Zucchini-Basil Pistou

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This updated version of pistou, Provence’s version of pesto, comes from The French Laundry’s Thomas Keller.

pistou

Pistou, Provence’s version of pesto, is traditionally made with olive oil, garlic, and basil but this ingenious version also incorporates zucchini. The recipe comes from renowned chef, Thomas Keller — whose famed restaurants include The French Laundry, Per Se, Ad Hoc and Bouchon — and was featured in last month’s Food & Wine.

The first time I made it, I was blown away by how impressively simple and delicious it was. I’ve since made it many times and can attest that it is fantastic on pasta, simply baked or grilled fish, toasted bread, scrambled eggs, or even on its own (yes, it’s that good that you’ll just want to eat it with a spoon).

What you’ll need to make pistou

ingredients

How to make pistou

Begin by removing the seed cores from the zucchini (they would make the pistou too watery). The easiest way is to cut the zucchini in half crosswise, then work your way around with a knife, slicing off the outer portion and leaving the seeds in the center behind. You can either discard the seed cores or use them in soup.

slicing-zucchini

Next, cut the zucchini into 1-inch chunks.

cut-zucchini

Peel and slice the garlic.

sliced-garlic

Combine the zucchini, olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

zucchini-with-oil-and-garlic

Add the basil leaves and cook for one minute.

zucchini-with-basil

Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the lemon juice and salt.

ready-to-blend

Then pulse to a chunky purée.

finished-pistou

That’s all there is to it. Enjoy!

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Zucchini-Basil Pistou

This updated version of pistou, Provence’s version of pesto, comes from The French Laundry’s Thomas Keller.

Servings: about 1-1/2 cups
Total Time: 15 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/3 pounds zucchini (2-3 zucchini, depending on size)
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Halve the zucchini crosswise and cut off the ends so they stand flat. Cut off the outer flesh of the zucchini, leaving the inner seed cores behind. Discard the cores or save for soup. Cut the zucchini into 1-inch pieces.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the zucchini pieces with the olive oil and garlic and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the basil leaves, stir, and cook for one minute. Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the lemon juice and salt. Pulse to a chunky purée. Transfer the pistou to a small bowl and serve warm.
  3. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The pistou can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until heated through.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Made it and loved it!
    Had it on pasta, on my eggs for breakfast, on sandwiches an I think on chicken. Delicious change from basil pesto and good way to use up the over abundance of zucchini in the summer. Will definitely make again.
    I don’t have a blender so made it in the food processor. It appears a bit chunkier than in Jen’s picture but still fabulous.

    • — Vivian on July 31, 2019
    • Reply
  • This is very tasty and easy. Had it on good bread (toasted) and sprinkled chopped cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and a balsamic drizzle.

    • — Natalie on July 13, 2019
    • Reply
  • Excellent and very easy. Nice use of my basil and zucchini, which is overwhelming us at the same time.

  • I had a bad experience with zucchini many years ago and you have just helped me overcome it! I have made this twice already and absolutely love it, even better my veggie fearing husband does too!…Thank you

  • This was a HUGE hit with my family. I did make two small modifications: I added a splash of half and half and about 2 to 3 tablespoons of freshly shredded parmesan reggiano cheese to the zucchini puree, and then I tossed it all with a pound of cooked penne and topped each serving with more shredded parmesan. It was so delicious, my husband and two little ones had thirds (!). The best part is that it’s so easy, and you can make the sauce in the time it takes the pasta to cook. What could be better?

  • Simple yet elegant. I used this as a spread on top of ciabata bread, then polished these delicious bruschettas with a slice of tomato and fresh mozzarella each!

  • We made this recipe last night. It was fantastic!!

  • I made this fabulous dish on Saturday to go with our grilled fish. How long will it stay good in the refrigerator? Can I freeze the leftover pistou? I would like to have it again later in the month.
    Thank you for your help, and for all your wonderful ideas and recipes.

    • Hi Sue, So glad you enjoyed! The pistou keeps very well in the fridge for at least 4-5 days, and you could definitely freeze it.

  • This is awesome!! Thank you!!!! Excellent use of so much zucchini and basil.

  • Just made this and I just want to eat it all with a spoon! So easy & delicious! Thanks

  • A great way to use of the basil and zucchini that is so plentiful right now!

  • What a great way to use all that zucchini your friends over-planted! Don’t know about you, but I can eat only so much zucchini bread.

  • We eat raw, so I did not cook this. Just put it all in the food processor with a half teaspoon of red chili flakes. Put it on hot pasta…oh my delicious, and froze the rest in an ice cube tray; thawed it, then added a bit more veggie oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar and used as a dressing on a green salad. Excellent recipe, very versatile.
    thanks for sharing.

  • I’ll give it a try

  • There is a national zucchini day!! ? Really?

  • How absolutely lovely for National Zucchini Day!

  • I usually make a pesto for my wife with fresh basil, garlic and olive oil in a blender. We like zucchini very much and this should be a treat. Thank you.
    PS: I don’t cook but I sure like to eat great recipes.

  • Boy does that sound good. Having guests for dinner this weekend and will make this and put it over penne

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