I love pasta! … and I love pesto! The combination of the two is simple and delicious. Unfortunately, pesto can be quite oily (depending on how much oil you add when making it or where you buy it) and is pretty high in fat from the olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. But does it need to be?
This recipe is a take on traditional pesto, but with a load less oil, no pine nuts (although sometimes I do add these instead of walnuts), very little cheese, and lots of green veg. It is a great way to incorporate more veg (and a great one for the kids if they are fussy eaters).
With this recipe, I have kept it simple. But you can make several swaps to the pesto, and add several different protein choices to make this different each time you eat it. You can find out more at the bottom.
Serving size: Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes – includes oven heating time
Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 2 large zucchinis (courgettes), washed and sliced roughly 1cm thick
- 2 handfuls spinach
- 2 handfuls fresh basil (generally one packet, about 25 grams)
- 2 cloves garlic
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
- 25 grams parmesan cheese (1 small matchbox)
- 1/3 cup walnuts
- 50 – 100ml pasta water (save some water once the pasta is cooked)
- 500g pasta of your choice
- Parmesan cheese to top
Step 1: Turn the oven on to 200 °C (400° F) and start boiling enough water to cook your pasta on the hob. While both are heating up, slice up your zucchini and lay on a baking tray.
Step 2: Once the oven is ready, bake the zucchinis for approx 10-15 minutes or until they start to go brown. I usually use an Airfryer instead of the oven as it heats up instantly and these cook in 5 minutes. It really saves time! You don’t need to add any oil on them, but can if you prefer.
Step 3: While the zucchinis are baking, pour your pasta into the boiling water and cook until al Dente (roughly 12 – 15minutes).
Step 4: In the meantime, roast the walnuts for 4-5 minutes in a pan, making sure to stir frequently so they don’t burn. These don’t seem to smell too much when cooking, so you will have to check on them. You just need them lightly toasted.
Step 5: Once the zucchini slices are slightly browned, set 1/4 of these aside, and tip the rest into a food processor or blender, along with all other ingredients except the pasta water. Blend well. Add the pasta water roughly 25 – 50ml at a time to make more smooth and liquidly. Add more if needed until it is the consistency you are after.
Step 6: Strain your pasta, put the pasta back into the pan, add the pesto and stir. Heat up on the stove if needed as this may have cooled during blending.
Swaps: You can add avocado, or broccoli to this pesto for a different flavour along with zucchini (or without). there are no set rules. Nuts can be replaced with cashews, pinenuts or almonds, but walnuts are my personal preference.
Tip: This dish works well by adding tinned tuna, chicken, lean bacon, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes or sundried tomatoes depending on your preference.