Pesto Fusilli with Zucchini and Toasted Pine Nuts

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Pesto is like the perfect denim jacket that goes with everything. But especially with pasta! Fusilli does a really great job of capturing sauce in all of its crevices, so I love it here. I use the spinach variety for some extra green, but obviously you can use regular fusilli. Or any other pasta, really. Zucchini cooks quickly in cast-iron and sears up beautifully. But use any summer squash that catches your eye at the farmers’ market! For the pesto, let’s be cheapskates and use walnuts instead of pine nuts. No one but a pine nut industry rep will be able to tell. Just sprinkle some on top and live like a king! I also sneak some arugula into the mix to save a little time and money, because who has the wherewithal to pick basil all day and night? I add some fresh cherry tomatoes to garnish because basil and tomatoes! The pop of color doesn’t hurt, either.

Ingredients

For the pesto

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup (95 g) walnut halves
  • 3 cups (90 g) loosely packed fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 cups (120 g) loosely packed baby arugula
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup (35 g) nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • â…“ cup (75 ml) olive oil

For the pasta

  • 1 pound (455 g) spinach fusilli
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (290 g) halved cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup (35 g) pine nuts, for garnish

Method

  1. Make the pesto: Place the garlic in a blender and pulse to chop it up. Add the walnuts and pulse into fine crumbs. Add the basil, arugula, salt, nutritional yeast, ½ cup (120 ml) water, and lemon juice and puree, leaving some texture. Stream in the olive oil and blend until well combined but not completely smooth. Taste for salt and adjust.
  2. Make the pasta: Bring 6 quarts (5.7 L) of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Boil the fusilli according to package directions, usually 7 to 9 minutes.
  3. Preheat a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Sauté the zucchini in the olive oil with a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper until seared, about 7 minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta in a large colander and immediately return it to the pot. Add the pesto and toss to heat through. Fold in the zucchini. Serve immediately, garnished with cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and some extra black pepper.