i'm jumping on the zucchini pasta train extremely late. i was convinced that they were not a replacement for pasta whatsoever, and scorned them endlessly. maybe it was time, or maybe it was doing social media for a zoodle/cauliflower rice company for 5 months and being surrounded with the stuff, or constantly seeing them on other blogs, but i became curious enough to try them.
and you know what? they're kind of amazing. granted, i love zucchini already and i never tried them with the expectation that they would be wheaty pasta's bffl, but dang. try them, now. no spiralizer or mandoline necessary, just a vegetable peeler and a bit of time. they're perfect for this summery pesto eggplant zucchini pasta.
traditional pesto uses pignolias (which sound like pig magnolias), aka pine nuts, but i like almonds better. they're cheaper (which also means you can sprinkle almonds on top as freely as a flowergirl with a basket of petals), and they don't have that bitter taste.
the og recipe calls for ricotta salata, but anything creamy and salty works. there's fresh mozzarella in these pictures (bc i need some sort of protein if i want to avoid munching the rest of the day away), which is very different from ricotta salata (or even feta, which is a much closer ricotta salata sub than fresh mozzarella), but still delicious.
the resulting pesto eggplant zucchini pasta is a revelation for summer, fresh and perfect served cool/room temp for those scorching days. the pesto is even more bright and zingy than usual with lemon zest and juice. the creamy mozzarella smooths out any rough edges of the admittedly intense pesto. the eggplant gets a touch smoky and charred, even in a nonstick pan. and let's not forget the unlikely hero, the zucchini. when shaved and then gently cooked until just tender, it becomes silky. not at all like pasta, which makes it easier to swallow, but it still goes down well on its own merit.
Pesto Eggplant Zucchini Pasta
adapted slightly from Rachael Ray
1 cup fresh mint (or use ¼-1/2 cup if you don’t love mint like me)
1 ½ cups fresh basil
½ cup pine nuts, toasted (I use almonds; macadamia nuts or cashews would also be great)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 firm small to medium zucchini, shaved into long, thin ribbons (I use a vegetable peeler)
1 large eggplant, cut into batons or half moons
½ - 1 cup crumbled ricotta salata or feta or fresh mozzarella
- Place the mint, 1 cup basil, nuts, 1 clove garlic and lemon zest and juice in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. While machine is running, stream in the oil. Pour into a large bowl that you can serve from. Stir in the Parm.
- Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the zucchini for 2 minutes, or just until tender. You could boil it per the original recipe, but I find this faster and more water efficient. Add the zucchini to the pesto. Add 1 cup cooking liquid and toss to coat, using more liquid if necessary. Top with extra cheese.
- In the same skillet, heat some more oil. Add the eggplant and cook until tender and lightly brown, tossing occasionally. Toss with the remaining garlic. Add ½ cup basil and toss.
- Serve the zucchini and eggplant piled on plates topped with the ricotta salata.