Recipes

grilled zucchini ribbons with pesto and white beans

I have never once woken up on a cold January day and longed for pesto or summer squash. It doesn’t even occur to my taste buds in the winter. But like clockwork around this time each summer — usually when it’s only the first week of July but already hot enough that I cannot even remember why I live in NYC, where it currently as stagnant and steamy as a bathroom after a shower with none of the hygienic aromatics, seriously, why do I, I digress — it is all I want to eat.


pretty zucchinithin planksgrilling the zucchini planksgrilledbasil for pesto vinaigrettepesto into white beans

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to give things that are not pasta the pasta treatment. I love and adore pasta. I don’t want to live a life without it. I just think a lot of the things that taste good on pasta taste good elsewhere — see the viral one-pot pasta reimagined on farro, or giant white beans given the baked ziti treatment. Here, something similar happens with smaller white beans. Rolling them around in a pesto vinaigrette and letting ribbons of grilled lemony zucchini wind around them then finishing the whole thing with a blanket of grated parmesan is my current summer fixation. I made it a couple weeks ago because I was craving it. I hadn’t expected anyone else to be into it, but everyone was so enthusiastic, I’ve made it weekly since. I hope you find it equally habit-forming.

before the parmesan

Previously

One year ago: Grilled Pizza
Two years ago: Funnel Cake
Three years ago: Oven Ribs, Even Better
Four years ago: Blue and Red Berry Ricotta Galette
Five years ago: Peach and Pecan Sandy Crumble
Six years ago: Chopped Salad with Feta, Lime and Mint and Flag Cake
Seven years ago: Skirt Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad
Eight years ago: Bread and Butter Pickles, Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart, and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Nine years ago: Strawberries and Dumplings and Horseradish Potato Salad
Ten years ago: Zucchini Strand Spaghetti
Eleven years ago: Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad and Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread
1.5 Years Ago: Chicken Wonton Soup
2.5 Years Ago: The Browniest Cookies and Gingerbread Layer Cake
3.5 Years Ago: Deep Dark Gingerbread Waffles and Fairytale of New York
4.5 Years Ago: Gingerbread Snacking Cake and Rum Campari Punch

Grilled Zucchini Ribbons with Pesto and White Beans

  • Servings: 2 as a main, 4 as a side
  • Print

This is a very loose recipe. Sure, I made it with zucchini ribbons, but there’s no reason you cannot use smaller or angled slices. Sure, I grilled it but if you don’t have a grill outside or an indoor grill pan, you could roast or broil it instead. It will taste essentially the same, which is to say, I hope, awesome. You could eat this with grilled bread for a light summer meal. You could crack open a ball of burrata over it for extra luxury (you may find the parmesan unnecessary in this case). You could finish it with toasted pine nuts for extra crunch. You could build it into a larger meal for a small crowd with grilled sausages and a caprese salad too.

  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, thinner longer ones are ideal here
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse or kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 3/4 cups (from 1 15-ounce can) small-to-medium-sized white beans, drained (I used – Goya’s Great Northern beans)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • A 2-ounce bundle of basil (this is the small clamshell size at most groceries)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Coarsely grated parmesan, to taste

Prepare the zucchini: Trim ends and cut zucchini the long way into 1/4-inch strips. I use a mandoline for this (I have this one but will soon replace it with this) but a knife works too. Spread out strips on a large tray and brush lightly with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.

On a grill (I use the full heat, but have a dinky, small grill; you might find a more moderate heat better here) or a grill pan, grill zucchini in a single layer until grill marks appear underneath, then flip over and repeat the same on the other side. Transfer zucchini back to platter and squeeze lemon juice over it.

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine basil and garlic with a few good pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper until chopped. Drizzle in olive oil until it blends smoothly; you’ll want about 4, sometimes 5, tablespoons. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and blend until well-mixed; taste and add more vinegar, up to 1 more tablespoon, to taste. Season to taste.

Combine beans with about 2/3 of the dressing in a small bowl. In a larger bowl or serving platter, pour half of dressed beans in the bottom. Arrange grilled zucchini on top, twisting and turning it so that it looks extra ribbony. Spoon remaining beans in the spaces. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the platter, to taste.

Finish with a light blanket of parmesan and eat whenever you’re ready. As assembled, it keeps well at room temperature for an hour, giving you time to do everything else.

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113 comments on grilled zucchini ribbons with pesto and white beans

  1. Kato

    Jum! Ok now I’m craving this as well. Interesting to put vinegar in pesto but I do love acidity with anything beany so will give it a try!

  2. I agree that a lot of the things that taste good on pasta taste good elsewhere so I have been experimenting with new uses for pesto as well. In the past week, I’ve found that pesto is great on roasted potatoes and stirred into a quinoa salad.

  3. Alice K.

    I will be harvesting lots of zucchini from the garden. This is a terrific recipe because it incorporates protein (beans), which I’m always wanting to include in our vegetarian meals. Thanks, Deb!

  4. Michelle

    I am so happy that you are posting more recipes that are dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free. It might not be intentional but definitely appreciated. I know this recipe has parmesan but that’s an easy substitute/deletion. I won’t be making this for another week since the summer squash and zucchini in my garden need to get just a bit bigger…but it will be on the menu rotation next week. Thank you!

  5. Janice

    Deb – How do you think this would be with raw zucchini? I confess I don’t love it cooked, but do like it raw …. Thank you!

    1. Rita Marlowe

      I had a chef prepared appetizer in Tuscany that blew our socks off using thinly sliced raw zucchini with a good olive oil. I can picture this working in this dish and sounds delish.

  6. Sue

    We planted two small gardens and our backyard is overgrown with zucchini. I had two large zucchini that I sliced 1/8 inch lengthwise. Spritzed with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs and cracked pepper and grilled. Heated the beans with same herbs a dash of olive oil and the pesto. I did want to add a meat so I roasted some sweet Italian sausage to serve with the beans and veggies . Locatelli cheese finished off a great meal. Love all of your recipes. Might experiment with this as a rollatini.

  7. Lauren

    The look on Jacob’s face ( adoring) as he watches Anna’s antics has warmed my heart ( in a good way). Heaven knows my heart has been warmed these last few days, but not by such a darling duo. This zucchini/squash combo will hit the spot! Wayyyy to hot to cook in the metro NY area.

  8. katie

    This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Thanks Deb! Made tonight and it was magnificent w/leftover chickpeas and some of those toasted walnuts you recommended. Cannot wait to try it again.

  9. tracymcarlson

    Oh my gaaaaaaaah I made this tonight. Too hot to grill so I roasted the zucchini and also used the burrata instead of Parmesan. This was the PERFECT summer dish for a hot Houston night! I served it with a couple of slices of Italian bread and my husband and I piled the salad on the bread and just moaned. LOL! Thanks for another amazing dish!!

  10. I crave all things pesto. We grow a tremendous amount of basil. I make the pesto in little containers and pop them in the freezer for use all year round. I am definitely adding this recipe to my repertoire. Did you know that in the culture basil is a symbol of love?

  11. Lindsey

    I really enjoy white beans but I’ve never managed to cook the dried been successfully.

    I know this recipe calls for canned white beans, but if I wanted to start from dried white beans do you have a go to recipe or method?

    1. Deb discusses cooking dried beans here (though with a different type of bean): https://smittenkitchen.com/2017/05/a-really-great-pot-of-chickpeas/

      Here’s a fairly foolproof method for dried beans in general: soak beans 8 hours or overnight. Drain and add fresh water to the pot, covering the beans by several inches. (Do not add salt yet.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer till beans are tender. Still a teaspoon of salt – or to taste – into the pot of cooked beans. If you’ve soaked the beans well and they are fairly fresh, cooking time could be as little as 30 to 45 minutes. But if the beans are really dried (have been in the back of the cupboard for more than a year, for example), it could take up to two hours of simmering. So allow plenty of time when cooking beans. Prepare them a day in advance if you like. Also, they freeze well so it makes sense to make a double batch and tuck some in your freezer for next time.

  12. Chelsea

    Hi Deb! Thank you for posting such amazing recipes. I have both your books and they, together with the site have really changed the way my husband and I eat and helped us to save a lot of $$ on our food budget without having to compromise our foody tastes. :-) Question: How long/well do you think this would keep in the fridge if I doubled it? I have a huge quantity of summer squash and Rancho Gordo mayacoba beans sitting around.

    1. deb

      Thank you. I think it would keep for a few days uncompromised. You can always hold back a little vinaigrette until the end to refresh it. Are the mayocoba medium-sized? Just had a great salad yesterday with medium-sized white beans and am now obsessed.

  13. JP

    My husband and I are probably the only people on earth who do not like basil pesto. I wonder what other herb might be good with this besides basil…maybe oregano and parsley?
    Happy Independence Day. I think America is looking pretty good for being 242 years old!
    Thanks for your thought provoking and fun blog as always!

    1. T

      You can make pesto from any greens you like. What herbs do you generally like with beans (or with zucchini)? Use those.

      We love a basil pesto, but also often make pesto from a mix of sharper greens — mizuna, arugula, radish greens (maybe even a few radishes thrown in). A bit kickier. Add parsley if you like (great way to use up what always seems to be endless quantities of parsley). Celery leaves if you’ve got ’em. Mint if you like it with beans. You can use milder greens (like baby lettuce, baby kale, etc.) to add bulk and temper the stronger herbs like mint, if need be.

      1. gwynsully

        Seconded! My “pesto” recipe at this point has loosened to be “a green thing, a nut thing, and a hardish probably white cheese + olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon” Turnip greens, walnuts, and a hard sheep cheese that I cannot remember the name of is my current favorite.

  14. Dane B.

    About how much pesto do you end up with here? I already made a giant batch and froze it. Just curious how much I should try defrosting for this.

  15. Maro Sevastopoulos

    i made this yesterday with a few tweaks and it was delicious — so summery! perfect for a grill-out.

    I used pre-made pesto and i marinated the zucchini for a few hours ahead (lemon juice, vinegar, thyme, salt/pepper & olive oil).

    this will go on permanent summer rotation!

  16. Mary

    This was perfect for a steamy July 4th in Chicago. Preparing the zucchini on my round grill pan took much longer than I expected though so it wasn’t a “quick” recipe for me. I would consider doing rounds next time to make it easier to get everything in one bite.

  17. Karen

    Excited to try this one! Has anyone tried to keep this in the fridge to eat over a few meals? I’d like to try it for meal prep.

    1. deb

      I think it would keep fine. The zucchini would get softer, but I consider this a not-hot, more room temperature meal. It doesn’t really have to be warmed.

    1. deb

      The parts of the herbs that are at the surface can sometimes turn brown, but nothing underneath. A stir hides everything; it doesn’t affect taste. I suppose you could also press plastic wrap against the surface to prevent browning but you’d lose some when you peeled it off. A little extra oil in it, ensuring that the basil is fully submerged, could help too.

    2. Sherry

      Blanching the basil very briefly (a few seconds), then shocking in cold water will prevent the discolouration. It will also reduce the volume of the herb, obviously. (Bulking it up a bit with parsley can help a little.)

  18. Monica

    Delighted to find a yummy vegetarian recipe that includes beans as a protein! And a pasta-like recipe without the pasta! Thanks, Deb, for your creativity and for always making recipes easier and approachable! I modified the pesto a bit, added roasted unsalted pistachios for a buttery richness. Huge hit at our house and will definitely be part of our summer rotation!

    1. deb

      There is a print icon that leads to a print template at the bottom of each recipe, where it says “DO MORE:” You can also click CTRL + P from any recipe post and it will take you to a streamlined print template.

  19. This was soooo good! I also grilled some green onions and fennel with the dukes. Made this and your chopped salad with feta lime and mint this week and both were big hits. Thank you!

  20. topfuziel

    Made this tonight and it was great! My ribbons didn’t quite stand up, too mushy…maybe too thin?, but they tasted great. My husband, who is hard to please, said this would be a great picnic dish! Definitely a keeper!

  21. alyciazim

    I made this tonight for a family dinner for 9, doubling everything. So simple, so delicious – summer on a plate!! Since it was for a crowd, I roasted the squash ribbons in three batches in a 425 oven on parchment paper for about 10 minutes a batch. (Watch carefully – they go from crispy to burnt quickly!) I added a jar of toasted pine nuts on top, and I had to use Goya’s white kidney “cannolini” beans (i.e. not tiny white beans) and it was still amazing. Finally, I added some lemon zest at the end. Thanks for such an recipe that works in a vacation house kitchen!

  22. Sarah Mauney

    I made this last night for a potluck and added vine-ripened tomatoes and toasted sourdough crutons for a Panzanella salad and it was GREAT! So good, in fact, that I’m making it again and tonight and not sharing with anyone!

  23. briarrose1987

    I made this… ish. I had zucchini and basil I needed to use, but also potatoes I needed to use and felt like potatoes and beans would be too starchy. So I made the grilled squash and held the lemon, made the smashed potatoes with lemon and lots of olive oil from Six Seasons, and split the pesto between the grilled zucchini and a thinly sliced flank steak. Summer dinner Bliss was achieved. Thanks for the jumping off point!

  24. Having trouble with the basil measurement here… I’m picking basil from my garden and a bowlful of leaves (which is about what I’d estimate a small clamshell contains) comes to half an ounce. Are we seriously talking 2 ounces? I’m not seeing how a small clamshell and 2oz match up?

    1. Maybe a measurement of cups of leaves or packed cups of leaves would help? Usually I’m a fan of weight measurements, but mine is probably off because I don’t have all the stems (or am I supposed to use the stems too?).

  25. This is a wonderful dish! I roasted the slices at 425 for about 15 minutes. They softened but never colored. I didn’t want to fire up our big grill for these but I’m sure it would be even better grilled. I did fry a few in bacon grease because there was a hot pan in front of me from something else. The whole thing came together beautifully, topped with toasted walnuts. I could see it taking to a bunch of different additions. Thanks, Deb!

  26. Juliette

    This was delicious. I made it with a few mods – I don’t have a grill or griddle, so I made zoodles and sauted them briefly in olive oil with red pepper flakes. Also doubled the quantities, so I’d have leftovers for work lunches. Such a quick and easy recipe with great results – this will be happening again.

  27. made this tonight. quartered and diced my zucchini because i don’t have time for fussy slicing, browned/charred them quickly in a smoking hot cast iron pan instead of grilling, and used premade pesto with vinegar added. maybe a tad sour (too much lemon maybe? or i went too heavy on the vinegar) but all in all a great, cheap, healthy summer meal.

  28. Lauralli

    I made this and loved it!! I spiralized the zucchini and squash and grilled them (along with a sliced onion) in a grilling basket! I added fresh cut tomatoes to it the next day (and the next) for lunch leftovers! Can’t wait to make it again!!

  29. Jane Morse

    This was fantastic. I made it in a grill pan on the stove and it worked very well. I added the vinegar to pesto I had already made. The vegetable and bean combo was light but filling. It was terrific left over. I will make this again and again.

  30. This was excellent. I added some toasted pine nuts and we loved the contrast of textures and flavors. Good thing I had bought a large basil plant the day before I saw this recipe!

  31. Geron

    Made it! Delicious! I had an onion so I grilled it along with the squash. Added some garden fresh sliced tomatoes to top it off.

  32. Alice K.

    I made this tonight with two large-ish (1 1/2 lbs. total) zucchini picked today from the garden. Not having a grill I roasted the zukes in the oven. I used pesto made last week with basil and celery leaves (which I thought were parsley!) frozen and defrosted. I used cannelini beans and toasted some pine nuts which I think really made it even better. I used very little cheese, and we didn’t miss it. The dish was divine. Really delicious. A keeper!

  33. Lisa

    So in my fridge I have 1) too much zucchini 2) pesto made a few days ago from too much basil and in the pantry 3) white beans that need using. Thank you! I’m looking forward to trying this :)

  34. I rarely comment, but can’t help it – we made this last night with some Rancho Gordo Cassoulet beans and i CANNOT STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.
    Like others, we also roasted the zucchini (425° for ~ 18 minutes) because no grill and i didn’t have the energy to do it in batches on the grill pan. Used cider vinegar in the pesto because its what we had and forgot the lemon on the zucchini… Even with my missteps, this was STILL one of my favorite meals ever. For anyone on the fence, just make this. You will not regret it!!!

  35. Heather Palmeri

    Question: how much olive oil are we talking here? How thick should the consistency of the pesto be? thanks!

  36. Erin McSpadden

    Wow, Deb– made this tonight and it was fantastic! Used toasted pine nuts, and added some lemon zest. Thought there would be too much as I made it, but we ate every bit of it, lol.

  37. This was excellent. I added some toasted pine nuts and we loved the contrast of textures and flavors. Good thing I had bought a large basil plant the day before I saw this recipe!

  38. Liane

    I have now tried a number of zucchini/pasta, zucchini/bean recipes and they all fall flat for me. I’ve decided it is a textural issue unique to me. That said, at least your recipe was a whole lot less complex than Ottolenghi and some others! Until I added some fresh sheep’s milk ricotta, I thought the taste monotonous and the texture unappetizing. I can see how a sausage addition would also have been transformative and may give that a last college try. Fresh pesto is a weekly staple for me in the summer and I remain game to try using it in new ways.

  39. Patricia Deering

    When I told my husband I wanted to make this for dinner he was not thrilled. I decided to make it anyway. His reaction? Wow! I added halved cherry tomatoes because I had them and I thought it was a good addition. We also thought that grilling a red onion together with the zucchini would be a good plus. Definitely will make this again.

  40. Novia

    My sister is not a fan of white beans so when she saw me making this for dinner, she turned her nose up. Then she saw the pesto and grilled zucchini…it was devoured. I noticed that you have lemon on the ingredient list but didn’t see it in the directions. So I squeezed lemon juice over the plated dish and it was perfect!

  41. Novia

    Ok, now after reading the recipe for the 5th time, I see lemon juice was supposed to be added to the grilled zucchini. I blame my sleep deprivation!

  42. Ttrockwood

    I am so excited to make this!! I’m in nyc too, without a grill of my own but my generous close friends have one. And as the sole vegetarian at most gatherings i always volunteer to bring/make a veg dish to share with everyone (that is usually my main) this will be so perfect since i can make and bring the pesto! Love the pine nuts idea but i might swap in pumpkin seeds since for some reason i have a lot of them on hand already

  43. Dana V

    This was delicious (and I was very happy to have a pesto recipe without cheese). Perfect for a hot night. For us, 1 whole clove of garlic overwhelmed the pesto (maybe I didn’t use enough basil?); I will use 1/2 a clove next time. Also, I’m lazy so I just diced the zukes and quickly sautéed them which worked well. I added chopped tomatoes from the garden and made croutons; both were a nice addition. This recipe seems very forgiving; add what you have and it’ll be delicious.

  44. Katie

    This was SO GOOD. My only change was to add pine nuts and leave out the parmesan. I don’t have a mandoline so I just trimmed it with a knife and it was fine. Will definitely make again, next time want to try it with mozzarella.

  45. Emmie Hine

    Delicious!! I used Trader Joe’s kale and cashew pesto and panfried the pesto and it was still amazing. Threw some pistachios on top for crunch.

  46. Carol

    Thanks for a new spin on zucchini. I prepped the zucchini and pesto the night before and quickly assembled everything right before a big family dinner. I mixed some lemon zest into the beans as well. It was a big hit — our 2 and 4 year old grand kids liked it, too!

  47. Francesca

    Just made this for my mother’s birthday to accompany grilled chicken sausage, your delicious tomato bread (grilled, on ciabatta from Zingerman’s), and sangria. What a beautiful dish. I served it at room-temp, although next time I might try to serve it at least warm (there will definitely be a next time). Thank you so much!

  48. Perfection! Just made this for a second time and added fresh spinach, pine nuts, and grilled chicken and it made the best summer salad ever. Never was there a happier book club, thanks for all the terrific summer recipes!

  49. Jenn Blatstein

    This is my first comment ever! I really wanted to tell you that my husband and I loved this recipe as-is…But it’s ALSO amazing as a dip! I decided to take an immersion blender to a portion of it so our 8 month old could eat some too. He gobbled it up as well but couldn’t finish it all (so of course I ate his leftover mash). Guess what – it’s delicious! Next time I’m going to do half as-is/half dip and serve with pita chips. Thanks for the great recipe!

  50. Amy

    I made this last night and it was great! I’m growing yellow squash so I used 3 of those (relatively small ones). After grilling I cut them smaller so it was easier to serve and eat. I also accidently forgot the parmesan cheese in the rush to get things onto the table, and it was still quite tasty. I’ll definitely be making this again as my squash plants continue to produce abundantly.

  51. Elizabeth

    Just made this as a side to go along with grilled chicken thighs w/ dark mustard/apple cider vinegar marinade, and it was the most popular item on everyone’s plates. Plus, the pesto is the PERFECT thing to allow a small child to help – “here, put all of these things in that thing, and then press the button until it’s more liquid-y.”
    I don’t have a mandolin, nor the patience to cut ribbons, so I just cut disks and grilled them in our grill basket. Worked really well, and was arguably easier to dish out onto everyone’s plates.
    Never would have tried this combo without seeing this post, and this will for sure be a summer staple from here out!

  52. rtavast

    Made this last night and it was so. good. Way better than the sum of it’s parts! The only thing I did differently was also grilling sliced eggplant and adding it in (because I’m having a moment with eggplant rn). Perfect, easy, delicious summer meal!

  53. Noga

    If I don’t have a grill or grill pan, how would I go about roasting the zucchini? I really don’t want to pass up this recipe! Thanks!

  54. betsy

    This was so good!! I love the vinegar in the pesto and the fact that it does not have a lot of cheese. I added some ground hot Italian sausage to the white beans and it was wonderful. I want to make it again already!

  55. Rebecca

    Just made this as a vegetarian summer alternative to pasta salad, and it was delicious! My husband said, “I want to lick the platter!” We already love you for your “I want chocolate cake cake” but this is a whole new frontier!

  56. Erin

    Amazingly good. No grill so I roasted/broiled the zucchini. I’ve made it twice now. The first time o thought 1/4” seemed too thick and set my mandolin for closer to 1/8”. Turned out that was too thin and the zucchini stuck to the tin foil (still delicious, just more labor intensive). The second time I went with 1/4” and used parchment paper, which was perfect. I have also used pre-made pesto to make this even quicker. A dish that’s more than the sum of its parts. Soooo good.

  57. Amy

    I made this for dinner last night. Had one of my husband’s colleagues over for dinner, she does not eat red meat, and we had squash from the garden that needed to find a purpose, so it fit the bill. Insanely good is the only descriptor I can find. We were fighting each other for seconds, even my 9 year old twins!!!

    An absolute keeper.

    1. deb

      I’m not sure which cheeses are vegetarian and which are not (I mean, without googling) but yes, you can absolutely use another cheese you like here, it’s flexible.

  58. Bonny

    I see this post was from July, but if you haven’t already purchased one, I love my small hand held mandolin from OXO. It fits nicely in my utensil drawer, is very very sharp a year later and is perfect for two of us especially for salads. It my new favorite kitchen utensil.

  59. Ioana

    I made this as written and omg (maybe a little lighter on the vinegar next time). Delicious. I think that canned beans do not do this dish justice so tonight I have a pot of soldier beans simmering on the stove. I can hardly wait for this to come together!

  60. Delicious! On the second night I added a chopped and browned Applegate chicken with apple sausage for variety. Was great that way too and will definitely make this dish again.

  61. Cait

    Had this for dinner tonight and mashed up some of the beans for our 9 month old and served with the zucchini. This is by far the quickest I’ve ever seen her devour anything (adults also were happy)! Also, don’t have a grill so just roasted in the oven and it was great!

  62. Susan

    Didn’t get around to making this until today but that’s fine because it’s 85 degrees in Chicago. Super summery and tasty! Used my big grill pan inside and I had to work in batches but it turned out great.