zucchini broccoli pesto | confections of a dietitian

One of my favorite things to do is sit and read through various recipes online and in cookbooks. So when my aunt, who is also a dietitian, asked me to develop a recipe for a newsletter she sends out quarterly, I jumped on the opportunity. The food highlighted for this spring’s issue is zucchini and it did not take me long to figure out what I would make: zucchini noodles or “zoodles”! I know I’m super late to the spiralizing trend, but I love how easy it is to substitute some or all of the pasta with zucchini noodles in many of my favorite pasta recipes. It’s a great way to get an extra serving of vegetables in without sacrificing flavor or texture.

Vegetables, in almost all forms, have sounded very unappealing to me throughout my pregnancy. Therefore, I’ve been trying to “sneak” them into dishes as often as I can. I’ve always loved my broccoli pesto pasta sauce so I was curious how it would pair with zucchini noodles. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that it worked out great! The sauce, surprisingly, is packed with flavor, even though there are only a few ingredients. It does taste like broccoli, but it also has a hint of garlic, some nuttiness from the parmesan and a little bit of heat. It’s super creamy too! Replacing all of the pasta with zucchini left little sustenance so I chose to just replace half and use whole wheat pasta for the rest. The whole wheat pasta lends a nice, nutty flavor as well as a little bit of bite (the zucchini noodles tend to be on the softer side). The bonus of all of this is that the sauce is super green, so it’s fun to eat, and you get two servings of vegetables without sacrificing any flavor. All of that in 30 minutes of cooking makes this a quick and healthy weeknight meal that I hope you enjoy as much as we have!

zucchini broccoli pesto | confections of a dietitian

Zucchini “Zoodles” with Broccoli Pesto Sauce

Category: Main Dish, Recipes

Servings: 4, 1 cup servings


  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1/4 lb. whole wheat spaghetti pasta
  • 1 large head broccoli (about ½ pound)
  • 1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil, divided
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (1oz) freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. Use the fine noodle blade on a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles. If you do not have a spiralizer, you can make the noodles using a cheese grater by running the long side of the zucchini down the grater. Set “zoodles” aside until step 9.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta and a medium pot of water to a boil for the broccoli.
  3. Remove broccoli florets from stems and chop into medium florets. Peel stems with a vegetable peeler and slice into 1/2-inch segments.
  4. Steam, for 5 to 6 minutes, or par-boil, for 3 to 5 minutes, the broccoli florets and stems until just tender. Drain broccoli, if needed, and set aside.
  5. When large pot of water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook to al dente, according to package instructions. When pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1 cup pasta water to thin sauce. Drain pasta in colander and set aside.
  6. Meanwhile, in the medium pot used to cook the broccoli, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium heat.
  7. Add onion and reduce to medium-low, sautéing until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another two minutes.
  8. Add steamed broccoli, salt and red pepper flakes and turn the heat back up to medium-high, cooking it with the onion and garlic for a few additional minutes. Pour whole milk over mixture and let cook for 30 seconds.
  9. While onion mixture is cooking, heat large pot used for pasta over medium heat with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil. Add zucchini “zoodles” and sauté for about 5 minutes, until zoodles are soft but still have a slight bite.
  10. Once broccoli mixture is cooked, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend in short bursts until it is finely chopped. Add a little of reserved pasta water at a time until sauce is smooth, but still thick.
  11. Add whole wheat pasta, broccoli sauce and parmesan cheese to large pot with zucchini zoodles. Cook over medium high heat for 1-2 more minutes, stirring frequently, and adding additional pasta water, as needed, to thin sauce and fully coat noodles. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  12. Serve hot with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.


1. I frequently serve this with sautéed shrimp or chicken breasts to add more protein to our meal.

Nutrition Information for 1 cup: Calories: 190  Carbohydrates: 27g   Fat: 7g   Protein: 10g

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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