Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sauteed Zucchini Recipe with Spinach and Basil Pesto (And Ten More Meatless Ideas for Amazing Zucchini)

Sauteed Zucchini with Spinach and Basil Pesto
Zucchini is quickly sauteed in garlic-flavored oil, and then mixed with a small amount of Spinach and Basil Pesto for a perfect summer side dish.

(Updated with better photos and step-by-step instructions, June 2013.)  A few days ago I shared the updated recipe for Spinach and Basil Pesto and this delicious recipe for Sauteed Zucchini with Spinach and Basil Pesto is one great way to use the delicious pesto.  If you're growing a vegetable garden, you probably don't have any zucchini yet, but bookmark this recipe now so you can find it in August when the zucchini are in overdrive.  I don't have zucchini planted at my new house this year, so I'll be visiting the farmer's market in my new town to satisfy that zucchini craving.  For those of you who are lucky enough to have a garden, you can never have too many zucchini recipes, so check after the main recipe for some more zucchini dishes I've enjoyed.

Most people would probably consider this to be a side dish, but I'm still sharing it with you as my Meatless Monday pick for this week, because when I have fresh garden zucchini, I'd happily eat a big plate full of this and call it dinner. (You can find more meatless recipes by using the label Meatless Monday or checking Vegetarian Recipes.  I also share meatless slow cooker recipes at Slow Cooker from Scratch. For Meatless Monday ideas from other bloggers, check Meatless Monday at BlogHer, where I write a weekly post.)

Wash zucchini and cut into slices that are about 1/2 inch thick.

Heat the oil and then saute the garlic slices for 1-2 minutes, or until you smell garlic.  (This is called "seasoning the oil" in Chinese cooking.

Add zucchini to the hot pan, in a single layer if possible.

Cover and cook about 4 minutes, turning the zucchini once or twice so it gets browned on all sides.

Here's my zucchini the first time I turned them, just starting to get brown.

When I turned them again I was getting more of the nice browned color I wanted.

After four minutes, remove lid and cook zucchini a minute or two longer if needed, or until the zucchini is nicely browned and is tender-crisp.  As soon as it reaches that point, stir in the pesto.

Stir around gently until all the zucchini is coated with pesto, season with salt and fresh ground black pepper, and serve immediately.

And this original photo from 2007 is not too gruesome compared to some of my earlier ones, but I like the newer photos much better!

Sauteed Zucchini with Spinach and Basil Pesto
(Makes 3-4 servings, depending on what else you're serving with it, recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration on how to saute zucchini from this recipe.)

3-4 medium sized zucchini
1 T olive oil
2-3 large cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 cup Spinach and Basil Pesto (or use store-bought pesto like I did in this recipe for a slightly different version)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

If using pesto that has been refrigerated, remove it and let come to room temperature. Wash zucchini and trim off ends. Cut zucchini into 1/2 inch slices.  (For larger zucchini, I would cut in half lengthwise and then into slices.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in heavy frying pan with lid. Add garlic cloves and saute 1-2 minutes, just until you start to smell the garlic, then remove garlic cloves and discard.

Add zucchini to hot pan, arranging them in a single layer if possible.  Turn heat to medium, then cover and cook about 4 minutes, turning the zucchini once or twice. After 4 minutes, check to see if both sides are browned and the squash is getting as tender as you'd like it. Cook 1-2 more minutes, uncovered, as needed until zucchini is tender-crisp and any liquid is evaporated.

Turn off heat and spoon pesto over zucchini and stir gently. Let it melt for a minute or two, season the zucchini to taste with salt and fresh-ground black pepper, put into serving dish, and serve immediately.
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South Beach Suggestions:
This is a perfect side dish for any phase of the South Beach Diet. Although pesto like this is relatively high in fat, the spinach here makes this more nutritious than many pestos, and the pine nuts and olive oil are both considered "good fat" by South Beach.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

Ten More Meatless Ideas for Amazing Zucchini from Kalyn's Kitchen:
Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake
Garlic-Lover's Vegetable Stir-Fry
Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini with Black Beans, Brown Rice, Chiles, Cheddar and Cotija Cheese
Zucchini Bake with Feta and Thyme
How to Grill Zucchini - Perfect Every Time
Zucchini Carpaccio (Raw Zucchini Salad with Lemon, Herbs, and Goat Cheese)
Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad 
Roasted Zucchini with Green Onions, Feta Cheese, and Basil
Zucchini Crust Vegetarian Pizza Margherita
Marinated Zucchini Salad with Olives, Artichokes, Red Pepper, and Red Onion

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and Kalyn's Kitchen earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!
Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

More to Chew On:


  1. Kalyn, what a delicious recipe - I love zucchini and would love to try having it this way!

  2. Love the color and flavor combination with zucchini. Can i grab that plate (0_0). I want to tell u that your are my salad recipe source now I am adding pesto into it too.

  3. What a beautiful way to use zucchini! I am pulled to go buy some fresh zucchini and try it since I don't have a garden.

  4. It would seem Kalyn that I always close my eyes to the obvious!
    Zucchini is so obviously perfect with this spinach & basil pesto. I don't have any growing. Maybe that's how I missed it.

  5. Mmm, more ways to use pesto. I can't wait to try this.

  6. I've got to try this!! Looks wonderful.

  7. We don't grow any zucchini, but are always happy to eat it. The other night, I chopped up some zucchini, red bell pepper and onion and sautéed the mix in olive oil. I cooked some store-bought cheese ravioli and tossed everything together with some fresh basil. Delicious and summery.

  8. Hope you're having a great time! And thanks for the recipe--it looks fabulous!

  9. As I like the colour and taste of zucchini but wouldn't want to eat a whole plate of it, it has been relegated to being my favourite "filler" vegetable. I tend to use at least one to bulk up any vegetable dish I make, such as stir fries or curries.

  10. I'm very glad to have discovered your blog, you see I have a daughter who recently became a vegetarian. I too have always loved vegies but I do eat meat as well. I shall definitely be trying some of your suggestions and I do hope you will visit my site at

  11. Geez... once again I google the entire web for a recipe and I end up here :)

    Didn't have pesto though, so I made a "deconstructed" version

  12. Time to try these new recipes! Would be a good idea to learn this one before heading off to college. Thanks for sharing!

  13. You can't go wrong with pesto in my opinion! Especially not when paired with such a great summer veggie.

  14. Riley, glad you like it, and have fun at college!

    Thanks Joanne, always love to get garden zucchini!

  15. What a great recipe to use one of my favorite summer veggies! This looks so scrumptious, Kalyn. Great idea to toss with pesto!

  16. Thanks Georgia, so glad you like it!

  17. What a wonderful way to use two of my summertime favorites...zucchini and pesto. And I know Steve would love this.

  18. That looks so delicious! I miss seeing you! We have got to make something work out!

  19. A great and tasty way of using pesto here, Kalyn! Yum :)

  20. Carrian, agreed! Hope we can get together soon.

    Thanks Kiran; glad you like it.


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