Grilled pesto flounder with bow ties, veggies

Two ways to serve: whole fillets on a bed of pasta or cut fillets into pieces and mix with pasta and veggies. (Picture by Jerry Dilsaver)

Here’s a different way to prepare flounder

August is a pivotal month, a turning point, if you will, for sportsmen in the Carolinas. It is arguably the hottest month. However, it is the month when some outdoorsmen return to hunting and many more are getting ready to return. Fishing is about to pick up again, and sportsmen will have to choose between their rods and guns (or bows).

Flounder are usually one of the highlights in August and will remain so for Palmetto State fishermen. However, fishermen in the Tarheel State will have to wait until Sept. 1 to catch flounder. Maybe they’ll purchase some from their favorite fishmonger and practice once so they have this recipe down pat when the season opens.

This is a different way to prepare flounder. The easiest way, which is very popular, is to reduce the flounder to fillets and introduce them to your favorite breader and a pan of hot grease. I agree that’s good, but so is this recipe. And it’s a lot cooler to prepare and a different way to eat your favorite flatfish.

Keep it outside

If you have good shade on a deck or patio, this is a good meal to enjoy there. I have a small grill and prepare the pasta inside, while cooking the flounder and vegetables separately. Folks who have a larger grill — especially one with a side burner — can fix everything outside. I believe that’s the best way to enjoy it. When cooking outside, there are always tales to be told, and it’s perfectly correct to be sipping on a cold beverage, even those made for adults only.

Flounder is a mild-tasting saltwater fish that is a favorite of many, although most-often fried. This recipe pushes that envelope. (Picture by Jerry Dilsaver)

This is a tasty, simple recipe for preparing flounder other than frying it. I like pasta and pesto, so it’s a natural at our house. This is a simple recipe and is a bit healthier than frying. Give this one a try. I believe you’ll eat it again.

Catching the guest of honor is a fun part of this recipe. This dish was planned for August, as flounder are readily available in creeks, bays, rivers and the ocean and the seasons were to be open in both Carolinas. Apologies to the Tar Heel fishermen, but soon you’ll also be able to slip a finger mullet over the side and invite the flounder that eats it home for dinner.

Grilled pesto flounder

I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of eating flounder; however, I catch them often while fishing for other species, particularly red drum. And when they’re in season and I hook one deeply, I’ll take one home and eat it. Many folks fry flounder. I don’t eat much fried fish but typically bake, broil or grill and dose them up with pepper and other seasonings.

I also like pasta, and one night while eating some with a pesto sauce, I decided pesto would be good on fish. One of my basic beliefs is that if two things taste good separately, there is a reasonable expectation for them to taste good together. I tried this on a flounder, and it was good. The next step was to try it with pasta, and it scored again. Now, we occasionally have grilled flounder, seasoned with pesto and served on or with pasta.

We also like to roast cut up vegetables. They — and almost everything — taste better cooked on the grill. They take a while to cook, and if you have a large, double-burner grill, start them on one side and add the flounder fillets on the other side with a few minutes to go. I have a small grill, and rather than let the veggies cool while cooking the fish, I often cook them in the inside oven. If you have a grill with a hot side burner, cook the pasta on it to keep everything outside.

Drizzle veggies with olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste before sliding in the oven or on the grill. (Picture by Jerry Dilsaver)

Bow tie pasta doesn’t roll around on the plate

I’ve tried this with several types of pasta and like it best with bow ties. They taste good and don’t roll around in your plate when you’re trying to cut a piece of fish. They also gather pesto on both sides and add to the flavor. If you prefer less pesto flavor, use a round pasta.

I cook a whole, 12-ounce box of pasta, knowing I’ll only use about 2/3 for four servings. This way, I have pasta in the fridge and ready to go for a snack or part of another meal.

Pesto is salty. I don’t add any salt except a little when cooking the pasta as suggested by most pasta companies. I add coarse ground pepper, but I like pepper. Remember, you can add more salt and pepper to taste by individual servings. But if you cook using it, everyone gets the flavor.

I realize this is an unusual way to prepare flounder, but we like it a little more every time we do it.  It’s a nice change and I believe you’ll like it too. Enjoy!


3 or 4 flounder fillets

½ medium sweet onion

1-2 zucchini squash

1-2 yellow squash

½ package (15 to 20) cherry tomatoes

1 tub (7 ounces) basil pesto

1 box (12 ounces) bowtie pasta

1 tbsp Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Buttery flavor non-stick cooking spray

Aluminum foil


Slice the squash and onion.

For vegetables on grill, preheat the grill to medium, spray a vegetable tray with non-stick cooking spray, spread the vegetables on the tray. Drizzle the olive oil on the vegetables. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste. Cook at medium heat until done — about 30 minutes.

For vegetables in an oven, preheat the oven to 400. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the vegetables on the foil. Drizzle the olive oil on the vegetables. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste. Cook at until done ­— about 35 minutes.

Cook and drain the pasta according to its directions. Spray a fish or vegetable tray with non-stick cooking spray. Lay the flounder fillets on the tray. Spread a rounded teaspoon of pesto on each fillet. Cook the fillets on the grill until they flake easily — 6  to 10 minutes depending on thickness. Be careful not to overcook the fish. Mix the remaining pesto well with the pasta.

This flounder dish serves well two ways

Cut the flounder fillets into pieces and mix each fillet with a cup of pasta and 2/3 cup of vegetables. Use a cup of pasta to make a bed on a plate and lay a fillet on top, then add a serving of vegetables on the side.

While it may seem there are many steps, this is a simple preparation that is a different way to enjoy the mild flavor of flounder. With a larger grill that includes a side burner, it can be totally prepared outside and served on the deck or patio to enjoy a cooler, late-summer evening. Even when cooking the vegetables and pasta inside, cooking the fish on the grill is also a great reason to eat outside.

For those who would like a little more, a green salad or lettuce wedge is a great addition. Dessert should be light too, like pudding or flan. ■

About Jerry Dilsaver 1169 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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