Vegan pesto pasta with vegetables is a staple for any plant-based kitchen. Use it on pasta with some veggies, and use the rest on a sandwich or pizza.
You'll need a few pieces of equipment to make this plant-based pesto recipe, nothing crazy...
- Blender, food processor, or immersion blender - this will blend your sauce. A large commercial blender (such as Vitamix) is often too big for a single recipe. I recommend a smaller blender like a Nutribullet, or food processor. My personal favorite at the moment is the immersion blender - it's just so easy.
- Small saucepan - you'll use this to soften your cashews
- Strainer - to drain your cashews
- Pasta pot - for cooking your pasta
- Mixing bowl (optional) - if you plan to use an immersion blender, this is a must. I've been using a 4 cup liquid measuring cup
- Sheet tray - for roasting veggies if desired
This vegan pesto is super simple, most of the ingredients already live in your fridge & pantry. Sometimes I refer to it as my "leftover pesto" because I can make it with leftover greens from the previous week. It's a great catch-all and can be spruced up to be as fancy as you'd like.
- Greens - spinach and kale both work well here. If you choose to use kale, don't forget to remove any thick stems. I typically use leftover spinach or kale.
- Herbs - basil, cilantro, and parsley are all delish. Use what you have!
- Softened cashews - to soften, boil for 10-15 mins. The cashews add some of the nutty buttery quality that you'd normally get from parmesean.
- Olive oil - I recommend extra virgin olive oil, or light olive oil (in color, not in calories). I find the taste of olive oil works nicely in pesto.
- Lemon juice - this adds a subtle sour punch and means you'll need to use less salt.
- Salt - to taste. Add once all the other ingredients are blended, and taste. When in doubt, start small.
- Garlic (optional) - self explanatory. If you don't like garlic, leave it out.
- Pine nuts (optional) - these are totally optional, but amp up the flavors and texture. They're buttery and even more nutty than cashews.
To make this vegan pesto pasta with vegetables, we have to add some! This is another great opportunity to use what you have. Here are some of my faves:
- Baby tomatoes - during summer tomato season, roast some baby tomatoes in the oven at 450 F for 10-ish minutes with a pinch of salt and olive oil. There are few things better than a sweet roasted tomato.
- Carrot rounds - roast these with your tomatoes if you have 'em. They'll take a little longer, so don't mix in with the tomatoes, so you can remove each veggie more easily.
- Peas - these are the simplest ingredient to add. I always have frozen peas in my freezer. Add to your pasta pot when you have ~2 minutes left, or warm in the microwave according to package instructions.
- Sun dried tomatoes - chop these up into small pieces and mix in with your pesto pasta for a little bit of savory tomato flavor without too much work. I always have a few of this in my pantry for pasta like this.
- Roasted bell peppers - similar to carrots, chop into small pieces and roast with other veggies. Make sure to keep all the peppers together for even cooking.
If you're not feeling the fresh vegetables, this pesto shines on the pasta alone.
Frequently asked questions
How else can I use vegan pesto? Pesto is one of the most versatile sauces in my book. So far, I've used this pesto on...
- Pizza - spread it on a flatbread with some tomato slices and your favorite vegan mozzarella, and place into an oven set to 350 F until the cheese melts. I'm a big fan of Miyoko's mozzarella wheel and Whole Foods plant-based mozzarella.
- Sandwiches - I love a good pesto and hummus sandwich. You could also make a caprese sandwich with the pesto, some vegan mozzarella, sliced tomato, and a little bit of balsamic vinegar...brb making that for lunch now.
- Pasta - it's no secret that pesto's best friend is pasta. If your pasta is flying solo with pesto, I suggest a noodle like spaghetti, capellini, or fettuccine.
- Veggies - tomatoes, carrots and bell peppers, oh my! Use whatever veggies you have that are roast-able, and enjoy!
What pasta goes with pesto? Noodles like capellini, spaghetti, and fettuccine work well when pasta and pesto are without any veggies. If you're making vegan pesto pasta with vegetables, fusilli, casarecce, and orecchiette are among my favorites - it'll be much easier to pick up pasta and veggies with a fork with these more compact shapes, and the pesto will sneak into the crevices.
Do you heat pesto before adding to pasta? With pesto, we want to release the oils from the herbs without overheating. Simply add to warm pasta - the warmth from the pasta will release the oils in the herbs, heightening their flavor without overheating. In general, pesto shouldn't be heated on its own.
Should pesto be refrigerated? Absolutely - store this plant-based pesto in the refrigerator for up to a week.
How do I store my pesto pasta? Pesto pasta makes fantastic leftovers. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and reheat in the microwave for 1-2 mins when ready to eat. Or enjoy cold if you're impatient like me...Print
- 2-3 cups greens - spinach and de-stemmed kale work well
- 1/2-1 cup fresh basil leaves (can use cilantro or parsley if you desire)
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup softened raw cashews (boil raw cashews for 10 mins, then strain)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- Juice of ½ Lemon
- Salt to taste (start with 1 tsp)
- 1 tbsp pine nuts (toast for extra nutty flavor)
Veggies and Pasta
- 2 bell peppers, diced
- 1 package cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup baby carrots, sliced into wheels
- Olive oil to taste
- 1-2 T salt
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 pound pasta of choice
- Preheat & prep: preheat oven to 400 F. In a small saucepan, boil water for cashews. In a large pasta pot, boil 4-5 quarts of water for pasta, adding a generous pinch or two of salt.
- Prep vegetables: if roasting vegetables, chop and toss a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Pro tip: toss each set of vegetables separately and roast in same section of pan. Vegetable cooking time varies a bit, if your tomatoes are done before your carrots, it's much easier to remove. Roast for 20 mins, then remove from oven and flip with spatula. Put back in the oven for 10-20 mins until they begin to brown. When the tomatoes start to wrinkle and flatten, they're done. If using frozen peas, add to pasta pot when pasta has ~ 2 minutes left, or warm in microwave according to package instructions.
- Soften cashews: when water is boiling, add cashews and boil for 10-15 mins. Then strain and add to blender.
- Cook pasta: once water is boiling, prepare pasta according to package instructions to al dente, then strain.
- Prepare pesto: blend all pesto ingredients together. Add more olive oil 1 Tbsp at a time if pesto is too thick.
- Combine & enjoy: add a serving of pasta to a bowl, toss with a few Tbsp of pesto and as many veggies as desired. Gently mix with fork, tongs, spoon, etc. Add more pesto and salt to taste, and enjoy!
Keywords: pesto, pasta, primavera, vegetable pasta, veggies, spring, summer, vegan, plant-based