Zucchini Noodles with Pesto

Zucchini has a very delicate, mild taste so I’m always looking for ways to jazz it up. In this case, pesto loaded with basil, crushed garlic, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pine nuts adds vibrant flavor. (Make a fresh batch with summer basil or save time with store-bought pesto.) Peeling the zucchini into ribbons and discarding the seeds makes it less watery, and also creates more surface area for sauce to coat, almost like pasta. So here you have it: zucchini masquerading as noodles.

Zucchini Noodles with Pesto and Pine Nuts

serves 4 as a side

3 large zucchini (about 2 1/2 pounds)*
2 tablespoons pesto, best quality (I like the Rustichella D' Abruzzo brand Pesto Sauce Genovese, available at Balducci's or on Amazon)
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted until golden brown**
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Using a vegetable peeler, press firmly and peel zucchini into long, wide ribbons. Work your way around the zucchini and stop when you get to the seeds.

Lightly coat a nonstick pan with olive oil and heat to medium-high heat. Add the zucchini "noodles" to the pan and gently stir for about 1-2 minutes, until just al dente.

In a medium bowl, combine the cooked zucchini, pesto sauce, Parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste (be sure to add enough salt to bring out all the flavors), then serve.

* Be sure to get the largest zucchini possible — it makes nicer ribbons.
* To toast pine nuts, preheat toaster oven or oven to 350 degrees. Toast until golden brown, watching carefully, for about 5 minutes.

Jennifer Segal is the founder and publisher of Once Upon a Chef, a cooking blog featuring easy and elegant recipes. Before launching her blog, Jennifer earned her culinary stripes working front and back of the house at some of DC's top fine dining restaurants, including L'Auberge Chez Francois, Sam & Harry's and The Caucus Room.

She has also done private catering and restaurant public relations. Jennifer is a graduate of the professional Culinary Arts Program at L'Academie de Cuisine.