It’s springtime, and that means it’s the perfect pesto time, so I thought I would bring a dish of zucchini noodles with Genovese pesto to the table. If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to pasta, zucchini noodles are a great choice. This dish is low carb, low-fat, gluten-free, and takes less than 20 minutes to make. Pretty great, huh? I love fresh summer vegetables, cooked and raw, and when I discovered zoodles – zucchini noodles or pasta – I can’t wait to try it with some of my other favorite summer vegetables – yellow, crookneck squash and cucumbers. Oh, and winter squash, too!
So, I did make a mushy mess with the first couple of zucchini. Learning the hard way, trial by error, and all that, I’m happy I made the mistakes so you don’t have to. I used a vegetable peeler and 1.) didn’t place the zucchini on a flat surface to peel and 2.) I trimmed to the core, including the seeds. I strongly recommend cutting the ribbons of noodles while holding the zucchini firmly on a flat surface, such as a cutting board. You can cut to the core, but stop when you hit the soft area that holds the seeds. Once I turned the initial learning curve, this squash was particularly easy to work with.
Are those zucchini noodles and pesto mouthwatering or what? Believe me when I say this dish tastes as good as it looks. I used a multi-cut vegetable peeler my son got for me when he was in culinary school, and it worked well as a Julienne peeler. It was a little more time-consuming than I had hoped using the Julienne peeler, so I’ve ordered a spiralizer for next time. This one (affiliate link) had great reviews and is inexpensive, much less expensive than the attachment for the Kitchenaid mixer.
And the cheese! Oh, cheese how I love thee. I used Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but you can use any cheese you like. Pecorino Romano, a much sharper cheese, would taste delicious with this recipe, as well. The Parmigiano-Reggiano adds a salty taste that lends a savory to the sweet of the noodles. I added the cheese to the pesto and garnished the top, as well. Yum.
You can serve the zucchini noodles as they are or sauté them for a softer noodle. I sautéed my zoodles in just enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Sauté the noodles a minute or two until they are tender without being soggy. The noodles will release quite a bit of water, so they will need to be drained quickly because nobody likes a soggy noodle. I later discovered that I can microwave the zucchini noodles for a couple of minutes, give or take, in the microwave to soften them. I haven’t tried that method but will let you know how it turns out when I do.
The Genovese pesto is what really makes this dish incredible. The lemony sweetness of the basil and the sharp and salty Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese compliment each other beautifully. I used pine nuts, which are a classic in Italian pesto, but you can substitute cashews if you prefer; you will need to soak the cashews in water, first. You can also crush the basil leaves using a mortar and pestle before adding to the food processor to release more flavor from the basil. Don’t run and buy a mortar and pestle if you don’t have one because the pesto will taste just as incredible without one.
This amazing and delicious dish of zucchini pasta and pesto is tangy, sharp, sweet, savory, and a favorite at my table for dinner or packed in a lunch. I really hope you try this recipe this spring or summer because it will be a favorite menu item, for sure. If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it to help others, and don’t forget to share your dish on social media and tag #southerncooked. Buon appetito!
Zucchini Noodles with Genovese Pesto
Yield 6 servings
A healthy and gluten-free alternative to high-carb pasta and with a delicious Italian pesto.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
- 1/4 tsp Kosher salt or 1/8 tsp sea salt
- black pepper to taste
- 4 small zucchini, ends trimmed
- Using a julienne peeler, mandoline or spiralizer, cut the zucchini into long spirals of noodles.
- Saute the noodles over medium heat until tender in enough olive oil to coat the pan, being careful not to overcook. Drain in a colander and set aside.
- In a food processor or blender combine basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, garlic, and salt. Cover and process or blend, slowly adding 1/3 cup olive oil, until nearly smooth, stopping and scraping sides as necessary and adding enough of 2 tablespoons additional olive oil to reach desired consistency.
- Add black pepper to taste. Makes 3/4 cup.
Quick tip: Zucchini noodles can be microwaved for approximately 2 minutes (watch closely) instead of sauteed.
To store Pesto: Divide pesto into 1/4 cup portions. Place portions in airtight containers; chill for 2 days or freeze for 3 months.
Courses Main Course
Serving Size Per tablespoon
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 9 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Cholesterol 3 mg
Sodium 111 mg
Total Carbohydrates 2 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
You might also enjoy asparagus with roasted red peppers.