Walnut Basil Pesto with Zucchini Noodles

in Recipes

Oh pesto. My memories of pesto involve the Italian coastline, hiking between the five colorful fishing towns of Cinque Terre, drinking dry white wine, eating freshly made gnocchi, savoring pasta dripping in rich sauces and fresh vegetables, rosemary scented focaccia, and creating lifelong memories with fantastic friends.

The thing is, once you’ve traversed the Italian countryside while eating copious amounts of homemade pesto, (most likely ground by hand by some sharp-witted Italian nonna in an ancient mortar and pestle) how can you even look at the jars of pesto at the store without some horrifying feeling of distaste and suspicion?

You simply, cannot.

Take it from me, a faux Italian; store-bought pesto tastes absolutely nothing like the real deal. The main event. The big (Parmesan) cheese. Buying a plane ticket to Italy is preferred, but making this walnut basil pesto is a much easier option.

Not only does fresh pesto take minutes to prepare, but it tastes bright, fresh and is perfect for a light meal. Plus basil contains blood and bone loving Vitamin K, beneficial antioxidants, and antimicrobial properties as well. Consuming our greens with healthy monounsaturated fats from walnuts and olive oil means that you reap all their nourishing benefits while eating a fantastic Italiano meal as well.

You may have noticed that the pesto in this recipe dresses some very unsuspecting noodles: zucchini noodles. I recently purchased a spiralizer, which might be one of my favorite kitchen gadgets ever. Like a pencil sharpener, the spiralizer, “sharpens” my vegetables and stringy noodles come out. It’s very cool, kid friendly, and so fun for a fresh meal when you don’t want to boil a pot of water. Besides, as it is summer there are zucchini and squash everywhere, so why not reap the nutritional goodies of this in season veggie?

Even though all the nonnas of Italy would probably scowl at my zucchini impostors, I think they would approve of this delicious walnut basil pesto. Mangia!

Walnut Basil Pesto with Zucchini Noodles

Serves 4

Walnut Pesto:
3 cups packed basil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 scant cup walnuts
Zest and juice of one large lemon
Dash of red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup olive oil

Noodles:
4 zucchini or yellow squash
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
a few leaves of fresh basil for garnish
¼ cup pepitas (optional)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a food processor combine basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture resembles a crumbly paste. Continue to pulse mixture while slowly drizzling in olive oil. Pulse until mixture is pesto paste like. Set aside.

Using a spiralizer, spiralize the four zucchini. Let sit on paper towels to let moisture drain out for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl mix zucchini noodles and pesto until combined. Top with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, pepitas, and parmesan cheese if desired. Enjoy!

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