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These pesto zucchini noodles are a celebration of summer's best! Tender zucchini noodles are tossed in an easy kale pesto and topped with pistachios and pomegranate arils. It's a simple but delicious gluten-free meal, and it's ready in just 20 minutes!
If you're craving a meal that you can twirl around a fork that's delicious yet healthy, you've got to try these pesto zucchini noodles.
It's what we make in the heat of summer when zucchini and basil are in season. Fresh zucchini noodles are tossed in an easy kale pistachio pesto for a super flavorful dinner that won't weigh you down.
We're big fans of zucchini noodles, and although they don't take the place of pasta, they taste delicious when they're smothered in sauce. The easiest way to make noodles with zucchini is by using a julienne peeler. A mandoline with the julienne attachment works too, as does a vegetable spiralizer if you have one. You can eat these zucchini noodles raw, but we sauté them to make them soft and spaghetti-like.
We put a spin on traditional pesto by adding kale and using pistachios. Pistachios have a rich sweet flavor that goes so well with the other pesto ingredients, and the kale packs a nutritional punch. We highly recommend making a double batch of pesto and freezing some for another meal.
Pesto zucchini noodles ingredients
The ingredient list might be short, but these zucchini noodles with pesto deliver big on flavor. Here's everything you need to make them:
- Zucchini – long, firm, medium-sized zucchinis are ideal for making zucchini noodles. If you're hesitant about veggie noodles, use regular pasta or gluten-free noodles instead. Or even better, use a mix of regular and zucchini noodles!
- Olive oil – a bit of olive oil is what we use for sautéing.
- Sea salt – salt helps draw out the water from the zucchini, making them softer and more spaghetti-like.
- Pistachios and pomegranate arils – for serving.
Here's what you need for the kale pesto
- Kale – kale gives the pesto a nutritional boost, but it also gives it texture and a bright green color. We use curly kale but you can use another variety like lacinato kale or spinach instead.
- Olive oil – olive oil is a key ingredient in pesto, helping to emulsify it, and adding great flavor.
- Basil – fresh basil is wonderfully aromatic and gives pesto its peppery, savory-sweet taste.
- Pistachios – we like switching up the nuts we use in pesto, and pistachios work perfectly here. They add a rich sweet flavor. We use unsalted pistachios which you can buy shelled, but it's also easy to pop the shells off yourself.
- Lemon juice – lemon juice balances out this pesto with its brightness and acidity.
- Parmesan – parmesan offers a nutty salty flavor, while also making it creamy. You can easily swap it for nutritional yeast to make it vegan.
- Garlic – a couple of garlic cloves give the pesto a spicy kick!
- Sea salt
How to cook zucchini noodles with pesto
These zoodles with pesto are a delicious light meal you can enjoy warm or cold any time of year. It's an easy recipe that comes together in just three simple steps:
- Sauté the zucchini noodles in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. They're done when they're soft and twirlable.
- Blend all the pesto ingredients together until smooth.
- Pour the pesto over the noodles and then garnish with pistachios, pomegranate arils, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
These zucchini noodles with pesto are a complete meal on their own, but you can make it more substantial by adding a protein like grilled tofu, lemon garlic fish, or baked chicken breast. It also makes a great side dish alongside other Italian-inspired foods!
Although this is a meal we typically eat in the summer, the green and red colors make this dish feel festive. Serve this veggie-packed meal around Thanksgiving and Christmas when you've had your fill of the usual starchy fare!
How long do leftovers keep?
For the best taste and texture, zucchini noodles are definitely best eaten soon after they're made. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days and enjoyed warm or cold.
Can I make the pesto ahead of time?
Absolutely! You can make the pesto up to 3 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge in an airtight container or sealed jar. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months!
Can I use a different nut in the pesto?
Yep, if you prefer not to use pistachios, you can use classic pine nuts, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds instead. Just keep in mind that each nut or seed will offer its own taste and texture.
What's the best way to make zucchini noodles?
Our preferred way of making zucchini noodles is with a julienne peeler, but you can also use a spiralizer or mandoline.
- 4 medium zucchini (julienned with a julienne peeler)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Pistachios and pomegranate (to serve)
- 3 stalks kale (stem and inner rib removed)
- ⅓ cup EACH: olive oil, basil, pistachios, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese (or sub nutritional yeast to keep it vegan)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- Heat the oil in a large, non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini noodles and sprinkle with salt. Cook, tossing the noodles, for 2 minutes, or until they are soft and twirlable.4 medium zucchini, ¼ teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Place all of the ingredients for the pesto into a blender and blend until it is very smooth.3 stalks kale, ⅓ cup EACH: olive oil, basil, pistachios, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese, 2 cloves garlic, ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- Pour the pesto over the noodles and toss well. Plate the noodles and then serve them topped with pistachios and pomegranate seeds.Pistachios and pomegranate
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.