Fresh and peppery, this vegan pesto pasta made with arugula and basil packs a flavorful punch. It’s a delicious alternative to the typical white pasta recipes with the substitution of lentil pasta for added protein.
Summer is here and fresh herbs are in their full glory. There’s nothing like the addition of fresh basil to an Italian dish. It brings such a depth of flavor.
With a ton of basil on hand, and leftover arugula in my fridge, I decided to give this vegan version of pesto a try inspired by This Savory Vegan. I added some more veggies and lentil pasta to make a weeknight meal of it.
I’m a huge fan of pesto, but I pass up the store bought pesto sauces, or pesto pastas when I’m eating out. The reason is that most pesto recipes include parmesan cheese, making pesto not so vegan friendly. It’s also loaded with olive oil, and while olive oil is an excellent fat, too much packs a load of calories, and who needs that!
Restaurant pesto pasta is likely made with white pasta. There’s absolutely no nutritional value in that! Enter lentil pasta! Yes, there is lentil pasta, and it’s amazing!! You can have your pasta and get your protein.
Now that I had a plan to make a vegan version of pesto, reducing the oil to make it more calorie friendly, my next hurdle was how I was going to get my kids to eat it.
My kids are huge fans of pasta. They eat it at least once a week, but if I’m being honest with myself it’s probably more like 2-3 times a week.
My kids are not vegans like me. They like their pasta best with butter and parmesan cheese. I felt like my kids were turning into stubborn buttered noodle eaters. My worst nightmare! Well, maybe not my worst nightmare. but close! They shun red sauce, so I thought maybe pesto.
Your kids might resist green pasta. Mine did at first. But I cut them a deal. I asked them to try a few bites of the pesto pasta and if they really didn’t like it they could have their pasta with butter cheese. They reluctantly tried it, and what do you know, they loved it. Mom for the win!
Ingredients you’ll need:
- Fresh Basil
- Fresh Arugula
- Olive Oil
- Raw Unsalted Cashews
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 (8 oz) packages of Lentil Pasta
Fresh basil and arugula is essential for this recipe. I go for organic whenever I can. I got the basil from my herb garden, and the arugula from the supermarket. You’ll need one cup of each.
When it comes to olive oil I try to use it sparingly. A little goes a long way. While some plant-based vegans don’t use any oil at all in their cooking, I still use oil, but do so conscientiously. I usually cut the oil in half of most recipes I follow. So with this recipe I used the least amount necessary and still ensure a creamy consistency.
As a shortcut in cooking I often use organic minced garlic from the jar. It’s a time saver thing for me. Fresh minced garlic is the best, but the time it takes to remove the skin of the garlic and mince it myself, I could have scooped out a spoonful of pre-minced garlic and been on to the next step. It’s totally a preference thing.
I choose to use cashews in this recipe because it’s what I had on hand and cashews are my son’s favorite nut.
As mentioned above this arugula and basil pesto pasta dish is made with lentil pasta. It has a slightly different taste than the usual white or wheat pasta. It might take some getting used to, especially for the little ones. I think it has a bit of a peppery taste to it, but it’s really quite delicious. However, if you make the conversion to lentil or chickpea pasta from white pasta you’ll get a whole lot more nutritional value, and you don’t need to feel guilty about indulging in pasta ever!
Each serving of lentil pasta contains 21 grams of protein. Isn’t that amazing?! It’s also gluten-free.
If you’re not ready to make the switch to lentil or chickpea pasta, and you don’t need to worry about being gluten-free, whole wheat pasta is your next best bet. It’s a whole food alternative packed with whole grains, which will leave you feeling fuller longer, and provide more nutritional value than white pasta.
How to Make Vegan Pesto Pasta – Step by Step
STEP 1: In a food processor combine arugula, basil, olive oil, cashews, garlic, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
STEP 2: Bring to a boil 4 quarts of water in a large pot. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water. Place 2 (8 oz) boxes of lentil pasta in boiling water. Follow instructions on back of pasta box. It typically takes 8-10 minutes to cook.
STEP 3: Taste to make sure pasta is cooked to your liking. Drain pasta. Transfer back to pot. Stir in pesto. Garnish with colored peppers and tomatoes.
You can make this arugula basil pesto with just basil by doubling the basil amount to 2 cups, if you think the arugula will be too peppery for your liking. Or make it a pure arugula pesto with 2 cups of arugula.
If you’re looking for a simple basil only recipe try my basil sauce.
This pasta is already gluten free, but feel free to sub another type of pasta such as chickpea pasta or whole wheat pasta. Although I highly recommend giving lentil pasta a try if you haven’t already.
You can also substitute the cashews for another type of nut you have on hand. I recommend pine nuts, or walnuts. You want a buttery nut.
Top Tips for Making Vegan Pesto Pasta
Make sure you pack the arugula and basil to be sure that you get enough. You don’t want to loosely pack the leaves. You want a full cup of each packed.
I recommend using raw unsalted nuts. Roasted nuts have added oil. This way you have control over the oil and salt you add.
If you don’t have a food processor you can try making the pesto in a blender, but a food processor will give you the smoothest consistency.
Check out these other family friendly vegan dinner recipes!
Vegan Pesto Pasta
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1 cup arugula
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup raw unsalted cashews
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 16 ounces lentil rotini pasta 2 (8 oz) packages
- ¼ cup yellow and orange peppers diced
- 1 roma tomato diced
- Combine basil, arugula, olive oil, cashews, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Blend until smooth (about 2 minutes).
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tsp of salt to water if desired. When water comes to a boil, add both 8 oz packages of the rotini lentil pasta. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer back to pot.
- Stir in pesto until well combined. Add diced yellow and orange peppers, and tomato.
If you’ve tried my vegan pesto pasta recipe, please rate it and let me know how it turned out. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for more plant-based family recipes your whole family will enjoy!