A Quick Bread of the Highest Order: Zucchini Pesto Bread

It’s difficult to determine whether or not this has been a successful summer for our zucchini plants. On the one hand, my early bug smooshing efforts paid off with a bounty of blossoms for stuffing and frying. On the other hand, the squash bug nymphs that emerged from the eggs that I missed appear to have won the battle for plant-dominating supremacy, and one by one, my squash – all types, in fact – are being cut down in their prime by those nymphs. This is the winter, I think, that I become well-versed in organic ointments for my garden, rather than continuing with the entirely holistic, companion-planting, bug-squashing, egg-destroying approach I’ve embraced thus far.

Still, we have more than enough zucchini for two people, and my secret zucchini plant – shhhh, don’t tell anyone, those horrendous nymphs and their friends the squash borers might hear you – is still producing in its clandestine location behind the asparagus patch, which is fortunate, because as soon as I tasted this zucchini bread, I wanted to make another. Just to be sure we had enough. There appears to be a trend here, first, the secret zucchini plant, then, a secret zucchini-pesto loaf. And a good thing that I made that second loaf, for the first was devoured in a mere three days. We had it with sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella that we had for dinner in the garden last night – it’s far too hot to cook dinner, yet, somehow, I found myself baking bread during our first-of-the-year heatwave – and also makes a mean grilled cheese and capicola sandwich. It is so good with summer snacks, in fact, that I might try zucchini-pesto crackers next. I’m making myself hungry just thinking about it, so without further ado, I present to you, a zucchini bread of the very highest order.

Zucchini Pesto Bread


  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto (approximately two-thirds of a 6.5 ounce jar if you're using purchased pesto)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (from approximately 1/2 pound, which is half of a large, but not enormous, zucchini)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and grease a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan with butter.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, pesto, and 4 tablespoons of the melted butter. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir well to combine. Add the zucchini to the flour mixture and give it a good stir to coat the zucchini.
  3. Add the flour-and-zucchini mixture to the egg-cheese-pesto concoction, and stir diligently to combine. I say diligently because this is not a runny dough, and therefore requires a little extra elbow grease (or stand mixer stirring) to thoroughly blend the dry with the wet.
  4. Transfer the dough to the loaf pan and top with the remaining 4 tablespoons of melted butter. Place the loaf pan on the foil-lined baking sheet to protect against butter-steam should your butter runneth over during the baking process. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf emerges clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour. Allow the bread to cool in the loaf pan, set on a cooling rack, for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn the bread out of the pan onto the cooling rack and let cool until ready to serve.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it. If you are so inclined, make a sandwich with two thin slices of mild provolone and four thin slices of sweet capicola per each, and grill as you would any grilled cheese.

Estimated cost for the 12-slice-minimum loaf: $7.25. The eggs should be no more than 26-cents each. The ricotta costs $5.99 for 1 1/2 pounds, and we used about a third of that, so that’s $2.00. The pesto I used was made from basil grown here in my garden, but a 6.5 ounce jar of the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand pesto costs $3.99, so using two-thirds of it runs us $2.66. The butter costs 70-cents for one stick, again using the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand. The flour costs $4.49 for 19 cups, so our 3 cups cost us 71-cents. The baking powder costs a little less than 1-cent per teaspoon, so we’ll just go ahead and call 1 tablespoon 3-cents. The zucchini would be around 1/2 pound, and at $1.25 per pound (or free because you and/or your neighbors are actually overrun with zucchini), that adds 63-cents. As previously mentioned, you should get at least 12 slices from the loaf, and at that, the cost is 60-cents per slice. If you went ahead and made the grilled provolone and capicola, that would add, per sandwich, another 31-cents for the provolone, which costs $4.99/pound, and the capicola costs 35-cents at $5.59/pound. You’re using less than an ounce of each per sandwich, but we like to round up here, so round up we will. I’d figure on 2 additional tablespoons of butter for cooking the sandwiches, and that adds 18-cents for four. Your total sandwich meal cost for four, then, would be $7.62. Oh, and they are filling and delicious. Not too shabby for $1.91 per person, is it?

Dinner tonight: It’s still quite hot out, despite allegations that Hurricane Bill would cool things off a bit. We’ll have more tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and a couple slices of this zucchini bread again. Estimated cost for two: $9.45. The tomatoes are from the garden – or, more accurately, from the brown paper bag grouping on the top of our wood stove where the rescued-from-late-blight tomatoes live. If you were buying field tomatoes, you’d pay somewhere in the range of $2.75 to $3.25 per pound, so we’ll call it $3.25. The mozzarella was $8.99 for about 3/4 pound, and we’ll have half of that, so that’s $4.50. We’ll toss a few basil leaves from the garden over it and drizzle the plate with a tablespoon or so of fancy extra virgin olive oil (as compared with the everyday extra virgin olive oil I use), and we’ll add in another 50-cents for the oil. As you know, the bread costs 60-cents per slice, and we’ll each have one.

18 Comments to A Quick Bread of the Highest Order: Zucchini Pesto Bread

  1. that looks great, I love zucchini bread, but have never thought of that combo, very delicious!

  2. Amy says:

    Hi Angelina,

    Thank you! I had made a zucchini bread prior to this one that was a bit of a snooze, so I spent some time fretting over how to make it better. A few days later, with a pile of basil leaves about to be made into pesto in my hand, all of a sudden, the proverbial light bulb went off. It’s very moist and the pesto gives it a bit of a cheese bread richness – I know I’m addicted! I hope you have a chance to try it!

  3. Angry Asian says:

    i really enjoy zucchini bread and i love the fact that you actually utilize the bread for sandwiches. i’ve been going back and forth between zucchini and banana bread, in the search for ultimate recipes for each. i will try you recipe next. thank you for sharing!

  4. This looks great Amy. I love that you consistently have recipes that work with my harvest. It helps that we both have New England gardens, and clearly, the same taste in delicious ! Good luck with those pests.. its been a #%!*# of a garden year.

    PS I love that I can comment now :)

  5. Slow Julia says:

    Just made a good zucchini bread, but this look fantastic. Nice to meet another locovore. Would you take my 2 second blog quiz?

  6. Amy says:

    Hi Lan,
    I’ve been following your bread-baking adventures – sorry to hear about that banana bread last week. Before this year, I hadn’t ever made a savory zucchini bread, so my first attempt was quite boring, but this bread is really good, and makes a great sandwich. In fact, it seems as though I’m on an all-zucchini-bread sandwich diet right now. Or at least at lunchtime! Let me know what you think once you’ve made it!

    Michaela! I am so glad you can finally comment, too! Great to see you here! I keep looking at my lemon verbena and pineapple sage and thinking of you – I have to find a way to work those in to a recipe or two this year. This year has been a rough one for our New England gardens – I’ve decided that the star crops are beans, collards, and beets. The potatoes weren’t bad either – we got them in early enough that the blight came just as we were harvesting, but I’m already looking forward to a sunny and warm – but not too warm! – growing season in 2010!

    Hi Slow Julia,
    Thanks for your comment – please let me know how it comes out if you do try the bread. I’m now craving grilled bluefish after reading your blog – I might have to make some crusty bread to go with it, though – hmmmm….that could be next, right after sweet zucchini bread! I did take the quiz – local is the way I go, too!

    Take care,

  7. Hi Amy,

    Historical note: Years ago when tupperware parties were in fashion I think in the 70s, people started trotting out zucchini bread.

    Mostly this was done at the time you were expecting chocolate layer cake or fruit pie with whipped cream.

    This led to the carrot cake explosion which carried over into the 80s. ( Not my eighties.) Carrot cake was hailed even more than zucchini bread. Sometimes it was brought out in a tupperware container.

    If there is enough sugar in carrot cake and the icing is made with cream cheese and sugar, you can nearly convince yourself you’re having a real dessert. Still, it is a letdown – carrots and zucchini. Who was it that thought serving vegetables in cake form is dessert? Whether it’s lunch or dinner, if I eat all my vegetables I don’t want more vegetables for dessert. It doesn’t matter whether you hide them in cake, bread or ice cream format. Enough is enough. What I want is chocolate.

    That said, the vegetable harvest here in Brookline is a disaster. The squash died a month ago and the tomatoes have blight. The peppers are okay.

    You can make me a sandwich on zucchini bread but please don’t make me eat it for dessert.


  8. Aimée says:

    Wow, this is so creative!!

    My poor zucchini plants got chomped down to mere stubs back in June by some wild animal. Ever since they’ve been trying valiantly to grow back and produce.

    Funny b/c I am usually up to my ears in zucc this time of the year…

  9. anduin says:

    I made this tonight and it was so incredibly rich and delicious! I didn’t have ricotta so I used greek yogurt instead. It was moist but not sticky the way zucchini breads usually are. Just delicious! When I do it again–which I will–I will cut way down on the butter on top. I’m looking forward to eating it with some tomato, garlic and basil tomorrow. Thanks for the recipe!

  10. Amy says:

    Hi Kitty,
    So nice to hear from you, and thank you for the hysterical Tupperware-vegetable bread evolution history. I particularly like the bit about the cake being presented in Tupperware. Ahhh, the glorious 70′s and early 80′s! It’s been a very rough year here in New England for our gardens. I really am looking forward to next year, and in the meantime, have planted more beets and greens. Maybe the cool-weather crops will help redeem the year!

    Hi Aimee,
    Thank you so much, and I’m sorry to hear about your garden pest disaster! We were very fortunate to get the squash we did, but, like you, it pales in comparison to a normal year. I have just enough coming to make one more loaf of this bread and eat some tender zucchini with dinner, but I had to rip up all but that “secret” plant this week. Sigh.

    Hi Anduin,
    I’m so glad to hear that you liked the bread, and I am thrilled to hear that the Greek yogurt worked out well. I have another zucchini bread scheme in my head that involves Greek yogurt, oregano, and olives (okay, so now I’ve given it away!), but haven’t gotten to that yet. Hopefully the neighbors will pawn some of their oversized zucchini off on me. The butter on top definitely makes this a very decadent bread and could definitely be cut back. I figured I’d go with the over-the-top version, which gives the option to cut back. I hope you enjoy your tomato, garlic, and basil zucchini bread treats! Thanks for commenting!

    Take care,

  11. Kitty Kaufman says:

    Hi Amy,

    Restaurant reviewer Frank Bruni has written his very last food column in the NY Times. He is one of the compelling reasons to buy the paper Wednesdays.
    Here’s his last column:

    Even though I don’t get to Manhattan often, it’s great reading about new places.

    Still, I recommend the Wednesday Times. Surely they will find a suitable replacement, In the meantime, you can read about wine and try their recipes and drool over the classes that are being given in the city.

    And Brooklyn!

  12. Amy says:

    Hi Kitty,
    Twitter has been abuzz with Bruni’s departure since it was announced. Thank you for the link to his last column – I enjoyed it and can even check off one of the restaurants – Sushi Yasuda, which was incredibly good. I also love the NYT – the food section, and in general. I haven’t ventured into Brooklyn – I don’t get down to New York nearly as frequently as I would like – but am dying to go. It seems like a new fabulous restaurant pops up weekly there!

  13. Kitty says:

    Hi Amy,
    You are so right!
    This is me so jealous after finding Florence Fabricant’s “One Restaurant’s Closing is Another’s Fresh Start” in Wednesday’s food section:


    Be sure to click on the tabs to see all the new places.


  14. Angry Asian says:

    ok. i finally made this bread this past weekend. twice. and both i fear were fails. the first loaf *may* have been better than the second but i chucked it, thinking my 2nd attempt would be better.

    the first time, i used 2 cups AP flour, 1 cup WW. it was heavy so i thought maybe the WW was weighing it down. 2nd time, i used AP and it was even heavier. what am i doing wrong?

    the bread is not crumbly and i baked both loaves for about an hour and it appears uncooked but when i insert a knife in the middle, it comes out clean…

  15. Amy says:

    Hi Lan,
    Hmmmm…this is perplexing. I’ve made it multiple times and haven’t had any issues, though I haven’t tried this recipe with whole wheat flour yet. However, you should be able to substitute up to 1/2 of the AP for WW flour with decent results. Because of the use of ricotta, the bread is more dense looking – kind of like a bready cheesecake – which may resemble undercooked. If your knife is coming out clean, it should be done at that point. I normally let the bread cool for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting into it to allow for the bread to keep its form better once it is cut. Did you taste either loaf? I’m sorry this hasn’t worked out for you. Damn!

  16. cynthia says:

    Zucchini with ricotta- it must be really great!

  17. LAM says:

    Are we to squeeze out the moisture from the shredded zucchini before baking with it? Or do we need that as part of the recipe? Thank you!

    • Amy says:

      Hi LAM! Thank you for your question. In making this bread, I have not squeezed out the moisture, though if the zucchini you’re using has a lot of moisture, it’s certainly worth trying. The flour mixture serves to coat the zucchini, so it does help to contain some of the moisture. Please let me know how it goes! Thanks again!

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