Summer Pesto Couscous Bowls are everything you want in a light summer meal. Pearled couscous, the most flavorful marinated zucchini, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, and a simple basil pesto! It’s a perfect picnic meal, packable lunch, or vegetarian dinner!
I know that everyone says this, but I’m in agreement. Food tastes better in bowls. It just does! I eat 90% of my meals out of bowls, and it’s usually something just like this. A base of greens, sometimes some grains or some other carb source, some kind of protein (in this case, mini mozzarella balls!), something crunchy (here we’ve got cucumbers and the best marinated zucchini EVER), and some kind of sauce, always. In this case, pesto! Always veggie heavy, always super fresh, and delicious, of course.
You can make these bowl-style like I did, or, you can mix everything together into a couscous salad type of situation. In real life, I pretty much just end up mixing everything together in my bowl so I have a little bit of everything in one bite!
So, if you’re taking this to a cookout or party, you can mix everything together to make a salad to make serving and transport much easier! I made these summer pesto couscous bowls for a few friends, and everyone was obsessed.
First, I need to tell you about this marinated zucchini and red onion situation.
I officially want to keep these in my fridge at all times because they’re SO GOOD. They’re amazing on salads, in bowls, just straight up as an appetizer, as an addition to a cheeseboard, a snack straight out of the fridge, an addition to a nice, warm piece of crusty bread, or any other possible way you could think of enjoying them. They’re perfect. And soooo easy!
All you need, is a thinly sliced zucchini, thinly sliced red onion, white wine vinegar, good quality olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. You won’t believe how amazing they are, and they get even better as they sit.
And they totally MAKE these bowls.
Next up, we’ve got the pesto. Because every bowl needs some sort of drizzle or sauce.
This is a super classic Italian style pesto, made with mostly basil, some flat leaf parsley, garlic, lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. Super simple – the kind of pesto you’d want to put on pasta or pizza! So, you will probably want to double it if you want extra! Especially if your basil plant is going crazy this summer. This pesto freezes really well too!
For all of the toppings, you can go crazy, but these are my faves.
- the marinated zucchini and red onions, of course
- super sweet cherry tomatoes
- thinly sliced cucumber
- mini mozzarella balls
You could totally top this with even more veggies, from bell peppers, to radishes, to leftover roasted veggies from the night before, fresh or grilled corn, or anything you have on hand! As for cheeses, feta or parm would be delish too!
Basically, you can’t mess these up. They’re super customizable and forgiving – what I always look for in a bowl meal!
I rarely make pearled couscous, but when I do, I’m like..”Why don’t I make this more often?!” The texture is amazing and it’s so fun to eat. And I just love carbs. If you can’t find it, orzo would be a great sub!
If you want a lower carb option for these bowls, I’d recommend serving this on a bed of greens instead! Arugula would be really delicious, or some massaged kale! Or, for another option, quinoa or brown rice would be really yummy too.
Use what you have in your fridge or pantry! That’s always my motto for bowl meals.
And, use whatever’s easiest. That’s my motto for summer.
Seriously though, you need to make the marinated zucchini and red onions, whatever you do!
And I’ll leave you with the best bite.
Summer Pesto Couscous Bowls
Summer Pesto Couscous Bowls are everything you want in a light summer meal. Pearled couscous, the most flavorful marinated zucchini, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, and a simple basil pesto! It's a perfect picnic meal, packable lunch, or vegetarian dinner!
For the bowls
- 8 ounces pearled couscous*
- 3/4 cup mini mozzarella balls
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup thinly sliced seedless cucumber
- 1 avocado, sliced
- basil leaves, to garnish
For the marinated zucchini and red onion
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and thyme, but use whatever you have! Chives would be great too)
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 of a small-medium red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
For the pesto
- 1 1/2 cups packed basil leaves
- 1/2 cup packed flat leaf parsley
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Bring a pot of water to a boil for the couscous. Cook according to package directions. Drain and then rinse with cold water. Let cool.
Make the marinated zucchini and red onions. In a medium bowl, whisk together the white wine vinegar, garlic, herbs, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and olive oil until combined. Add the zucchini and red onion and toss to combine. Let them marinate while you prepare everything else. Once they've marinated for a bit, season to taste with additional salt if needed.
For the pesto, add the basil, flat leaf parsley, garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, parmesan, salt, and pepper to your food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides. With the processor running, stream in the olive oil until the pesto comes together. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
To assemble portion the couscous into bowls, and top with a handful of mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and sliced avocado. Top with a generous scoop of the marinated zucchini and red onion, as well as a generous drizzle of pesto. Add freshly cracked black pepper and basil leaves to garnish, if desired. Serve with extra pesto!
*Pearled couscous is often labeled as Israeli couscous if you're having trouble finding it!
*Orzo or another small pasta would be a great sub for the couscous. Quinoa, farro, or brown rice would be great too!
*For a lower carb option, serve over a bed of greens like arugula or massaged kale instead of the couscous. Or, do half and half!
*To make this more of a picnic style salad, mix everything together in a large bowl before serving (In this case, you may not need all of the pesto. Use it to taste!
*To meal prep these bowls for work lunches, portion the couscous into containers, top with a handful of mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and sliced avocado. Top the avocado with a generous scoop of the marinated zucchini and red onion (the oil and vinegar will help to prevent it from browning). Place the pesto in a small dressing-size container and drizzle it on top when ready to eat!