If you like quick, easy recipes (and want more green veggies in your life), try our 20-minute Penne Pesto with Zucchini, Bacon, and Walnuts! This is a super simple dish to whip up, and it tastes heavenly. Squeeze some fresh lemon on top, sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese, and you have one impressive (not to mention easy) meal ready to serve!
20-minute Penne Pesto with Zucchini, Bacon, and Walnuts
We are always trying to find fun new ways to incorporate veggies into our meals. This one is a prime example! Poor zucchini doesn’t get enough love, which is a shame because it’s actually pretty amazeballs. And if you are really trying to fit those green vegetables into your diet, why not upgrade this recipe even more? This penne pesto would be great served with an arugula salad, or topped with diced avocado – or hell, why not both if you’re trying to be all about that green veggie life!
PENNE PESTO INGREDIENTS
(Use organic ingredients whenever possible)
- 1 8 oz. box penne pasta, can use gluten-free penne if desired. (Note: if you can’t find 8 oz. penne, a 1 lb box will do. Just use half of box for recipe)
- 1 LARGE zucchini, trimmed, cut into half-moons (halve zucchini lengthwise, halve again if smaller zucchini chunks preferred, then cut on slight diagonal to form half-moons)
- 2 cups fresh basil, loosely packed (stems removed)
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving if desired (don’t use shredded parmesan cheese)
- 3/4 cup raw walnuts (don’t worry, we’re gonna turn those suckers into TOASTED walnuts!)
- 1/4 cup crumbled bacon (we straight-up used bacon bits from a pouch because we are lazy AF sometimes, but you could easily make/crumble REAL bacon without adding on to the recipe’s cooking time. Just heat oven to 375, throw a few bacon slices on a cookie sheet, & cook for 15-20 minutes while the pasta is doing its thing on the stovetop. Drain, crumble, and feel better about yourself as a human for not using pouched bacon bits)
- Pinch of salt
- Lemon wedges for serving
Pesto to Pasta Ratio – A Note
If you already have your favorite, tried-and-true method for making pesto, it can be easily be incorporated into this recipe. Also, if you like your pasta really “pesto-ey”, you can double the pesto recipe and adjust to taste from there, storing any leftover pesto for another use. And yes “Pesto-ey” is a definitely a word so please don’t bother correcting us and let’s just move on ok. Personally speaking, our go-to pesto recipe is an adaptation of the ‘traditional pesto method’ found in the book “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman. Actually, that is not a book so much as it is a cooking BIBLE. (We highly recommend that book for anybody who wants to learn more about cooking methodology.) Anyway, on to the steps for our penne pesto recipe!
Penne Pesto Recipe
THE GAME-PLAN: Hands-on cooking time for this recipe is 20 minutes. BUT be sure to have all ingredients prepped and assembled prior to jumping in, which should take you all of 3 minutes and 52 seconds. Yes, we are going to time you. Ok, NOW let’s jump in! While pasta water heats up, you are going to toast the walnuts, and start on the pesto. Look at those time-management skillzzz you got there, very impressive.
Once the pasta goes in (11 min total cooking time), keep working feverishly on the pesto, making it your ultimate goal in life to be done before that pasta timer is up! BUT WAIT: Make sure to set pasta timer for 7 mins (not 11 mins), because the zucchini will be going in during last 4 minutes.
PENNE PASTA INSTRUCTIONS:
- Fill a large pot with water (enough water to allow room for penne & zucchini to boil together). Place pot on high heat; move on to step 2 while water heats up.
- To toast walnuts- heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add walnuts to pan, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes, or until just browned and toasted. Do not cook too long or they will scorch, ew. Remove from pan and cool.
- Keep an eye out for water to begin boiling; start on pesto in the meantime. Whenever water does come to a boil, drop the penne pasta in, and set the kitchen timer for 7 minutes.
- To make the pesto: Combine basil, garlic cloves, pine nuts, a pinch of salt, and half of the olive oil (1/4 cup) in food processor. Stop to scrape down the sides of processor’s bowl when needed, then gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add parmesan cheese to the mixture, stir to combine.
- When pesto is done, chop the cooled walnuts (a chef’s knife will do the trick), and crumble the bacon.
- After the kitchen timer goes off and penne has boiled for 7 minutes, add zucchini to the pot. Set the timer again, this time for 4 minutes.
- Once done, drain and return to pot. Add bacon, walnuts, and pesto to pan. Stir to combine, then transfer to serving bowls. Top your pesto penne dish with a bright squeeze of fresh lemon, and more parmesan cheese if desired. Enjoy!
We really hope that you (and whoever you serve this to) get a satisfying kick out of this Penne Pesto with Zucchini, Bacon, and Walnuts! Please leave us a comment when you make it, we want to know what you think! And please like and share if you know somebody who would enjoy making this recipe!