Perfect Zucchini Recipe: Charred Zucchini With Summer Pesto

Always better with a tasty beverage...

Always better with a tasty beverage…

Ah, the joys of zucchini. It grows so easily that it makes any gardener feel good. But then it keeps coming, and coming….and coming….and then you get so much you can’t even give it away (neither can your neighbors). And god forbid you try to cook it all- your kids will never forgive you if you serve it every night (trust us, we have tried and they haven’t forgotten).

zuczuc1Happily we do have a few recipes that make the bountiful, but otherwise somewhat bland and watery zucchini worth eating throughout the summer. One of our faves is Redcat Zucchini, but that recipe is best done in small batches. What if you are grilling for a group? Well, this charred zucchini recipe is the perfect answer. This recipe is easy, tasty, time-efficient and it features ingredients that should be in your garden or farmers market right now.

zuc2zuc4zuc5The steps are easy. Get some basil and mint from your garden and then make a pesto with some nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios work), oil, garlic and a little briny kick from some capers. Do some chopping, add some parm and/or pecorino and you are ready to go (oh, and you can do this ahead in big batches- this pesto works with anything).

zuc6zuc7As for the zucchini, the char on the grill is the way to go (you could use a broiler in a pinch). If you are grilling you can char the zucchini briefly right when the coals go on the grill and are at their hottest (usually too hot for cooking proteins). It only takes a minute or two on each side. And you do want some char, those smoky notes balance with the fresh flavors of the pesto.

zuc9The key trick here is that after you cook the zucchini you need to let it cool to room temperature while you grill the rest of your meal. And the zucchini really does need to cool, otherwise it will almost melt into the pesto. But once at room temperature, the zucchini will firm up and be easy to toss with the pesto. Then just serve, eat- and since it is zucchini- repeat.

Charred Zucchini with Summer Pesto:


  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan and/or pecorino
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (substitute chopped pistachios, walnuts or hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (plus a little extra for brushing zucchini)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Briefly toast the nuts in a small pan over medium heat 2-3 minutes, do not let them burn. Let cool briefly.
  2. Combine the garlic, herbs, cheese, capers, nuts and oil in a medium bowl. Stir and taste, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile heat a grill until very hot. Toss the zucchini with a few teaspoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. When the grill is hot add the zucchini and grill until slightly charred 1-2 minutes, then flip and cook another 1-2 minutes until you see charring and blistering. Remove zucchini from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. To serve, lightly toss the zucchini with the pesto. Season to taste. Add some extra cheese, if you like.

21 thoughts on “Perfect Zucchini Recipe: Charred Zucchini With Summer Pesto

  1. Well, we still cook the Red Cat zucchini recipe you introduced us, too, so I think we should try this one–if it’s half as delicious, it will be wonderful! 🙂

    • Thanks. Red Cat is still our fave but this is a good option, particularly if grilling. And you can use the pesto on most other veggies as well..

  2. Very nice! I prepare green asparagus on the grill in a very similar fashion, but haven’t tried sliced zucchini yet (I have done that under the broiler, though). Good idea to allow the zucchini to cool and firm up before tossing. Capers in pesto…hmmm…I guess I’ll just have to try that. You could also pair the charred zucchini and pesto with béchamel in a lasagna. That is basically lasagne alla genovese, with the charring and capers for additional effect.

    • I like the lasagna idea, thx.

      The capers in the pesto is taken from common salsa verde recipes- they are very similar to pesto (really more oil and briny notes from capers and a touch of mustard). It just adds some bite to the dish, you could easily omit…

  3. Looks good! I feel compelled to try a weekend at the cottage. Served certainly tasty. Pesto certainly gives a good taste of zucchini.
    Thanks to an idea !

  4. Love the sound of the pesto and capers must new recipe ideas and paired with some of your drink recipes a perfect match on a sunny day. 🙂

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