If you're looking for a tasty and healthy way to enjoy pasta, you might want to try out a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) pasta salad with pumpkin seed pesto. This dish is not only delicious, but it's also packed with nutrients, fiber, and protein from the whole food ingredients used to make it.
By swapping out traditional pasta salad ingredients like mayonnaise and cheese with a homemade pumpkin seed pesto and plenty of veggies, you'll be able to enjoy a satisfying meal that's good for you and the planet.
Why you will love this recipe
- Packed with flavor and nutrition. The pumpkin seed pesto is a delicious and healthy alternative to traditional pesto sauces, as it's made with whole food ingredients like pumpkin seeds, garlic, and lemon juice. The addition of cherry tomatoes adds a burst of sweetness and tanginess to the dish, while the arugula provides a peppery flavor and plenty of vitamins and minerals.
- Easy to make. It's a great way to use up any leftover pasta or veggies you may have on hand, and it can be made in advance for a quick and healthy meal during the week.
- Versatile. Ingredients can be easily swapped for what you have at home.
Whether you're looking for a quick and easy lunch, a side dish for a family dinner, or a potluck contribution, this pasta salad is great if you follow a plant-based diet. It's also a great option for outdoor gatherings, picnics, and BBQs, as it can be served cold or at room temperature, making it perfect for warm weather occasions.
Ingredients and replacements
- Whole grain pasta. Use any shape of pasta you like. I love penne.
- Leek-swap for red onion or spring onion.
- Sundried tomatoes
- Cherry tomatoes-swap for regular fresh chopped tomatoes.
- Lettuce or baby spinach
- Fresh basil
- Garlic cloves
- Nutritional yeast
- Green pumpkin seeds
- Cashew nuts- replace with macadamia or pine nuts
Pumpkin seeds and cashews can be replaced with hemp seeds, macadamia nuts or sunflower seeds.
Which pasta has the least calories?
|100 grams of dry pasta||Calories||Protein/grams|
|Low-carb pasta(with inulin, soy, pea, egg white)||161||28|
|Buckwheat penne pasta||355||12|
|Corn and lentil spaghetti||354||13|
|Wholegrain wheat pasta||348||13|
|Red lentil pasta||335||25|
Pasta made from fresh vegetables like zucchini or carrots are very low in calories, but I would not call it pasta since the whole texture is different. As you see in the table, all pasta made from grains or legumes has about the same calorie content. The calories can, though, be absorbed very differently.
Is pasta good for protein?
Pasta is actually a quite high-protein food. 500 grams of cooked pasta has 20 grams of protein. This 500-calorie meal provides all amino acids if combined with legumes, nuts, or seeds.
How to make a healthy pesto?
You can make healthy pesto from fresh herbs and nuts. Nuts have healthy natural fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Herbs are filled with phytonutrients. Adding some nutritional yeast gives you vitamin B. Fresh garlic has anti-inflammatory properties.
Healthy whole foods plant-based pesto is made from nuts or seeds and fresh herbs and leaving the oil out. Oil has empty calories and little nutritional value. Nutritional yeast replaces the parmesan cheese, gives b-vitamins, and saves calories.
For this pesto, I used pumpkin seeds; they are very nutritious and contain a lot of zinc. They do, though have a strong flavor. Cashew nuts have a milder flavor, so they balance out nicely with the strong pumpkin seeds.
If you would use only pumpkin seeds in the pesto recipe, the whole amount would have 50 grams of protein, 16 grams of Iron, 9 grams of fiber, 750 grams of magnesium, 17 grams of vitamin B3, and 12 grams of zink. So it is really a nutrient bomb.
Is pesto sauce good for weight loss?
If you make pesto without oil, it is better for weight loss. That way, you can save 900 calories from your recipe with a half cup of olive oil. Change the parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast flakes to reduce calories. Nutritional yeast still gives some cheesy flavor.
Nuts are high in calories, but your body does not burn them the same way as pure oil; nuts have fiber, so not all calories in nuts turn to energy. Studies show that people who eat nuts are actually slimmer than those who don´t.
To reduce calories even more in your pesto, you can reduce the number of nuts and replace them with more fresh herbs.
What goes with pasta salad?
Great toppings for pasta salad are:
- Sundried tomatoes
- Grilled red peppers
- Basil and other fresh herbs
- Garlic sauce
- Pine nuts
- Black or green olives
- Plant-based mozzarella
- Grilled zucchini or eggplant
- Red onion
- Cherry tomatoes
To make a red pasta salad, a great variation, use muhammara red pepper spread as sauce.
Some roasted Italian vegetables also go really well with pasta salad.
How long will pasta salad last in the fridge?
Pasta salad lasts in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. If you have very moist ingredients such as cucumber and tomatoes, it is recommended to eat in 2 days. If you store your pasta salad in a vacuum food container, it will hold for a week.
If you want to meal prep for the week, it is good to store the pasta separately from the salad, then the lettuce leaves will hold longer. The same goes for cucumber and tomatoes; the salad will get watery if you want to add fresh tomatoes and cucumber. Fresh cherry tomatoes will last longer than regular one that is cut to pieces.
Do you add pesto to hot or cold pasta?
If you are making a salad, let the pasta cool to at least room temperature before mixing in the pesto. If you do a warm pesto pasta, don´t warm up the pesto. Mix it in warm pasta.
Pasta salad with pumpkin seed pesto
- 500 g whole grain pasta ( around 1 pound)
- ⅓ leek
- ¾ cup sundried tomatoes
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 2 cups arugula
- 3 cups lettuce or baby spinach
- 1 bundle fresh basil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup green pumpkin seeds
- ⅓ cup cashew nuts
- ⅓ cup water
- Boil the pasta as recommended in the package. Drain it and cool it down.
- During cooking, make the pesto sauce. Roast the seeds on a hot pan for a moment. You can save some of them for decorating.
- Mix in a food processor the seeds, basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt, and water to a paste. To get more flavor you can roast then slightlly.
- Wash and chop the veggies you want in your salad