Saturday, September 10, 2011

Easy Penne Pasta Recipe with Zucchini and Basil Pesto (Meatless)

This easy and quick Penne Pasta with Zucchini and Basil Pesto is a perfect family dinner during zucchini season.

Zucchini production is starting to slow down in my garden, but I'm still getting a few zucchinis or yellow straightneck squash every couple of days.  The other thing that's abundant this time of year is basil, so I've been freezing basil and last weekend I made a huge amount of Basil Pesto with Lemon.  I guess it was that basil pesto that inspired this recipe because when I told my nephew Jake what were going to make he asked me where the recipe was and I tapped the side of my forehead.

This Easy Penne Pasta with Zucchini and Basil Pesto was one of those spontaneous cooking ideas that just appear in my brain:  why wouldn't a little zucchini sauteed with garlic taste great mixed into pasta with basil pesto?  This is so easy you don't really need a recipe, but we wrote it down in case anyone wants the particulars!

Of course there are people who don't have a garden that's mass-producing basil, and if that's the case you can certainly make this with purchased basil pesto in a jar.  But if you do have basil and haven't made your own pesto, I do highly recommend my recipe with just a touch of lemon.  And maybe I'm just in a basil mood lately, but this year's pesto seemed like some of the best I've ever made.  I used my favorite Dreamfields Pasta for the penne here, but if you're not dieting you can use any type of short pasta shape that appeals to you.
Start a pot of water boiling for the pasta, salting the water.  (That would certainly have been a boring photo, right?)  Then heat 1 T olive oil in a big frying pan, add the minced garlic and saute just about a minute.

This is my homemade Basil Pesto with Lemon that I thawed from the freezer.  You can use more or less pesto to taste, but 2/3 cup seemed about right to me.
Once you can start to smell the garlic, add all the zucchini, season with salt and fresh ground black pepper, and saute until the zucchini is as tender as you'd like it.  (By now the pasta water should be boiling, so throw the pasta into the pot.)

When the zucchini is tender-crisp, stir in the pesto and gently combine with the zucchini.  (If the pasta isn't done, turn the heat off on this for a minute.)

When the pasta is done, scoop out 1/2 cup pasta cooking water before you drain it.  (I don't like to wash dishes, so I used the same measuring cup I measured the pesto in!)

Drain the pasta into a colander placed in the sink.

Then mix the hot pasta into the zucchini-pesto mixture, adding as much of the pasta cooking water as you need to get the mixture nicely combined.  Serve hot.

Easy Penne Pasta with Zucchini and Basil Pesto
(Makes about 6 servings; recipe created by Kalyn)

1 box (13.25 oz.) Dreamfields Penne (or use any short, tubular pasta of your choice)
salt, for pasta cooking water
2 medium zucchinis (8-10 inches long) cut into half-moon shapes
1 T minced fresh garlic
1 T olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper, for seasoning zucchini
2/3 cup Basil Pesto with Lemon (or use any basil pesto of your choice; use more or less pesto to taste)
1/2 cup pasta cooking water

Fill a large pot with water, add about 2 tsp. salt, and let the water come to a boil while you prep other ingredients.  Wash zucchini if needed, cut off ends, then cut in half lengthwise and slice into half-moon slices.  (If the zucchini is really large, you might want to cut it into fourths before slicing.)  Measure out 2/3 cup basil pesto, and mince enough fresh garlic to make 1 tablespoon.

As soon as the water comes to a boil add the pasta, stir, and reduce heat to medium, or high enough to keep the water at a gentle boil.  Cook pasta as long as directed on the package, then measure out 1/2 cup pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta.  (Don't overcook, the pasta should still have some bite to it.  I cooked my pasta exactly 9 minutes.)

While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a very large frying pan (big enough to hold all the pasta when it's cooked.)  When oil is hot, add the minced garlic, turn heat down to medium, and saute just until you can start to smell garlic, about one minute.  (Don't let the garlic burn!)  Then add the sliced zucchini, season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper, and saute until the zucchini is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.  (Taste a piece to see if it's as done as you like it.  I stop cooking when it's still a little crisp.)   Add the pesto to the cooked zucchini and gently stir to combine.  (If the pasta is not done yet, turn off the heat.)

Add the drained cooked pasta to the zucchini/pesto combination and gently mix together, adding as much pasta cooking water as you think it needs to get the mixture nicely combined.  Serve hot.

This will keep in the fridge for a day or two, but it's best freshly made.

South Beach Suggestions:
If made with Dreamfields or whole-grain pasta, you could eat a small serving of this for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet, but I would use portion control and serve with something like Ottolenghi's Perfect Lettuce Salad.  Adding the low-glycemic zucchini definitely makes this pasta dish more South Beach Diet friendly, but pesto is still pretty high in fat and calorie dense.

Ten More Interesting Ways to Use Up the Zucchini:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)

Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake from Kalyn's Kitchen

Roasted Zucchini with Green Onions, Feta Cheese, and Basil from Kalyn's Kitchen

Tomato, Meat, and Mozzarella Stuffed Zucchini Cups from Kalyn's Kitchen

Zucchini Carpaccio (Raw Zucchini Salad) with Lemon, Herbs, and Goat Cheese from Kalyn's Kitchen

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad from Kalyn's Kitchen

Carrot and Zucchini "Linguini" Salad from Steamy Kitchen

Zucchini and Spinach Gratin from Simply Recipes

Raw Zucchini Pasta in a Vegan Curry Cream Sauce from Gluten Free Goddess

Zucchini with Walnuts and Chives from Cooking on the Side

Zucchini and Tomato Gratin from Andrea Meyers

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  1. Too funny -- I just made the same dish, with my latest batch of pesto and some yellow squash leftover in my fridge! Great combination.

  2. Lydia, I think if we both thought of it, that proves it's a great combination, right?

  3. I'm just wondering if there is room in that bowl for my ENTIRE HEAD.


  4. Bev, I guess that means you like it?

  5. I love the idea that vegetables/herbs that grow together taste good together and this totally exemplifies that!

  6. That dish looks like perfection to me with all those flavors and colors! :-) So happy you're having a good pesto year, Kalyn.


  7. We've been enjoying pesto all summer along - I didn't grow any basil this year, but I'm thinking of hoarding some at the farmer's market the next couple of weeks so I'll have a stash of pesto in my freezer this winter! Love how simple this dish is.

  8. Joanne, I love that idea too.

    Shirley, I am loving the basil even more than usual for some reason!

    Jeanette, I do hope you get some pesto in the freezer. It tastes even better in the dead of winter when fresh basil is so pricey at the store!

  9. Well, if both Lydia and Kalyn came up with the same dish, of course it will be fantastic! (actually, I've done similar myself in the past. All favorite things always in my refrigerator or freezer, but best in summer)

  10. I love how you tapped the side of your forehead when asked where the recipe was. LOL! Me thinks you have plenty of delicious recipes there. ;-)

  11. Doren, welcome to the club that thinks alike!

    Paz, ideas do tend to pop into my mind, often when I'm not even thinking about anything!

  12. Looks delicious! I have so enjoyed the zucchini this year. Last year I made two zucchini bread to use up some of the extra. Now, for some reason, I've just never mastered pesto. The basil turns on me before I have a chance to process it.

  13. TW, that is just plain sad. Wish you could come to my house and I'll make pesto with you!

  14. Looks great Kalyn! I love quick dishes like this, especially when they're vegetarian and can be served to practically anyone!

  15. I love the thought of pesto and zucchini! This sounds amazingly delicious!

  16. Thanks guys. Glad you like it!

  17. Mmm this looks absolutely perfect. It's dishes like this that make me a little sad that summer is drawing to a close. I'll miss the abundant zucchini crop in my family's garden!

  18. Lauren, I know what you mean. I will miss all my garden produce too.

  19. This looks like a perfect dish for this time of the year. I made a fresh batch of pesto only y'day and happen to make it with a squeeze of lemon. I think I know what we are having for dinner tomorrow, thank you :)

  20. Gorgeous colours, Kalyn! We've just got back from a 10-day family holiday in France and I was sad to notice that the zucchini season is over as well. I actually had to buy one yesterday, as I really wanted to make some ratatouille :)

    But it was great while it lasted, wasn't it?

  21. Priya, hope you enjoy it! And I do love that extra something that a little lemon adds to pesto.

    Pille, how wonderful to have a family holiday in France! I'm only a few weeks away from not having zucchini here too, sigh.

  22. I love the addition of lemon. I think it would definitely bring out the lovely flavor of basil!

  23. Just made this for dinner tonight! Was a HUGE hit and so so so easy! Definitely adding this to my short list of dinners I can make :) Thank you!

  24. Have you tried serving it cold? I am making it ahead of time. If it's not good cold, do you just warm it in the microwave? Thank you!!


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