Cilantro-Pepita Pesto with Squash Ribbons and Fettuccine

Cilantro-pepita pesto with squash ribbons and fettuccine recipe

I drove home for my mother’s birthday party on Sunday. It’s a relatively long drive from Kansas City to Oklahoma City, a straight shoot down I-35 that makes me sleepy with monotony. Cookie and I finally arrived, five long hours later, and I got a couple of hugs on my way to my room for a nap. I woke up to eat pizza on the back porch, after which my grandmother served the blueberry froyo that she made with my aunt. Note to self: I should tell you all more about my rad 80-year-old grandmother someday.

Home has been nice. I’ve been soaking up family time and catching up with old friends. I’ve also made sure to visit my favorite Mexican restaurants, because I just haven’t found a Kansas City Mexican place that serves meals like this. On our evening walks, I have been reminded that Oklahomans are the friendliest of people. Hellos and smiles all around.

cilantro-pepita pesto ingredients

I whipped up this meal a few days before I left home. The pesto has a bit of a Mexican flair thanks to cilantro, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and jalapeño. It’s more flavorful than spicy, and it has won a special place in my heart along with all the other herb sauces that I hold dear (avocado chimichurri, salsa verde, tahini-dill dressing, savory dill-basil yogurt and lemon citronette).

I know there are plenty of cilantro haters out there (I’m a lover, myself) but you could swap out the cilantro pesto for any of my others. The squash noodles lighten up a traditionally carb-heavy pesto and pasta dish. Finally, I can chomp on tons of noodles and not feel like I’m digesting a bowling ball afterward!

pesto and julienne peeler

I’ve been playing with my new kitchen toy lately, a julienne peeler. I had it on my wishlist for a while, but after Laura endorsed it alongside this cucumber watermelon stunner, it promptly landed in my mailbox. (You are reading Laura’s blog, The First Mess, right? It’s marvelous; she’s marvelous.)

So far, I’ve used my handy little peeler to make these squash noodles, and to quickly transform whole carrots into pretty orange strands for coleslaw. I’m going after a cucumber next. You should probably get one so we can throw a vegetable noodle party or take a cue from Laura and instagram our fancy lady lunches. But don’t worry if you don’t have one yet, because I’ve provided alternative slicing methods in the recipe below.

fettuccine cooking

Before I go, I’m obliged to tell you all about Glam’s new back-to-school recipe app for iPhones and iPads, which features 40 fresh recipes from myself and other food bloggers. It’s free and you can get it here. Speaking of packed lunches, this dish should pack well, whether you reheat it or stick a fork in it at room temp.

squash ribbons and fettuccineCilantro-pepita pesto with squash ribbons and fettuccineCilantro-pepita pestoCilantro-pepita pesto with squash ribbons and fettuccineCilantro-pepita pesto with squash ribbons and fettuccine

Cilantro-Pepita Pesto with Squash Ribbons and Fettuccine
4.7 from 3 reviews
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Super flavorful cilantro-pepita pesto tossed with fettuccine and julienned summer squash makes a light and simple meal. You could skip the pasta altogether for a even lighter, gluten-free meal, but I liked the pasta-squash combination best.
Cilantro-pepita pesto
  • ⅓ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup packed cilantro (mostly leaves, about 2 bunches' worth)
  • 2 teaspoons seeded and roughly chopped jalapeño
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
Pasta and squash ribbons
  • 8 ounces (1/2 pound) whole grain fettuccine or linguine
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  1. Lightly toast the pepitas in a small pan over medium-low heat for a few minutes, tossing frequently, until fragrant. Transfer the pepitas to a bowl to cool a bit.
  2. Remove any discolored skin from the squash with a paring knife. Use a julienne peeler (or regular peeler) to slice the squash lengthwise, one side at a time (stop once you get to the seeded part, then turn the squash to work on the next side).
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook fettuccine until al dente, according to the package's instructions. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a food processor, combine the cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, lime juice, salt and cooled pepitas. While running the food processor, drizzle in the olive oil. Stop processing once the pesto is well blended.
  5. Toss the cooked pasta and ribboned squash with the pesto and serve.
  • Pesto recipe based on Shutterbean's pepita pesto pasta with roasted squash. You might also like 101 Cookbooks' pepita salad recipe.
  • If you don't have a julienne peeler, you can use a regular vegetable peeler to make squash ribbons as directed below, or slice the squash into super thin rounds with a sharp knife (in which case, you might prefer rotini or penne pasta instead of fettuccine/linguine).
  • Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days. Expect the squash to lose a little moisture, but the leftovers will still be very good. Serve chilled, or at room temperature, or gently reheated... it's good any way.


  1. says

    Combining pasta and sqash noodles…I’m having a “why did I never think of that” moment. I love my zucchini noodles, but sometimes just need a little carb fix to go with them. This sounds perfect, and that pesto looks amazing.

  2. says

    Such a great idea- I love how you lightened up your pasta with squash noodles! I just received a huge spaghetti squash from the CSA- since I don’t have a julienne peeler to play with, that might have to be the next best thing.

  3. says

    Pssssht you are my favourite fancy lady. Look at this gorgeousness! Your julienne peeler is so boss looking too. And I loooove that you mixed the zuch with some legit pasta. Just made celeriac ones with my peeler yesterday. TOTAL win. Veggie noodling movement is so, so officially on :) xo

  4. Sara says

    Thank you for showing that pesto doesn’t need to contain cheese to be delicious! So excited to try this – and using pepitas will keep it much cheaper than using pine nuts!

  5. says

    I have the same julienne grater! I love it and I always add some squash or zucchini to my pasta – that way I can eat more! This pesto looks awesome – I’ve never made anything outside of the traditional basil pesto!

    • says

      Maria, I hope you’ll try this pesto soon! I love every variation on pesto I’ve ever tried—arugula, kale, cilantro, it’s all good.

  6. says

    I am a recent cilantro convert after not liking it my entire life, so I am totally making this! Stunning photos, just lovely!
    I just got my julienne peeler, thanks to Laura’s post as well! The minute I got it I took to a yam and made baked potato strings! That thing is going to change lives.

  7. says

    It’s all genius! The cilantro, the pepitas (which I happen to have) and the peppers (which are growing like crazy on my porch) and the squash/pasta mix. Thanks so much for an awesome idea!

  8. says

    I really love that you’ve mixed the squash noodles with regular noodles…so that you still get that carby feel but in a lighter way! Have fun at home!

  9. says

    I’ve always loved cilantro, or coriander as we call it over here (in Ozland!). It’s such a deliciously fragrant, delicious herb and I can imagine that it would pair beautifully with the jalapeno and pepitas. Would you ever add any cheese? I imagine that some crumbled feta or that-Mexican-cheese-with-a-name-that-evades-me-right-now would be lovely! Glad you had a fantastic time with your family (your gran does sound amazing!) xx

    • says

      Hey Laura, good question on the cheese. I tried adding some Parmesan, and I didn’t think it added much. I also sprinkled on some feta, which was good, but I didn’t think it was necessary. I think the name of the cheese you’re looking for is cotija, and yes, I bet that would be good, too!

  10. says

    I love my julienne peeler too – makes courgette or squash so delicious and easy to eat. Love that you’ve included real pasta in as well as the squash – I find on it’s own I don’t really feel like I’ve eaten a proper meal.

  11. says

    This pasta dish looks fabulous! I love to add zucchini ribbons to my pasta too! More veggies, less pasta – and you don’t even realize it! I’ve never made nor have I ever tasted pepita pesto. Have to try this soon.

  12. says

    You make food the prettiest, ever! I love reading your posts. I have a mandoline slicer with a julienne blade that I LOVE. It’s almost dull from overuse. Thankfully they are inexpensive on Amazon :) I want to try this! I love zucchini noodles mixed with pasta, and the pepitas, cilantro and jalapeno sound wonderful. Did you survive the long drive home, too? I strongly dislike long drives. I just want to be there, already.

    • says

      Thank you, Sophie! :) I have been tempted to buy a mandoline slicer but I am entirely convinced that I’ll lose a fingertip using it. I’m pretty absentminded and clumsy. And yes, I did survive the long ride, thank you for asking! I will definitely bring along a captivating audiobook next time. They make the time go by so much faster!

      • Claire says

        I made this last night and man was it delicious! I love finding these kinda recipes because it justifies my purchase of a spiralizer. (Don’t waste your money) Mine was extra spicy because I just threw in the whole jalapeno. I know this is a veggie site, but next time we are going to throw grilled chicken on top. That combo would be so delicious with these flavors. Brava!

        • says

          Awesome, glad you loved the pesto, Claire! I thought about getting a spiralizer but I really don’t have any room for it. Good to know that you don’t recommend it. I’ll stick with my julienne peeler!

  13. says

    I just placed an order for a julienne peeler so I could make this. It looks absolutely wonderful, and I’m so happy when I see recipes for pesto without tree nuts. (It’s no fun being allergic to most of them!)

    • says

      Hope you have as much fun with the julienne peeler as I have been, Steph! I’m also glad that you can enjoy this pesto. I think you could sub pepitas in most pesto recipes, if you enjoy their flavor!

  14. Christine says

    Reading this gave me a delicious idea: I am going to make your pumpkin fettuccine sauce to serve over squash noodles! Oh, I can barely wait. Thanks for the inspiration.

  15. Mia says

    I made this last night and the cilantro-loving boyfriend LOVED it. I think I added a little too much jalepeño, so the pesto had quite a kick.

    This could be really good with some grilled pineapple? I know, crazy talk, but it would add a little sweetness and a little extra texture. As always, thanks for the recipe, Kate! My guy thinks I’m a great cook, but in reality I just ONLY cook your recipes for him. Shh….

    • says

      Hey Mia! So awesome that you’re cooking up my recipes for your guy! Glad you enjoyed this one. I’m kind of obsessed with your grilled pineapple idea… to be continued…

  16. MarryM says

    I combined this recipe with a similar recipe from
    Her recipe uses charred avocado and black beans. The addition of the squash and pepitas was a happy pairing. I also added the squash in with the pasta for the last 30 seconds. Thanks!

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