Zucchini Flower Pesto



Edward and Elinor are back from Italy and settling in. The zucchini flowers are going crazy in his garden, so he has been cooking them all week, usually flavored with saffron: in a sauté with shrimp, fried and cooked in a frittata, and just recently, in a pasta sauce at a lunch he cooked for his insurance adjuster, Bob Damore.

During hurricane Irene a giant 200-year-old oak tree fell over and crushed Edward’s painting studio.


Decades of work was rained on and destroyed. When we heard about it, I thought this is it. This kind of event is going to kill him. But it turned out that Edward had been paying out good money to Chubb for many years and the studio, and all the destroyed artwork, was covered. Edward got his studio totally rebuilt—which really inspired him—and he was philosophical about the paintings. “I already got what I needed from those paintings when I made them,” he said. Nonetheless, he’s been patching together the bits and pieces of paintings spanning 50 years, making these crazy quilt-like canvases that are quite beautiful. The series is called Up Yours, Irene.

Bob did a pretty fabulous job for Edward, and they became friends. He recently got a hold of a passel of morels (I think they must have been from Canada—the season is way over stateside), and Edward promised to cook them up. First, tagliolini with zucchini flower pesto garnished with sautéed morels, then grilled scallops on a puddle of the zucchini flower pesto garnished with morels cooked in Marsala wine, with a green bean, garlic, and mint salad, gorgonzola cheese and fresh cherries. I was pleasantly surprised that Edward served a sweet wine with lunch—like a desert wine, which I have never done—but it was really quite good. Radical, but good. Edward found the bottle in his cellar.

The Katonah Wine Cellar, with bronzes by the Giobbi kids when they were, well, kids

The Katonah wine cellar, with bronzes by the Giobbi kids when they were, well, kids

The label was totally rotted off, but I know from experience that there are some serious treasures in that old wine cellar. For years people have brought him fancy wines, which he just shoves into the cellar because he usually prefers to drink his own swill.

I admire the way Edward is able to turn a tragedy not only into a positive, creative experience, but in the process, make a friend and enjoy a good lunch. Of course, it helps to have had good coverage.


Pasta with Zucchini Flower Pesto
Serves 4 as a first course

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ lb zucchini, cubed (about 2 cups)
½ cup chopped onion
12 zucchini flowers, chopped
1 cup chicken stock plus 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
1 teaspoons saffron threads, or 1 packet saffron powder
1/3 cup pignoli nuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium high heat. Add the zucchini and onion. Cooked until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flowers and cook until soft, a few minutes, and then add the tarragon and chicken stock. Lower the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes.

In a small bowl soften the saffron in 1 tablespoon of chicken stock.

In food processor, place the zucchini mixture and pulse to blend. Add the pine nuts and pulse to puree. Add the saffron and chicken broth and pulse to blend. Add salt to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over a high heat and add the tagliolini. Cook until al dente. Drain and toss in a bowl with the zucchini pesto. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.


6 Comments on “Zucchini Flower Pesto

  1. Gena, this is a fantastic post, so lovely and loving. And the recipe is exquisite–I would never have thought to put saffron with pasta together, but that’s Ed’s genius.

  2. Hi, just found out your site, and bumped into this recipe that seems very very good!!(just one thing, is Pinoli, not pignoli in Italian)

    • Hope you enjoy the recipe terra. And you are absolutely right about the Italian spelling, pinoli, however, I nod to common usage…though I wonder, is that a good thing?

  3. Hi Gena, does Edward use yellow zucchini for this recipe or doesn’t the color of the green ones not change the hue of the saffron? I am about to make this and I want to make sure. Thanks, Neni

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *