amy chaplin

celebrating the art of eating well

Zucchini noodles with basil walnut pesto and cherry tomatoes

POSTED ON August 26, 2014

Zucchini noodles and pesto

Zucchini noodles and pesto

The combination of juicy, sun ripened tomatoes, fragrant basil and a splash of red wine vinegar will always taste like summer to me. Those welcome and uniquely warm weather flavors come together in my latest go-to dinner that everyone seems to love. Once the pesto is made and the zucchini noodles are shaved, it comes together in about 2 minutes. When the weather’s hot an all-vegetable dinner is just the thing to end the day, especially when it’s this tasty, refreshing and light.

When I was growing up, we ate a lot of pesto. My mother grew crops of basil purely for making large batches of pesto, which she then stored in jars in the fridge. We used it for quick weeknight dinners, for impromptu gatherings during the school holidays and anytime my family visited friends, we would gift them jars of the fragrant herb sauce.  My mother ordered bulk amounts of fresh fusilli pasta (it was the 80’s don’t forget!) from an Italian restaurant in town called Martha and Mario’s. We loved their fresh pasta but were not fans of their sauces, so eating it with our own homemade pesto was a great solution. Our family also enjoyed pesto with soba noodles, which sounds odd but actually tastes good, especially with a ladle of simmered cherry tomatoes. At some point we started making pesto with a dab of miso in place of the Parmesan. It was one of the first recipes I remember making “vegan” as a teenager. Miso, like Parmesan cheese has a salty, umami flavor which results in a richly flavored pesto.

Zucchini noodles are nothing new but this is the first year that I have embraced them as a part of my own cooking routine. I’m sure you’ve seen them on raw food restaurant menus and beyond—gallons of them were made when I worked at Angelica kitchen. I actually don’t like the flavor of raw zucchini; I think they benefit by being lightly cooked (steamed in this case) to bring out their sweetness and naturally buttery texture. Having a good julienne peeler will give you perfectly sized long noodles, just like spaghetti.

making noodles

making noodles

Photos by Stephen Johnson

Basil walnut pesto with miso

Basil walnut pesto with miso

Zucchini noodles with pesto and fresh tomatoes

The straighter the zucchini, the easier it is to create noodles. I also recommend leaving the centers of the zucchinis for another use, like for soup or in sautés, as the seeds create a soggy noodle when steamed. For two portions I usually make about 4 cups of noodles.

Serves 2

4 medium zucchini, trimmed

2 heaping spoons pesto, or more to taste, recipe below

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Red wine vinegar

Large flakes sea salt

Torn basil leaves

Cut zucchini into thin strips using a julienne peeler. Steam the noodles for 30 seconds or until just tender. Remove from heat and place in a medium bowl. Add pesto and stir until combined. You may need a dash of olive oil to help this happen. Divide between bowls, top with cherry tomatoes, a splash of red wine vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and a few basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Basil walnut pesto with miso

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup walnuts

4 cups basil leaves, packed

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon white miso

½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to store

Sea salt to taste

Fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add walnuts.  Toast for 6 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Add basil, garlic, miso, oil, a pinch salt and walnuts to a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt and a dash of lemon juice. Blend again and transfer what you won’t use immediately to a jar. Smooth out surface, clean sides and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Store in the fridge for up to a week or longer.

POSTED IN Gluten free, Mains

TAGGED UNDER: miso, red wine vinegar, summer, vegan

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  • I prefer steamed zucchini noodles too. And what a great idea to put miso in pesto. Definitely trying this out.

  • The first sentence describing the taste of summer is so beautiful and so accurate. I’ve been eating all the tomatoes I can get my hands on before the season is over! Love the combination of these ingredients and this dish sounds like the perfect way to enjoy summer.

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Thank you Genevieve! It’s hard to imagine ever having enough fresh, local tomatoes….enjoy the rest of the summer produce!

  • Nik says:

    I have usually been disappointed with zucchini noodle concoctions, which often taste like a decent salad but no more. I made this recipe last night with vegetables fresh from our garden and using my spiralizer… it was PERFECTION!
    Amy, I pre-ordered your book on Amazon about a month ago and I must say I have not been excited about a new cookbook in a long time.

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Hi Nik,
      I am so glad you enjoyed it and so touched to hear that you’re excited about my book. I’m also thrilled to be sharing it with everyone! Thank you very much for ordering it already!
      Amy x

  • I am so intrigued by the idea of using miso in a pesto sauce! I’ve never thought to do that before, but I bet it tastes amazing and gives it a nice salty bite! I just bought a spiralizer, but I think I now need to buy you veggie noodle contraption also! This dish sounds amazing 🙂

  • Ann says:

    Great dish! I don’t find the white miso though, could I use the ‘brown’ (fermented) one?


  • Louise says:

    Hi Amy – I’m literally sat eating your Sweet Potato and Carrot Cakes (which are absolutely divine!!) and looking up our next meal as can’t wait to taste the next one! Which other nuts would be good in the Zucchini and Walnut Pesto recipe please? My husband doesn’t like walnut… Boo hoo! x

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