Basil Pesto Zucchini Noodles… The perfect blend of fresh spiralized summer zucchini and fat bucatini pasta tossed with a bright basil pesto. Everything is served over a creamy whipped tofu ricotta for a bit of tang and umami goodness. Vegan, pretty easy to make in under 30 minutes, satisfying and good for you.
How to Make Pesto Zucchini Noodles
Start by making the pesto. I used a bunch of fresh basil from a local farmers market (so pretty!) along with a couple handfuls of arugula to bulk it up. This is optional, but I love the peppery flavor it adds. To keep these pesto zucchini noodles vegan, I used nutritional yeast in place of warm, but feel free to use whatever you like! Everything goes in a food processor along with some extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, toasted sunflower seeds and a clove of garlic. It should come together in pretty quick and can be stored in the fridge for later use. Clean out that food processor because we’re going to need it soon.
Alright, on to the whipped tofu ricotta. I have probably made tofu ricotta at least 100 times in the past couple years. It is my go-to for lasagna, pasta bakes and even just as a dip for crackers. For this recipe, I thought I’d try something new, by making it “whipped.” Same recipe–extra firm tofu, olive oil, miso paste, nutritional yeast and just a touch of maple syrup to cut that tofu flavor. But this time, I added a few tablespoons of ice water, a trick I learned for making hummus super light and airy. Turns out it works for this whipped tofu ricotta too! Once you’ve reached a nice creamy consistency, the ricotta tastes amazing with dish of course, but its also great with crackers, smoked salmon and roasted tomatoes if you have any extra.
Now it’s time to spiralize the zucchini. If you have never done this before, it can seem a little daunting, but once you get the hang of it, its actually pretty fun and easy! Click here to watch a video on how to use a vegetable spiralizer if you are unsure. Each one is a little different, but its the same idea. If you do not have a spiralizer, I believe you can purchase pre-spiralized zucchini in some grocery stores or use a julienne peeler, but this won’t yield the same curly spirals.
Once you have the zucchini all ready to go, get a pot of water boiling for the pasta. I like to use bucatini because it’s a little fatter and about the same size as the zucchini noodles, but spaghetti and fettuccine would work too. If you prefer to omit the pasta entirely, that’s completely fine, just replace it with another zucchini. I just fine that the pasta makes it a more complete meal and keeps you full longer.
Usually I would say cook the pasta al dente, but here we are not finishing it in a sauce. We are actually going to rinse it under cold water after it finishes cooking (like a pasta salad), so really make an effort to cook it until perfectly tender. Immediately toss the pasta with the pesto to prevent it from clumping. Add in those zucchini noodles and use some tongs to mix it all together.
The fun part is plating. If you’re like me and like to pretend you’re a chef at a fancy restaurant, you’re going to like this. To serve, use the back of a large spoon to smear a couple dollops of ricotta on the base of a shallow bowl. Top it off with the pesto zucchini noodles and a drizzle of olive oil. I like to also add a pinch of red chili flakes fora bit of heat, but this is optional. Grab a fork and have fun twirling!
Tips for Making Pesto Zucchini Noodles
- If you do not have a spiralizer, pre-spiralized zucchini can be purchased in some grocery stores. You can also use a julienne peeler for a similar look. For a modified version of this recipe, slice the zucchini into very thing rounds and replace the bucatini with a short cut pasta. This way, it will be more like a pasta salad but still super delicious!
- To make these pesto zucchini noodles gluten free, use a certified gluten free brand of pasta.
- If you do not have a food processor, both the pesto and whipped ricotta can be made in a high speed blender. You may need to pause and scrape down the size a few times, but it should yield the same result.
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