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Pesto Cavatelli with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Ricotta Cheese

Cooks in 25 minutes Difficulty Easy

Pesto Cavatelli with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Ricotta Cheese

Recipe by thesal28_wpCourse: MainCuisine: MediterraneanDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



This is late summer’s bounty at its finest! All year long I wait patiently for locally grown vine ripened tomatoes, zucchini, and garden basil so I can make this particular dish.

A note on my basil pesto. I am aware this is not a “traditional” recipe, as they make in Liguria, Italy with a mortar and pestle. I do believe that pesto made with a mortar and pestle has a heightened basil flavor, but I don’t like how quickly it turns brown. I have perfected my basil pesto technique, which guarantees that my pesto stays green for days (if stored with a layer of plastic wrap clinging directly to surface of pesto) in the refrigerator. I find it’s best to eat fresh pesto within 2-3 days, because the fresh garlic becomes increasingly pungent as time elapses.

Also, this is not a piping hot pasta dish. It is served at room temperature. The cold veggies will cool down the pasta and prevent it from overheating the basil in the pesto. This is also a great make ahead dish. Just make sure you remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes in advance for optimal eating temperature.


  • 1 box cavatelli

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced

  • 2 medium zucchini, diced

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese

  • 1/2 cup basil pesto (recipe below)

  • Kosher salt

  • freshly cracked black pepper

  • Pesto Ingredients
  • 2 cups basil leaves, clean and DRY

  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

  • 3/4 tsp Kosher Salt


  • Make basil pesto using directions below.
  • Basil Pesto
  • When it comes to pesto, your food processor is not your friend. That is because it creates too much surface area, and exposes the basil to lots of oxygen, turning it brown. A blender, or tall receptacle and immersion blender is better. Place oil in blender or tall receptacle if using an immersion blender. Add garlic and only a third of your basil leaves. Cover your basil COMPLETELY with olive oil and blend (This is a vital step. It’s what prevents the basil from browning). Add another third of your basil, cover completely with oil, and blend. Repeat with remaining basil.  Add pine nuts and pulse until incorporated into basil purée. By hand, stir in grated cheese and Kosher salt. Set aside while you prepare pasta.
  • Bring 3 quarts of water and 2 tbsp Kosher salt to a boil in a large pot. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice, then add enough water so bowl is 2/3 full.
  • Once water boils, add zucchini. Cook for about one minute then remove zucchini using a strainer (I use this one, called spider strainer), and plunge immediately into your ice bath.
  • Once zucchini is chilled, remove it from ice bath and let it drain in a colander. Lightly pat it dry with a few paper towels and place it in a large bowl. Add tomatoes to bowl.
  • Cook pasta according to instructions.
  • Once pasta is cooked, add to bowl with tomatoes and zucchini. Add pesto to bowl and toss to distribute evenly. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Distribute evenly among four bowls and top each bowl with 1/4 cup dollop of ricotta cheese. Enjoy immediately.


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