Recipe: Calabacitas con Queso

Calabacitas con Queso

By - - Mar 28, 2014

Ditch the same old sauteed zucchini (calabacitas is Spanish for “little squash”) for this lively dish that takes full advantage of my funky Mexican pesto, with its whack of cilantro and a touch of spice.

Servings: 4


Cilantro-cotija pesto
  • 1 cup unsalted raw or roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stems trimmed 2 inches from the bottom
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil, plus extra for storage
  • 1/2 serrano chile or 1 jalapeño, coarsely chopped (yup, seeds too, if you can take the heat)
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija (preferably the Cacique brand) or shredded pecorino or Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Calabacitas con Queso
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
  • 1 pound zucchini, cut into large dice
  • 1 large tomato, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Cilantro-Cotija Pesto
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso blanco (preferably the Cacique brand) or lightly salty feta
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cilantro-Cotija Pesto
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. Spread the pumpkin seeds in an even layer on a dry baking sheet. Put the sheet in the oven and bake, checking them and shaking the pan every 3 minutes, until they start to dance, puff up, and brown lightly, about 10 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, transfer the seeds to a bowl, and let cool to room temperature.
3. Put the cilantro, basil, and olive oil into a food processor and puree for 2 minutes. Add the chile, garlic, pumpkin seeds, and cotija, and pulse until you have a coarse puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To store, put it into a container with a tight-fitting lid and pour 1/4 inch of olive oil over the surface to keep out the air. Each time you use it, stir that oil in, and replace with another 1/4 inch of oil before closing the container. This makes an airtight seal that will keep it tasting fresh for up to 10 days.

Calabacitas con Queso
1. Put the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet and set it over medium heat. Once the garlic begins to sizzle, cook, stirring, for 1 minute so the oil gets some of that garlic flavor. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini has softened slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato and scallion and cook until the tomato begins to break down, about 5 minutes.
2. Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the Cilantro-Cotija Pesto and queso blanco until the cheese starts to melt. Season with lime juice, salt and pepper to taste and serve.