Spaghetti with Fresh Zucchini Pesto

Cookbook author Katie Parla makes a light and fresh-tasting zucchini pesto for spaghetti, but she also adds raw zucchini matchsticks to give the dish a bit of crunch.

Spaghetti with Fresh Zucchini Pesto
Photo: © Con Poulos
Total Time:
50 mins


  • 3/4 cup blanched almonds (4 1/2 ounces)

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

  • Pinch of crushed red pepper

  • 3 medium zucchini (1 1/2 pounds), half of 1 zucchini cut into matchsticks and the remainder chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

  • Salt

  • Black pepper

  • 1 pound spaghetti

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano (4 ounces), plus more for serving

  • 1/2 cup chopped mint, plus more for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until golden. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Reserve 1/4 cup for garnish.

  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the chopped zucchini, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Scrape the zucchini into a food processor and add the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped almonds; pulse to combine. With the machine on, slowly add the remaining 6 tablespoons of oil until combined but still slightly chunky. Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

  3. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain. Off the heat, return the pasta to the hot pot and add the reserved pasta water, the pesto, zucchini matchsticks, lemon zest, 1 1/2 cups of cheese and 1/2 cup of mint. Stir until well combined and saucy. Transfer the pasta to bowls. Garnish with mint and the reserved almonds.

  4. Serve, passing cheese at the table.

Make Ahead

The zucchini pesto can be refrigerated overnight.

Suggested Pairing

Pair this pasta dish with a fragrant, tart, apple-scented northern Italian white.

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