I adore squash (or zucchini) blossoms. Last year, I even planted some zucchini in an effort to have my own supply. I was not successful. Fortunately, the farmers market here has a vendor or two that sell the blossoms, though they are often claimed early by restaurant chefs. But that’s the beauty of getting to know the farmers – they will put a few aside for you if you ask politely! During the whole season, I buy a little box of blossoms, dip them in a light batter and fry them up. Almost every Saturday in summer, that’s my lunch. I always plan to expand my horizons, but I love them fried crispy so much, I usually eat them all up before I have a chance to experiment.
But when the first blossoms arrived at the market this year, I bought a double batch. I had seen a recipe for a squash blossom pasta sauce I wanted to try. When I read it again, however, I realized it required a pound of blossoms. The boxes I buy hold one ounce, and I doubt I could convince a farmer to sell me all his blossoms. So I planned to fry them up again and as I gently worked to pull out the stamens, I suddenly wondered how they would work as a pesto. I was a little reluctant to sacrifice my blossoms to an experiment, but my curiosity won the day. I simple converted my standard pesto recipe, with the addition of saffron from the abandoned sauce recipe, and magic! A vivid orange sauce, nutty with parmesan and pine nuts with this mysterious undernote. Squash blossoms. I have to say, this really felt like one of my moments of kitchen genius.
There are very few ingredients in this recipe, so each one needs to really shine. Use a quality, real Italian Parmigiano cheese. If you buy it in a block, just grind it up in the food processor before you start the rest of the recipe. I like a quality olive oil, but not a green, extra virgin which can be too strong and overpower the blossoms. This pesto is amazing over a thin pasta like linguine, or with some gnocchi. Try it spread on a pizza base with topped with some thinly sliced squash and zucchini, or as a spread on bruschetta. If you don’t regularly see squash blossoms at the farmers market, ask any vendor that sells squash or zucchini if they will provide you with some next time around.
- 3 Tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 Tablespoons very hot water
- A pinch of saffron threads
- 2 cups loosely packed squash blossoms, about 12 blooms
- 1/3 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano cheese
- ½ cup lightly flavored olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- In a dry skillet over medium, lightly toast the pine nuts until they start smell nutty and are lightly golden. Watch them carefully so they do not get dark brown or burn. Transfer to a kitchen towel and set aside to cool.
- Pour the 2 Tablespoons of hot water over the saffron in a small bowl and leave to steep.
- Pull the stamens out of the center of the squash blossoms and pinch off any hard stems or green leaves at the base. Lightly pull the blossoms apart and measure 2 loosely packed cups. Drop the blossoms in a food processor and pulse 2 – 3 times to break them up. Add the nuts, the cheese and the saffron with its water and pulse until everything is roughly chopped. Turn the machine on, and drizzle the olive oil in slowly. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. When all the oil is incorporated, add a pinch of salt to taste. If your cheese is salty, be sparing with extra salt.
- Transfer the pesto to an airtight container and drizzle a very thin layer of olive oil over the surface. This version does not oxidize and turn black the way basil pesto does, so it only needs a bit of oil on top. Store the pesto in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
purabi naha says
This is such an unique and offbeat recipe! I am in love with such recipes… loved your photography style. Would love to drop in at your space again!
squash blossoms are such amazing treat for tongue and eyes. I recently tried a sauce with squash blossom for spaghetti and it became hit in the family 🙂 Should try the pesto too!
I love your spin on pesto! Thanks for sharing this recipe. It’s something unique and definitely new to me. Luckily I grow squash for the blossoms! 😉
Heidi @ Food Doodles says
Yum! Love the color of this pesto! Looks so pretty 🙂
Jared Levan says
This sounds delicious….what a unique way to use squash blossoms. I have never seen this before!
I have never actually tried squash blossoms before, though I keep seeing delicious recipes online. This recipe looks like a great way to try them!
What an awesome idea- I’m always trying to figure out what ELSE I can do with squash blossoms – I love them. This is definitely going to be something I’ll look forward to giving a go.
Lisa S. says
I have a garden with plenty of zucchini and butternut squash blossoms and would LOVE to try this! Do you happen to know, can you cut the blossoms and save them in the fridge until you have enough? When is the best time to cut? I was thinking the evening before they’re supposed to open, but wasn’t sure. Also, can you use butternut blossoms in the same way?
Sorry for going on and on, so excited about this recipe!
I read this amazing recipe and translated it immediately for my mum to try it today! She’s lucky enough to have a fantastic vegetable garden where she grows the most amazing squash plants and she gets 60 to 70 squash flowers everyday! She fills them with cheese and fries them, used them in risottos, in quiches, exchange them for other veggies with her fellows gardeners, but still there are too many of them. Now this pesto can be a great treat and also a new way to enjoy them. As I live far from my mother I’ll see if I can find some in the market and try this recipe myself.
Thanks a lot for sharing!
Squash blossoms look so pretty that few people would have gotten the courage to make a pesto out of them, but your willingness seems to have paid off. I really like the idea. Thanks for sharing.
This recipe was terrific. I would like to freeze some pesto for later use, can this work? If I made another batch how long can I keep it in the fridge?
The Runaway Spoon says
This really does not freeze well, it loses its flavor, but it will last for several days in the fridge
Love it! Thanks so much!
Thank you for sharing this recipe–I can’t wait to try it! Although I didn’t plan to grow squash this year, I have an overabundance of it that grew from seeds out of the compost. I pick 25-30 blossoms a day and this recipe is a perfect find to do something different with them. My question is regarding your last sentence, “Store the pesto in the refrigerator for up to 3.” …Can you please let me know what the “3” meant (days…weeks…?)
The Runaway Spoon says
Oops! 3 days. Enjoy!
Made some today and served on my freshly made Ricotta Cavatelli. Garnished with short pieces of thinly sliced, grilled zucchini. Really was terrific, thanks!
Each day I pick half a dozen male zucchini blossoms on a 2-3 inch stem. Then rinse gently, drain briefly and roll 3-4 up in a paper towel, alternating tip to end. Then I add them to a plastic bag in the fridge. They keep well for over a week this way until I have enough for
whatever recipe I’m using.