Creamy Pesto Pasta with Zucchini

Makes 4 servings

  1. Make the pesto: Combine all ingredients besides olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend, adding olive oil a little at a time, until pesto is thoroughly blended, creamy, and desired thickness. Set pesto aside.

  2. Fill a small sauce pot with water, and bring to a boil. Sprinkle in some salt, add pasta, and cook to al dente, according to package directions (just before pasta is super soft! It will cook a bit more in the pan after it’s boiled). Drain the pasta, reserving 1 c. of the boiled pasta water.

  3. While pasta cooks, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to a 12x12 pan. Heat the pan over medium-high heat, and add zucchini. Let zucchini char on one side, leaving it untouched in the pan about 1-2 minutes. Then, flip zucchini, and char on the other side. Saute until slightly browned and cooked but still a bit firm. Add more olive oil if needed, and season zucchini with salt and pepper to taste. If using kale, add the chopped kale leaves, and toss with zucchini. Allow leaves to wilt, about 30 seconds.

  4. Add pasta to the pan with the zucchini, lowering the temperature to medium heat. Immediately add pesto 1/4 c. at a time as well as a couple of tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Mix pesto in with pasta and zucchini. Add more pesto and pasta water as needed to help pesto spread and coat pasta to your liking (I usually end up using about 1/2-3/4 c. of the pasta water!). Serve the pasta in bowls, and sprinkle with cheese or nutritional yeast.

***Note: Pesto can be used for many purposes! Use it as a marinade for chicken, spread over toasts, mix with more oil to drizzle over roasted veggies, eat it as a dip, scramble it into eggs, use as a sandwich condiment — it’s delicious in many forms.


For the pesto:
2 c. herbs, such as basil or parsley (I use a mix of these 2)
1 large garlic clove
1/3 c. grated parmesan, crumbled feta, or nutritional yeast
1/2 c. raw cashews
1 Tbsp. almond butter, tahini or cashew butter
1/2 - 2/3 c. olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste

For the pasta:
8 oz. pasta (I like to use fusili or a pasta with ridges to hold more pesto, but any pasta will do!)
2 large or 4 small zucchini
1 c. chopped kale, stems removed (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
More grated parmesan, pecorino, feta or nutritional yeast, for serving

12x12 skillet
Small pot
Food processor

10 minute prep
15-20 minute active cook time

Vegan friendly, vegetarian, dairy-free option, gluten-free option (depending on pasta)

Venzi’s Notes

Pesto has to be one of my favorite condiments/sauces because it’s so easy to customize. But I love a good traditional basil pesto over pasta. It must be the Italian in me. And I love a creamy pesto. This one is creamy without the cream due to the blended cashews and the addition of nut butter. I eat cream, but I often don’t have it on hand or want to eat a ton of it. So nut butter it is. You can make it runnier by adding more olive oil or water to the mix, and you can use it for more than just pasta. I marinated chicken in it last week before cooking my chicken on the grill! I’ve used it over many grain bowls. I scramble it into eggs. I even love using it as a dip for crackers and veggies because it’s thick and creamy and works really well as a dip. But again, my favorite use for it is pasta. Creamy pasta filled with seasonal, fresh veggies, covered with a mountain of parmesan cheese (and I really mean a mountain of it — don’t skimp on the cheese, people).