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Got 20 minutes to spare? Try our 20-minute Penne Pesto with Zucchini, Bacon, and Walnuts Recipe!

20-minute Penne Pesto with Zucchini, Bacon, Walnuts

  • Author: WifeyChef
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


Just 5 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of cook time translates into a quick, easy penne pesto recipe featuring zucchini, bacon, and walnuts. A healthy bowl of happiness!



  • (1) 8 oz. box penne pasta (can use gluten-free penne if desired)
  • (1) LARGE zucchini, trimmed, cut into half-moons (halve zucchini lengthwise, halve again, 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 (note: shredded parmesan cheese not recommended)
  • 3/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/4 cup crumbled bacon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Lemon wedges for serving


  1. Fill a large pot with water (enough for penne & zucchini to boil together) and place on high heat. While water heats up, toast the walnuts.
  2. To toast walnuts: Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add walnuts, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes, or until just browned and toasted. Remove from pan and cool.
  3. Once water is boiling, add penne. Set kitchen timer for 7 minutes. While pasta is boiling, make the pesto.
  4. 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, stir to combine.
  5. After kitchen timer goes off and penne has boiled for 7 minutes, add zucchini to the pot of boiling pasta.
  6. Set kitchen timer again, this time for 4 minutes. While zucchini & pasta cook, chop the cooled walnuts.
  7. Once timer is done, remove pot from heat. Drain pasta & zucchini, return to pot. Add bacon, walnuts, and pesto to pot. 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!


  • You can easily make freshly-prepared bacon strips to crumble up for this recipe, without adding on to the cook time at all. Preheat oven to 375, then begin on recipe. Throw a few bacon slices onto a cookie sheet & cook in oven for 15-20 minutes, as the pasta is doing its thing on the stovetop and the recipe is coming together. Drain bacon, cool slightly, crumble.
  • Make sure to set kitchen timer as instructed in recipe. The penne pasta has a TOTAL cook time of 11 minutes, split into two steps (first step for 7 minutes and second step for 4 minutes). A timer will keep you on track and prevent over-cooking.
  • Method: Stovetop