Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Grilled Corn, Zucchini, and Pecorino
This fantastic pistachio pesto pasta, brimming with grilled corn, zucchini, and salty pecorino shavings, is my final ode to summer.
I’m hanging on to these warm days, late sunsets, and bountiful summer produce as long as humanly possible. Fall cooking and baked goods can wait, am I right?
If you’re looking for a quick delicious pasta to celebrate the end of the short, but sweet summer season, I encourage you to add this pasta recipe to this week’s meal plan.
Like most pestos, this preparation can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature. The entire dish comes together in less than 45 minutes, but various components can be prepped ahead, if needed.
I love to prepare this dried fusilli (I recommend DeCecco or other bronze-cut brands), but any high-quality dried pasta, which nooks and crannies to capture the pesto sauce, would work.
- pesto comes together in minutes and tastes best the day it is prepared, but can always be prepped a day or two in advance. prepare according to the instructions and transfer the mixture to a container, cover with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.
- grill the zucchini and corn cobs a day or two in advance. slice the zucchini and cut off the corn kernels, and store in separate containers. cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days. if serving this dish warm, allow the vegetables to come to room temperature before tossing with the pasta.
- prepare the pecorino cheese shavings and transfer to an airtight container. cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days (or longer).
How to Make Pistachio Pesto:
Unlike traditional basil pesto, this pistachio pesto uses shelled pistachios (raw or toasted) in lieu of pine nuts. For added texture, we’ll reserve half of the chopped pistachios for tossing with the pasta.
The pistachios add a lovely flavor twist and pair wonderfully with the grilled vegetables and a final touch of lemon zest and juice.
Since the pasta is tossed with pecorino shavings, this pesto preparation does not contain cheese. Similarly to this arugula pesto recipe, I prefer to prepare pesto without cheese and add it separately, if needed. It stores better and also reduces clean up.
Right after tossing the pasta, we’ll add a touch of fresh lemon zest and juice for added brightness and a touch of acidity!
How to Prepare the Grilled Corn and Zucchini:
- Trim the ends of the zucchini and cut lengthwise into quarters. Set cut-side facing up on a half sheet pan and sprinkle with salt. Allow the zucchini to sweat for about 10 minutes. Blot the zucchini dry with a clean kitchen linen to remove any beaded moisture. Set the shucked corn cobs on the same pan.
- Drizzle the vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle the corn cobs with salt. Preheat an outdoor gas grill to medium-high heat. Grill the zucchini for roughly 1 minute per side, or until charred on all sides. Grill the corn cobs, rotating them often, until evenly charred on all sides. Set the vegetables on a wire rack, set over the sheet pan, until cool enough to handle.
- Lay the grilled corn cobs flat on a cutting board. Using a large knife, sliced off the kernels, rotating the cob as needed. Cut the grilled zucchini cross-wise into ½-inch wide wedges. Set aside or, if prepping ahead, refrigerate in separate containers for 1 to 2 days.
Though this pistachio pesto pasta is best enjoyed during the summer months, when zucchini and corn can be found in abundance at your local farmer’s market, this pasta can easily be adapted and made all year long.
If you’re looking for an incredible fall pesto pasta, be sure to try this walnut sage pesto with roasted delicate squash.
Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Grilled Corn and Zucchini
Grilled Corn and Zucchini:
- 2 -3 small zucchini (roughly 400 g)
- 2 whole corn cobs (720 g) shucked (or roughly 1½ cups fire roasted corn kernels)
- extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cups (100 g) shelled raw pistachios
- 4 – 5 (20 g) large garlic cloves
- 6 ounces (175 g) fresh basil leaves divided
- ½ cup (120 mL) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Pasta and Assembly:
- 1 lb (450 g) dried fusilli pasta
- zest of 1 lemon plus lemon juice to taste
- 5 ounces aged pecorino cheese thinly shaved with a Y peeler, plus more for serving
Prepare Grilled Corn and Zucchini:
- Trim the ends of the zucchini and cut them lengthwise into quarters. Set them cut-side up on a half sheet pan and sprinkle with salt. Allow the zucchini to sweat for 10 minutes. Blot the zucchini with a clean kitchen linen to remove any beaded moisture. Set the shucked corn cobs on the same sheet pan.
- Drizzle the vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle the corn cobs lightly with salt. Preheat an outdoor gas grill to medium-high heat. Grill the zucchini for roughly 1 minute per side, or until charred on all sides. Grill the corn cobs, rotating them often, until evenly charred on all sides. Set the vegetables on a wire rack, set over the sheet pan, until cool enough to handle.
- Lay the grilled corn cobs flat on a cutting board. Using a large knife, slice off the kernels, rotating the cob as needed. Cut the zucchini cross-wise into ½-inch wide pieces. Set aside for later or, if prepping ahead, transfer to seperate containers and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days.
Prepare Pistachio Pesto:
- While you prepare the pesto, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- In a large food processor, fitted with a blade attachment, pulse the shelled pistachios until coarsely chopped. Set aside roughly half of the chopped pistachios in a small bowl for tossing with the cooked pasta later, leaving the remaining pistachios in the food processor bowl.
- Add the garlic cloves and pulse repeatedly until evenly minced. Add roughly 5 ounces of basil leaves (reserve about 1 ounce for tossing with the cooked pasta), kosher salt, and several generous grinds of black pepper. Pulse, pouring the olive oil into the feeding tube, until the pesto comes together and is mostly smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice if needed. Season to taste, adding more salt if needed. Set aside.
Prepare Pasta and Assemble:
- Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving about 1 cup (240 mL) of the starchy cooking water.
- Transfer the pesto (and a small splash of starchy cooking water) into the empty, still warm pasta pot. Add the drained, cooked pasta to the pot. Toss, adding another splash of cooking water if needed, until the pasta is generously coated in the pesto.
- Add the grilled corn kernels and zucchini, reserved pistachios, lemon zest, and reserved basil leaves (torn or roughly chopped) to the pot. Toss gently to combine. Add the pecorino cheese shavings, tossing just once or twice, until distributed. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or additional freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Serve with additional shaved pecorino cheese, for topping, if desired. Leftover pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.