How to Make the Perfect Zoodles (Zucchini Noodles) with Pesto
Yes, it is still squash season! Isn’t it silly how we gardeners can so eagerly await something – the summer garden – but then also tire of it so quickly in some ways? Zucchini will do that to ya. I get it. You just need to find new ways to use your zucchini to keep it interesting – like zoodles! I already hit you with our fiesta-style stuffed summer squash recipe, so how about another…
Whether you’re looking for a new way to enjoy your abundance of zucchini, or you simply want to substitute out pasta for something healthier and lower-carb, this pesto zoodles recipe will do the trick! It is quick and easy to make, full of seasonal ingredients, light, healthy, and most importantly, totally delicious! An added bonus is that the core ingredients – zucchini, basil, and tomatoes – are some of the easier crops to grow at home, including in containers!
I have to admit, we hadn’t tried zucchini noodles (also known as zoodles) until just last summer! Afterwards I was like, where have you been all my life? For some reason I imagined them as a mushy, falling-apart, sad impersonation of pasta. Dang was I wrong. When cooked right, they totally hold their form and texture! Zoodles themselves are fairly mild-flavored, meaning the options are endless for seasoning and saucing them however you desire! Just like pasta. But better.
Speaking of customizing your zoodles, we kept this recipe pretty simple. Flavorful, but simple! Feel free to get fancy and doctor yours up. I won’t be offended. I will even suggest a few tweaks and options as we go!
PESTO ZOODLES RECIPE
Ingredients & Supplies
- A few zucchini. The amount will vary depending on how many people you intend to feed. Aaron and I usually eat one medium-large zucchini worth of zoodles each.
- Fresh garlic and onion OR garlic and onion powder
- Fresh tomatoes
- Sauce of your choice, but I highly recommend pesto! Check out our popular “Besto Pesto” recipe with basil, walnuts, parmesan and lemon. A little fresh chopped basil sprinkled on top is also excellent.
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- A Spiralizer, or “Zoodler”. We love and use this highly-rated spiralizer.
- Optional: add black beans or white beans for a welcome pop of protein
- We love to serve our zoodles with tasty homemade sourdough bread… cuz we’re already cutting carbs by skipping “real” pasta, right? See our basic sourdough loaf recipe here, or our popular sourdough focaccia recipe here.
1) Choose your Zucchini Wisely
We have found the most monstrous, overgrown squash are difficult to work with on the spiralizer. They also create a slightly more wet and soggy zoodle. Medium or large zucchini work great! Just avoid the baseballs bats. Save those for stuffed squash instead. Also, the straighter your chosen zucchini are, the easier they’ll spin in the spiralizer.
2) Create Oodles of Zoodles
How to Use a Spiralizer
Secure the spiralizer to your countertop. Most of them should have suction cups on the bottom, which help them stay put while you grind. A helping hand from a friend works too!
Cut the butt ends off the zucchini. I also find it easiest to cut long zucchini into two shorter halves before spiraling. Don’t worry, the zoodles will still be plenty long! Ridiculously long, in fact.
When we make zoodles, we prefer to use the blade that creates spaghetti-like strands. On our spiralizer, that is the 3 mm blade insert.
Skewer the zucchini between the spikes by the blade and the one by the handle. Now, spin away! Can you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time? Good. Apply that amazing skill set here. Crank the handle in a circular motion with one hand, while also applying pressure to the second handle with your other hand. This keeps the zucchini moving forward, pressed tight against the blade.
If this is your first time “zoodling” (yep, totally a word, says me…) you’ll be amazed at how many zoodles can be created from just one zucchini! Hell, I am still amazed, dozens of zoodling sessions later. You will also be surprised at how much they shrink as they cook down! In other words, don’t be overwhelmed by the amount on your plate, or worry about making “too much” – they’re just vegetables, after all!
3) Cook the Zoodles
On your stovetop, heat a large sauté pan or similar on medium-high. We like to use our favorite large cast iron skillet. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil or butter in the pan. Zoodles release a lot of liquid on their own, so you don’t need much!
If you are going to use fresh garlic and onion, now is the time! I suggest adding about half of a yellow or white onion, chopped, and a few cloves of minced garlic. Let those cook together until the onions turn translucent, and then add the zoodles.
We didn’t have fresh garlic on hand, so instead we skipped the previous step and added our zoodles to the lightly oiled, hot skillet first. Then, using our homegrown dried seasonings, we sprinkle on about a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder and one teaspoon of onion powder. Salt and pepper to taste.
Do not cover the pan while the zoodles are cooking! This makes them more wet.
Gently toss the seasoned zoodles. I find using tongs is the easiest. Continue to toss and stir your zoodles every minute or so, to promote even cooking. They don’t take long to cook though! Maybe around 5 minutes, give or take. We like when they have turned from white and firm to more yellow and flexible, but are still a bit al dente. I would personally rather have my zoodles slightly undercooked than overcooked. Some people even eat them raw!
4) Drain & Serve
You will probably notice quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of your pan. This is because zucchini release a ton of water as they’re cooked! Consequently, you have a couple options to make your final dish of zoodles less wet. For maximum dryness, you could transfer the cooked zoodles into a colander and allow them to drain before adding sauce and serving. Another suggestion is to wait to salt your zoodles until they’re plated, as salt draws out moisture during cooking.
Us? We like to embrace the juice. I don’t necessarily want alllll the cooking liquid to come along, but don’t mind some. It is full of that onion and garlic flavor, nutrients from the zucchini, and is oh-so-delicious to sop up with fresh homemade sourdough bread! Therefore, I simply lift the zoodles with tongs and allow them to drip into the pan a bit before plating them.
5) Sauce it Up
To complete this perfect summery meal, top or toss the zoodles with pesto sauce and fresh diced tomatoes from the garden. If you need a pesto recipe, check out ours: “The Besto Pesto: Walnut Lemon Basil Pesto”. You’ll love it! We make several large batches every summer, and preserve it in the freezer to enjoy all year long.
No pesto? That’s okay. You could chop up some fresh basil instead, or add your favorite pasta sauce. If you are looking for a little extra protein with your meal, we often like to add black beans to our zoodles! They go perfectly with the pesto and tomatoes.
What do you say? Are you ready to jump on the zoodle train with me?
I hope you enjoy this recipe – whether you have your own homegrown zucchini or pick a few up from the farmers market! It is one we enjoy almost weekly during squash season. Please feel free to share this recipe with friends by Pinning it below!
How to Make the Perfect Zoodles (Zucchini Noodles) with Pesto
- Spiralizer or "Zoodler"
- Sauce pan or skillet
- 2 medium-large zucchini
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 yellow onion or white onion
- extra virgin olive oil or butter
- salt and pepper, to taste
- pesto sauce (or other pasta-like sauce of choice, if any)
- 2 each small tomatoes (optional)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder (optional)
- 1 tsp onion powder (optional)
- Wash your zucchini, and then use spiralizer* to create zucchini noodles. *See notes below
- Add a small amount of olive oil or butter to a saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat.
- Next, if using garlic and onions, add them to the pan and cook until the onions are translucent.
- Now add the zoodles and gently toss them every minute or so throughout the cooking process which should only be about 5 minutes. Do not cover the pan while cooking – that will make them extra wet. Allowing steam to be released is good.
- Once finished cooking, plate the zoodles and sauce or top them anyway you see fit and enjoy immediately. There will be a bit of excess liquid in the pan. If you do not wish to have all the liquid in your dish, you can either strain your zoodles or use tongs to plate them – leaving much of the liquid behind. We like to serve our zoodles with a few dollops of pesto and chopped fresh tomatoes.
How to Use a Spiralizer
- Secure the spiralizer to your countertop. Most of them should have suction cups on the bottom, which help them stay put while you grind. A helping hand from a friend works too!
- Cut the butt ends off the zucchini. I also find it easiest to cut long zucchini into two shorter halves before spiraling. Don’t worry, the zoodles will still be plenty long! Ridiculously long, in fact.
- When we make zoodles, we prefer to use the blade that creates spaghetti-like strands. On our spiralizer, that is the 3 mm blade insert.
- Skewer the zucchini between the spikes by the blade and the one by the handle.
- Now, spin away! Crank the handle in a circular motion with one hand, while also applying pressure to the second handle with your other hand. This keeps the zucchini moving forward, pressed tight against the blade.
I make zoodles with your besto pesto all the time! I struggle to grow actual zucchini in my very hot climate, but I can grow zucchino rampicante and can report that it makes great zoodles (as long as you can get a fairly straight one!). The drier texture and nutty flavor works great for this…it even makes pretty decent thai noodles.
I just made pesto zoodles before I saw your post. It was my first time having them with pesto, so yummy! I will try draining some liquid off next time though – they were pretty soppy! Still good though.
This looks delicious and summery. Mushiness has always made me shy away from making my own zoodles before too! And, NO ONE seemed to be addressing that, at least that where I was looking. Thanks for reinvigorating the zoodle for me!!!
Great minds think alike.. I just made this last night! I tossed mine with some fresh pappardelle noodles and fresh peas to stretch both the noodles and the zoodles and added some leftover homemade basil/carrot green pesto and some spinach and kale I cooked a little with the zoodles. It was wonderful!
Yum! Sounds like a perfectly balanced combo!
I’m so excited to try making zoodles! Just bought the zoodle maker in your post. I have looked and looked and was overwhelmed by the options. You always have so many awesome ideas. Thank you for the inspiration!!
You’re going to love it! Thank you for the positive feedback! Have a great day