zucchine is a flavorful green sauce for pasta, pizza, and beyond. It's so flavorful yet simple, versatile, and veggie-packed. Plus this recipe is completely dairy-free.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes
Serving Size 1.5 cups

Ingredients
 

  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 small zucchini
  • ¾ cup fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon diamond crystal kosher salt, plus more to taste see notes
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Trim the ends off the zucchini and then cut them lengthwise into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Set them aside while you toast the pumpkin seeds.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the pumpkin seeds to the dry pan. Toast them for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and lightly fragrant, stirring frequently so they don’t burn. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
  • Add one tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet along with the smashed garlic cloves. Saute until the garlic cloves are golden brown, then remove them from the pan and set aside. Bump the heat up to medium-high and add the sliced zucchini in a single layer. Cook until it's lightly charred on both sides. Repeat this process until you've cooked all the zucchini.
  • Add the toasted pumpkin seeds, garlic, charred zucchini slices, fresh basil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and the rest of the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until mostly smooth, but still has some texture. Add more salt as needed, to taste.

Notes

If you’re using any salt other than diamond crystal kosher salt, reduce the amount to 1/4 teaspoon, plus more to taste.
How to Store
Fridge: Store pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freezer: Spoon it into a silicone ice tray. Once it’s frozen, you can easily pop out the pesto cubes and transfer them to a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. When ready to use add the cubes directly to a warm skillet or let thaw in the fridge overnight.

Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

No zucchini? – you can also use yellow summer squash or squash blossoms for a similar taste and texture.
No pumpkin seeds? – sub pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios, slivered almonds, or cashews.
No nutritional yeast? – you can leave it out.
Not dairy free? – sub parmesan in place of the nutritional yeast.
5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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