Recipe: Zucchini Noodle Salad with Parsley-Pistachio Pesto

updated May 1, 2019
Zucchini Noodles with Parsley-Pistachio Pesto
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(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

“Zoodles” may be a silly name for this dish, but I don’t think zucchini noodles are going anywhere anytime soon. And that’s definitely a good thing, because it’s that time of year when gardens everywhere are overflowing with the green stuff. Zucchini noodles pair perfectly with all of summer’s bounty, especially this zesty pistachio-parsley pesto — you’ll want to put it on anything and everything! I’d say it’s a match made in warm-weather heaven.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

I teach cooking classes at a culinary mecca, but for every amazing product we sell, there are 10 more useless gadgets that aren’t worth their space on the shelf. And while I ignore most gimmicky tools that come across my cutting board, every now and then I give in to curiosity — like the day I discovered my vegetable spiralizer.

I was hosting a private event at the time, and it just so happened to be a class about homemade noodles. These days, however, it’s not unusual to have a gluten-free participant in a large group, so I seized the opportunity to experiment with the oversized-looking pencil sharpener in hopes that if it worked, it would be a great alternative to the many lackluster gluten-free pasta dough recipes out there.

I demoed the tool in front of the students, quickly twisting and turning a whole zucchini into a pile of wild emerald-colored curls. Then I sautéed the surprisingly delicate strands in olive oil and tossed them in the same homemade pesto as our hand-cut fettuccine. Was it as good? Well, it’s hard to beat fresh-made pasta, but I’ll say this: We sold out of spiralizers that day, not pasta attachments.

Zoodles might not totally replace pasta for me, but they’ve been in my regular rotation ever since. Here’s my favorite way to serve them; a lighter spin on a traditional side. This pesto is a brighter, zestier take on the classic — parsley and pistachios replace basil and pine nuts for a fresh, vibrant flavor. It’s perfect for al fresco entertaining and might just be your go-to dish all summer long.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

Zucchini Noodles with Parsley-Pistachio Pesto

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 4

    medium zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)

  • 2 cups

    Italian parsley, roughly chopped

  • 2 cups

    arugula, roughly chopped

  • 1/3 cup

    shelled pistachios, plus more for garnish

  • 1

    large clove garlic, smashed

  • 1/2 cup

    grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish

  • 2 tablespoons

    sherry vinegar (see Recipe Notes)

  • 1 tablespoon

    freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste

  • 1/2 cup

    good-quality olive oil

  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Spiralize the zucchini using a spiralizer, mandoline, or vegetable peeler. Pat the zucchini noodles very dry with paper towels or a kitchen towel and transfer to a large bowl.

  2. Combine the parsley, arugula, pistachios, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until coarsely chopped. Add the Parmesan, vinegar, and lemon juice, and pulse until combined. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until the pesto is thick and smooth. Taste and add salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice as needed.

  3. Add the pesto to the bowl with the zucchini noodles and toss until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish with chopped pistachios and grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Red wine or balsamic vinegar can be substituted for sherry vinegar.

Pesto will darken and brown very quickly, but will still be tasty and fresh for several days. For best appearance, use it right away. If storing, store it in the smallest container possible and thoroughly press the pesto to eliminate air pockets. Pour a little olive oil over the surface, cover, and refrigerate for up to a week. Pesto can also be frozen for several months.