Come August, summer’s bounty is in full swing. Gardens everywhere are bursting with fresh fruits and veggies, including juicy tomatoes and fast-growing zucchini. This time of year, extra zucchini often ends up in tasty loaves of bread and muffins—but even with two kids, there are only so many courgette-filled baked goods a family can eat in a week. Not to mention, there are only so many days this month one can turn on the oven with summer temperatures at their peak.
Wondering what to do with that abundance of garden-fresh zucchini? Turn it into pesto! It’s a great way to use up your summer surplus and get in an extra serving of veggies. Neither of my kids will eat zucchini by itself just yet, but blended into pesto and spooned over whole-wheat pasta? They can’t get enough of it, and frankly, neither can I. It’s quick to make and packed with good-for-you nutrients, including an abundance of healthy fats from olive oil and pine nuts.
We’ve enjoyed this pesto over pasta, spooned over sauteed garlic shrimp and spread onto crostini for a fresh pesto-tomato bruschetta. There’s really no wrong way to serve it! Here are three tips to save you even more time and help you get the most out of all that extra zucchini this month.
For optimal freshness, transfer the pesto to a quart-size plastic bag and press out the extra air, or spoon it into a food storage container and gently press some plastic wrap on top of the pesto to minimize exposure to air.
Don’t sweat it. If you’re tight on time, it’s OK not to sweat the zucchini first. Your pesto will likely have a slightly higher water content, but this isn’t a problem if you’re eating it right away. You may even find it enhances the pesto’s freshness.
Freeze half for another night. This recipe makes about 2 cups of zucchini pesto, enough for about 2 pounds of uncooked pasta. That’s a lot of pesto! We typically use half and freeze the leftovers for a quick, nutrient-packed meal. It defrosts fast and can last up to six months in the freezer.
Makes: ~2 cups
- 12 ounces zucchini (about 1 medium or 2 small)
- 1½ cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup mint leaves
- ⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ lemon
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Trim ends of each zucchini and slice in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out seeds of each zucchini half. Discard seeds and chop zucchini into chunks. Sprinkle zucchini with generous pinch of salt (to draw out some of the extra water) and set aside. After 10 minutes has passed, blot zucchini well with a dry paper towel.
Add basil, zucchini, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and a good squeeze of lemon to the food processor. Secure the lid and process until finely chopped, adding olive oil and continuing to process until smooth. Season pesto with salt and pepper (to taste), if desired.
Serve over pasta, zoodles, sauteed shrimp or fish, or on top of crostini for a pesto bruschetta.
Pesto can be prepared up to two days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to six months. To freeze, transfer pesto to a plastic freezer bag, pressing out excess air as you seal it, and lay flat to freeze.
Photo and video credit: Elle Penner, MPH RD