Sautéed Zucchini with Mint, Basil & Pine Nuts


It has been my experience for years that on eves of CSA pickups, we get by with what we have, cobble together dinner with the scraps in the vegetable drawer, a hunk of bread, cheese, a tin of sardines or whatever we find in the pantry.

But this summer, I can’t keep up. Even with the children eating the green beans, a weekly ritual of chard fritters, and gratins galore, we can’t make a dent in our produce share. Every Monday is an emergency, an evacuation of what’s left, everything and anything shredded into a slaw.

I’m not complaining. These are good problems. And in recent weeks, I’ve found myself hoping for more than just a few summer squash to appear in my weekly basket, because this sautéed zucchini recipe is one of the most delicious things I’ve made in awhile.

It’s another Deborah Madison gem via Food52 and my cousin who emailed and texted and insisted I make it immediately. I’m so glad she did. It’s simple and fun to make: 1/2-inch thick rounds (which is thicker than you think — get out your tape measure) brown in olive oil while you mince together basil, mint, garlic and capers. This “knife pesto” gets added to the sautéed squash at the end with a splash of vinegar and toasted pine nuts. The instructions explicitly advise not salting the squash till the very end, a withholding that keeps water from leaching out of the rounds, allowing them to brown properly. What I love about the dish is that even though the “dressing” is a jumble of ingredients, you can taste each element — the bite of the vinegar, the zing of the garlic, the sweet herbs, the crunchy nuts. The bits of knife pesto are irresistible.

As suggested, I’ve been serving this with my favorite bread and homemade ricotta. This has been dinner three nights in a row. I can’t imagine a more perfect summer meal.


sauteed zucchini & squash

knife pesto

knife pesto added to squash

sauteed zucchini with mint, basil, and pine nuts

sautéed zucchini with mint, basil and pine nuts

A Few other Favorite Zucchini Recipes:

This gratin is my favorite — it’s so fast to throw together and so good.
This summer squash gratin with salsa verde is delicious, too, but a little more involved.
Love this summer squash spaghetti.
These fritters with tzatziki are a fun first course.
I love this raw, shaved zucchini and pecorino salad with olive oil and lemon.
Zucchini bread. Yum.
Favorite summer pizza: The Zucchini Anchovy.

Also, attention quinoa lovers: Alter Eco is having a recipe contest! Prizes are amazing.

Sautéed Zucchini with Mint, Basil & Pine Nuts

Sautéed Zucchini with Mint, Basil & Pine Nuts

Source: Food52 via Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy


  • 1 pound zucchini (or any summer squash), sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 3 tablespoons (or less) olive oil, divided
  • 3 small cloves garlic
  • 10 (or more) mint leaves
  • 5 (or more) basil leaves
  • 1 heaping tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 to 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar or white balsamic or whatever vinegar you have
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Additional mint and basil, torn, to garnish (optional — I omit bc I go big on the knife pesto)
  • homemade ricotta and your favorite bread (optional, for serving)


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add half the zucchini and sauté, flipping and turning every few minutes, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Don't salt them yet!
  2. While your zucchini cooks, chop together the garlic, mint, basil, and capers so that they intermingle and turn into a sort of knife pesto. When the zucchini is golden, remove it from the pan and cook the remaining zucchini in another tablespoon of oil, just as you did the first batch. Note: I've cut back the oil here, but if you feel you need a splash more while you are sautéing, go for it. Then add the first batch back into the pan, along with the herb-garlic mixture and the vinegar, to taste. Taste for salt; add a good pinch, plus a few cracks of pepper. Toss well. Add nuts. Scoop everything out onto a serving plate. Right before serving, sprinkle on extra herbs if using.

sauteed zucchini with mint, basil, and pine nuts

You’re all making your own ricotta, right?

Just making sure:

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Source: The Barefoot Contessa via Goop
Serves: Makes about 2 cups

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar

1. Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen (or don’t) 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

2. Pour the milk and cream into a stainless steel or enameled pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

3. Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth. Save the whey — you can make bread with it. Use the ricotta immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.


  1. Lize says

    Just when I’ve started to tire of the zucchini plenty, this recipe has been a wonderful way to brighten the palate and complement whatever is on the grill.

    • says

      Oh yum! I remember reading about that on Molly’s site last summer. Very similar indeed. Burrata sounds amazing. I actually have some on hand…

  2. says

    Too funny, I actually made this exact recipe for lunch the other day after looking through Vegetable Literacy! You’re right, it’s completely delicious, with so many great flavors.

    • says

      Too funny! Do you recommend Vegetable Literacy? I bought her Everyday Vegetarian cookbook, so I’m feeling I shouldn’t indulge, but it looks like a beautiful book!

  3. says

    This sounds like the perfect summer dinner! And you made the jumble of veg look so beautiful, too. Knife pesto — so simple. Who’s laughing now, CSA delivery?!

  4. says

    Oh my. Want!! I’ve been craving summer squash recently… I usually sauté big chunks in a similar mix to this with lots of fresh green chili. I’m going to try this exact recipe though; I love the idea of the pine nuts and eating it which fresh bread and ricotta. Yum! Thanks so much Alexandra! X

    • says

      Thanks, Wendy! You could have written the article. I had hardly cooked with scapes before this spring, but I am in love! My scrambled eggs have never tasted so good. Hope you like this zucchini recipe — we can’t get enough of it. As Bates mentioned, however, if you’re thinking about cooking for a crowd, grilling or roasting might be a better option.

  5. says

    Are we not lucky to be in areas where the gardens are flourishing. I haven’t eaten my share of zucchini this season. Kind of waiting for mine to come on. I planted it late. I have plenty of basil and mint right now however. So I better pick up some zukes at our Farmer’s Market.

    • says

      So jealous you have zucchini growing. We planted lots of dark leafy greens…not the smartest choice since we are getting a ton in our csa anyway…and tomatoes — can’t wait for these.

    • says

      Tracy, it can be so overwhelming! But isn’t it fun. I love the challenge of having to use everything up in creative ways before the next batch arrives…or making fritters. again. haha

  6. bates says

    made this tonight – sooooooo tasty. loved the topping. was making it for 6 so sautéing the zucchini took a while to get thru all the batches. was thinking next time of possibly mixing into grilled zucchini?

    • says

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing — making this for a crowd is kind of a pain. I think grilling is a great idea or even oven roasting. Wish I were there!

  7. Jen says

    I had to have this right away and didn’t have capers, so went without. Also I had lemon basil from my CSA, so used that instead. It was so amazing! Loved it. 3 T might have been a bit too much oil, but otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you for this beautiful recipe.

    • says

      Jen, I think you’re right — I just updated the post. The first time I made it, I thought it was a little greasy (still delicious, but greasy), and I’ve since stopped measuring, but I definitely am using less than 3 tablespoons of oil, and it is preferable. Thanks so much for writing in! So glad you like it!

  8. Ashley says

    I’m a fairly new reader and I’m loving your site. I made this for dinner earlier this week and we loved it! It’s one of the best preparations of zucchini that we’ve had – thank you!

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