low maintenance pesto + a killer vego pasta recipe

zucchini pesto noodles

I have two treats for you this week. So gather ’round.

The first is a new way of making pesto – a minimalist kitchen friendly recipe that requires neither food processor nor mortar & pestle. Just a chopping board and a sharp knife.

Perfect for when you find yourself cooking an ‘away game’ in a not-so-well-equipped kitchen. Or if your kitchen looks quite sparse like my share house in Surry Hills when I left uni.

I have a distinct memory of making my first ever pesto in a blender. I couldn’t get the leaves to chop as the blade at the bottom of the blender just whizzed around underneath the leaves with no liquid to pull them down. So I added the oil to mix in the leaves and ended up with a lurid chlorophyll soup. Not exactly the rustic paste I was after. But with my new bruise and chop method – you won’t have to worry about repeating my mistake.

The second is my new favourite vego pasta – zucchini [courgette] ‘noodles’. I discovered it in the lovely book of fellow food blogger, Molly of Orangette fame. It’s everything a good pasta dish should be. Simple. Delicious. Healthy.

I love the idea of cutting the zucchini into long ‘noodle’ shaped ribbons to mingle with the long strands of pasta. It lightens things up so you can still get a good carb hit with enough vegetable credentials to make you feel like you’re eating well.

zucchini pesto noodles-2

zucchini [courgette] ‘noodles’

serves 4

Inspired by Molly from Orangette in her fabulous book A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. Scroll down for links to Amazon and Fishpond.com.au.

I’ve always been a fan of zucchini and basil together and this recipe is a brilliant example of what a lovely married couple they make.

If you’re not in the mood to make your own pesto by all mean use a bought one. Just don’t miss out.

I’ve recently gotten into using a timer to cook my pasta. Takes the guess work out and means you don’t need to stress and spend lots of time testing. Just set to the time on the packet and forget.

4 medium zucchini
2T olive oil
300g (3/4lb) long pasta such as spaghetti or bucatini
1/2C pesto
parmesan cheese, to serve

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Slice zucchini lengthwise into ribbons as thin as you can. Heat oil in a frying pan and cook zucchini stirring occasionally until soft and buttery. About 8 minutes.

Meanwhile get your pasta cooking for as long as the wise people in the pasta making company recommend. Scoop out a cupful of cooking water then drain pasta. Add pasta to the zucchini pan along with the pesto. Stir until the pasta is well coated, adding a little reserved cooking water if it looks too dry. Taste & season.

Serve hot with extra cheese passed separately.

zucchini pesto noodles-3

minimalist pesto
makes about 1/2 cup

This makes more than you’ll need for the pasta but trust me, you won’t have any problems using it up. Brilliant on sandwiches or dolluped in soups. Very good mates with anything tomatoey. Also lovely with avocado on toast.

If you do have a food processor or a mortar and pestle by all means use them.

1 large bunch basil, leaves picked
1 clove garlic, peeled & finely chopped
1 handful pinenuts
2 large handfuls grated parmesan
extra virgin olive oil

Wash and dry your basil then place in a clean plastic bag. Pound with your fist or a meat mallet until the leaves are bruised – this help release the basil aroma and makes it easer to chop in the next step.

Place bruised basil, garlic and pinenuts on a large chopping board. Chop and keep on chopping until everything is finely chopped and starting to look like gremolata. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir through enough olive oil to make a rough paste. Stir through cheese. Taste & season with plenty of salt and black pepper.

Enjoy immediately or drizzle with some more oil and keep in the fridge for up to a week.


If you haven’t read Molly’s blog, I highly recommend that you check it out. She is easily top of my list of favourite food bloggers. Unfortunately she’s been neglecting it a bit lately on account of opening a restaurant in Seattle with her husband.

So I’ve been making the most of her book ‘A Homemade Life’ – a delightful read with personal stories scatted with her trademark simple recipes.

Pick up your copy at Amazon A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
or Fishpond.com.au A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table.

If you use the links above – I’ll get a cut of the sale – helping stonesoup and getting yourself a great book – thankyou.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

ling October 27, 2009 at 3:01 am

ooooh!! when i saw this, i was so inspired i immediately ran out to tesco’s to get some courgettes. having had this fear of cucumbers for all my life, i recently discovered that courgettes taste nothing like their similar-looking counterparts! ((: thanks for a great but simple recipe!


jules October 27, 2009 at 5:50 am

hi ling
glad you’ve discovered the difference between cucumber and courgettes – they’re certainly a whole world apart


Erin October 27, 2009 at 7:10 am

Hi Jules

Do you think I could use a vegetable peeler to get those long strands of zucchini? Pasta is my “hurry, hurry, I’m hungry” dish, so I’m wary of slicing thinly when the blood sugar levels are low!

I’m holding off on buying a new processor until I move next year, so this pesto recipe is great. Thanks!


kathryn October 27, 2009 at 10:57 am

I do like your minimalist pesto idea Jules. My food processor never does a very good job – it ends up like the chlorophyll soup you mention. So I hardly ever make the stuff. And as most shop bought versions are either revolting (and full of crap oils) or revoltingly expensive, I end up rarely having pesto.

Now I don’t have a meat mallet, do you think a rolling pin would do, or do you need the jagged edge of the meat mallet to produce the effect?

I’d definitely use a vegetable peeler to make the ribbons.


jules October 27, 2009 at 7:32 pm

am sure a veg peeler would work well – will probably get thinner slices – so will cook quicker.

sorry to hear you’ve been missing out on pesto – a rolling pin would probably be better than the mallet – thanks for thinking of that. I was meaning to use the smooth edge of the meat mallet – hadn’t thought of the jagged edge.

totally hearing you about commercial pesto with crap oil


Frenchie October 28, 2009 at 7:59 am

This looks absolutely perfect. Simple and delicious, that’s how I like things.


jules October 28, 2009 at 5:47 pm

thanks frenchie – couldn’t agree more about the simple + delicious


Mrs. B. October 28, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Oh, that looks gorgeous! Beautiful pictures and it looks simply delish!


Arwen from Hoglet K October 30, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I love your easy method for pesto, and I’ve got to try pesto and avocado toast!


Johanna October 30, 2009 at 5:44 pm

I love methods that mean I don’t have to put on the food processor – I have had similar problems of it not mixing properly – and at the moment it will sometimes wake the wee one in the cot!

have read molly’s book and it is great reading – keep meaning to try some of those recipes too


jules November 3, 2009 at 11:48 am

thx mrs b & arwen

mmumm pesto and avocado toast sounds lovely

johanna – love the idea of the whisk being more baby friendly.

how great is molly’s book – I just love her writing style


Sas November 3, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Yum Jul, this was great when you made it at our new house last week! Thanks for coming to visit our new house xoxo


tian November 4, 2009 at 4:28 am

i agree jules, the book is great. after finishing david lebovitz’s book, i thought i would end up with the same disappointment with another blogger’s attempt. i never borrowed a book from a library thinking man, i think i want to actually own this book!


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella November 6, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Looks like the perfect weeknight meal and I love making my own pesto and using it on sandwiches too (although it never lasts long as I tend to eat it with a spoon :P )


Trisha November 7, 2009 at 6:34 am

Thanks for the pesto recipe – I am in love with pesto but have always been intimidated by the thought that it could be hard to make! But not anymore – thank you again for the simple yet fabulous recipe!


Greg December 10, 2009 at 4:28 am

Hi Jules

Thank you for idea for this great pesto! Next time i will try it with broccoli and some penne! :)


jules December 10, 2009 at 5:04 am

this would be brilliant with broccoli – great idea

yay trisha – hope your pesto turns out well

sandwiches are another brilliant use for pesto lorraine – and I’m hearing you about the spoon problem

glad to hear you loved molly’s book as well

pleasure sas,
it was lovely to see your new place – such a grown up house! xx


Greg February 6, 2010 at 6:36 am

this one is in my top 10 favorite dishes for 2 months now. Thank you so much for sharing :)


dining room table January 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Now, that is something easy to make! Thanks a lot! I love pasta and this is a winner!


Kristyna November 20, 2012 at 5:30 am

Hi, Jules!

I just love your blog! I’m a poor college student, and you provide my favorite go-to cooking site. I have a quick question for you. I’m catering for some friends in a few days and I need to serve 10 people. How many servings about does this recipe have by itself? Should I double or triple the recipe?

Thanks so much!


jules November 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm

It serves 4 as is Kristyna
So I’d multiple by 2.5 for 10 people
Good luck!


melissa December 29, 2012 at 3:47 am

i made your pesto last night and it was delicious. personally i preferred this recipe to your sicilian nut pesto. i put some on pizza with cheese and sun dried tomatoes. the rest was supposed to be for a carrot salad but i ate the rest of it with spoon, it was that yummy!


jules January 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Great Melissa!
Always a good sign if there aren’t any leftovers :)


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