Deconstructed Pesto Couscous Salad

Lindsay Landis | Love & Olive Oil
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This deconstructed pesto couscous salad is simple perfection. When you’re craving pesto but don’t feel like dirtying the food processor, this quick and easy side dish incorporates all the elements you love most about pesto without the mess.

Deconstructed Pesto Couscous Salad Photo

Pesto is a universal crowd pleaser. It’s quick and easy and downright flavorful, whether you’re making a fresh pasta salad or homemade frozen pizza. But if you want something even quicker and easier (no joke), this deconstructed pesto salad is a winner.

Rather than dirtying up a food processor (and we all know what a pain in the you-know-what those are to clean), you’ll love this recipe. In under 30 minutes you have yourself a perfect dinner. Or lunch. Or a side for grilled chicken or whatnot (seriously, whatever floats your boat).

Deconstructed Pesto Couscous Salad Picture

While this recipe is made with Israeli couscous (also known as Pearl couscous), you could easily substitute regular couscous, orzo, or even penne pasta in its place.

The most surprising thing is just how much this salad tastes like pesto. When you get one of those perfect bites, with a little bit of couscous and zucchini, a bit of basil, a shard of shaved Pecorino cheese and a pine nut or two… it’s pesto perfection.

You'd think you’d coated the entire thing with a thick slathering of traditional pesto. Except it’s somehow fresher and brighter, with each ingredient standing strongly on its own.

Deconstructed Pesto Couscous Salad Image

We add some ribbons of fresh zucchini to round out the dish (I mean, aren’t you always looking for different ways to use up all that zucchini?) Making ribbons of zucchini is as easy as peeling the squash, literally.

With a vegetable peeler, remove the outer peel and discard those bits. Then continue to rub the peeler up and down the squash like you were peeling layer after layer. Tada, zucchini ribbons! When you’re done, don’t put that peeler away, as you can use it to shave the pecorino cheese too (seriously, that peeler is the ultimate multi-tasker).

Everything you love about pesto is here, nothing comes up short. From the fresh basil to the salty pecorino to the toasty pine nuts and bright extra virgin olive oil… not a flavor is missing. Tossed with couscous and delicate ribbons of zucchini, you may never want to make traditional pesto again.

Deconstructed Pesto Couscous Salad Recipe

    6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups couscous, israeli or pearl
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, large, finely minced
  • 1 medium zucchini squash, peeled and ribboned
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 ounces pecorino romano cheese, shaved
  • micro basil, optional, for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan set over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add dry couscous and a hearty pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 1/4 cups of water in the microwave until very hot or barely boiling (about 90 seconds at high power should do it). When couscous is toasted, stir in hot water (careful, as it will steam and sputter). Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until water is absorbed and couscous is al dente. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
  3. When couscous is cool, toss with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, zucchini ribbons, sliced basil, and pine nuts. Season generously to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among serving bowls and top with shaved Pecorino and micro basil (if desired).

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Lindsay Landis

About Lindsay

With a blog name like Love & Olive Oil, it's pretty obvious why Lindsay is our Olive Oil fanatic. Sweet and savory, this is where you'll find all of Lindsay's favorite olive oil recipes.