Calabacitas Con Queso
Aarón Sánchez of "MasterChef Junior" is making a tasty Spanish dish with a spicy kick!


  • 2 thick slices bacon, preferably maple cured
  • 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
  • ½ cup crumbled queso blanco (preferable Cacique)
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for Cilantro-Cotija Pesto (2 cups)

  • 1 cup unsalted raw or roasted pumpkin seeds
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro, stems trimmed 2 inches from the bottom
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil, plus extra for storage
  • ½ serrano chile or 1 jalapeno, coarsely chopped (include seeds for additional spice)
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • ½ crumbled cotija (preferably Cacique brand) or shredded pecorino or Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Aarón Sánchez Cooks - Home & Family


1. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and brown, approximately 5 minutes. Remove bacon and let rest on a paper towel lined plate.

2. Using the same pan, add the garlic and set it over medium heat. Cook the garlic for approximately 1 minute, until it starts to turn golden brown. 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.

3. 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.

Directions for Cilantro-Cotija Pesto

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

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.

4. To store, put it into a container with a tight-fitting lid and pour ¼ 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 ¼ inch of oil before closing the container, this makes an airtight seal that will keep it tasting fresh for up to 10 days.

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