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Grilled Zucchini Ribbons, White Beans & Pesto

Grilled Zucchini Ribbons, White Beans & Pesto

To our thinking, the best zucchini is a grilled zucchini: It loses some of its water to the grill, so it’s firm and tender. It develops a nice, smoky char and beautiful grill marks, but it stays sweet and fresh tasting. We like our grilled zucchini with the classic meaty protein, but white beans and pesto? A stroke of genius. The big bean’s starch and chewy texture complement those silky ribbons of zucchini perfectly — and the pesto dressing is the bright, punchy note that pulls it all together.

One of the beauties of this dish is its superb spin-off meal potential. On Wednesday night, it’s a stunningly simple main dish. On Thursday, you chop the zucchini into smaller, fork-friendly pieces, toss the whole thing with lettuce, and take it as an extra-special workday lunch. On Friday, you grill bread with a little olive oil and garlic, and then layer the salad on top — a bruschetta fit for majesties.

Our tip: Pair this with a Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Fumé Blanc. Its crisp citrus notes will cut through all the rich olive oil, starchy beans, and Parmesan and taste wonderful with the pesto dressing. We’d also advise a double batch of the dish, so you can take advantage of its goodness all week long.

Servings: 2 to 4


1 ½ lb zucchini (ideally, long and thin)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 lemon

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 oz basil

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar, plus more to taste

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained

Coarsely grated Parmesan, to taste


  1. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to high.

  2. Trim the ends of the zucchini and, using a knife or a mandoline, slice them into ¼-inch strips the long way.

  3. Spread out the zucchini strips on a large tray, brush both sides lightly with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper.

  4. Grill the zucchini in a single layer until they have nice grill marks, about 3 minutes, and then flip them over and grill the other side.

  5. Transfer the grilled zucchini to the tray and squeeze lemon juice over them. Set aside.

  6. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the garlic and basil with a few good pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper and blend until chopped.

  7. Slowly add the olive oil until the dressing is smooth and well emulsified, about 4 or 5 tablespoons. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and blend until well-mixed. Taste the mixture and add up to 1 more tablespoon of vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

  8. In a small bowl, combine the white beans with about ⅔ of the dressing.

  9. Pour half of the dressed beans into the bottom of a larger bowl or serving platter. Arrange the grilled zucchini on top, twisting and turning it so that it looks extra ribbony. Spoon remaining beans into any empty spaces.

  10. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the platter, finish it with a light blanket of Parmesan, and enjoy immediately or set aside for up to an hour if you are preparing other food.

Recipe source: Smitten Kitchen