Zucchini Squash Blossom & Saffron Pesto Pasta with Cauliflower


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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I love me some squash blossoms.   They are just so pretty & elegant and the fact they are seasonal & so hard to come by makes them all that much more exotic & satisfying to use.  They have only the slightest hint of flavor, though.  Less even than my latest other favorite ingredient – saffron.  Saffron is also rare – in fact – I believe it is the most expensive spice in the world when priced by the pound.  Saffron is also pretty & delicate & elegantly flavored.  So, I thought, why not marry the two in a recipe?  This pesto is as easy as any other, assuming you have some kind of food processor or blender.  I didn’t use garlic as I thought it might overwhelm the other flavors and, as it turned out, I found that the Parmesan I used ended up being the most powerful taste.  Still, this is a pretty & easy & quite yummy.  And it is a great way to use squash blossoms that might no longer be in the peak of their glory (as in – been in the fridge a few days).  Like these:


I added cauliflower to the dish because 1) it, too, has a lovely & delicate flavor and 2) it lightens up a pasta dish with all its bulky, veggie goodness.  Feel free to leave it out or even to use only cauliflower & leave out the pasta.   Also – I used whole wheat spaghetti but any pasta (or risotto) would work.



1/2 pound dry pasta

1/2 head cauliflower – cut into florets

15 (or so) squash blossoms (plus extra chopped up for garnish)

1/4 cup almonds (about 30) or other nut (pine nut, walnut, pecan)

3 TBS saffron liquid (or a generous pinch steeped in 3 TBS warm water)

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional) – (I used more but I feel I overdid it.)



Remove the pistils from the centers of the squash blossoms & then wash them.  Separate a few to chop as garnish.


Toast the nuts in a dry pan for about 2-3 minutes or until they are fragrant.  Be careful not to burn them.  Blend the blossoms, nuts, saffron water, & cheese in a food processor or blender.  Add the crushed red pepper (if using).  Drizzle in the olive oil.  You might need to scrape the sides of the work bowl a few times.


Cook the pasta according to directions – adding the cauliflower florets for the last 5 minutes.  Drain & toss with the pesto.  Garnish with chopped squash blossoms and/or chopped basil or parsley or a tad more crushed red pepper or Parmesan.

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2 thoughts on “Zucchini Squash Blossom & Saffron Pesto Pasta with Cauliflower

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