Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad

Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad | gluten-free, vegan and packed with flavour, this is a great big-batch meal prep recipe! | My Fresh Perspective | #mealprep #vegan #vegetarian #cleaneating #mealprep

Ready for a healthier version of pasta salad? This easy, gluten-free healthy Pesto Pasta Salad is full of flavour and nutrition thanks to simple, real food ingredients. It’s also vegan, quick to prepare, and makes great leftovers!


In last week’s Expo West trend posts (part 1 and part 2, in case you missed ’em), I talked a lot about how one of the hottest current topics in wellness is the keto diet. I suspect that living in LA amplifies the trend a bit and perhaps keto might not quite be as big of a deal in other places across North America… maybe you guys can tell me!? But speaking for this area, with so many keto-curious people, I can’t imagine that business is booming for producers of anything carby right now… unless you’re selling keto cloud bread.

My eating style has never been super heavy on starchy carbs, with the exception of a solid chunk of my childhood. We’ll refer to it as the Kraft Dinner Decade where I probably ate close to an entire lifetime’s worth of pasta – plus a whole bunch of pizza, sugary cereal, chips, and plenty of other beige foods. These days my meals (and the recipes posted here) are far more plant-heavy – thank goodness! And while I’m certainly not the fat-phobic girl I was in my early 20s, I’m definitely not close to keto either. I think all macronutrients have their place in our diets and that those optimal ratios can change over time, but in general, nutritional diversity from a variety of plant-based sources is a good goal to shoot for when it comes to eating healthy.

Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad | gluten-free, vegan and packed with flavour, this is a great big-batch meal prep recipe! | My Fresh Perspective | #mealprep #vegan #vegetarian #cleaneating #mealprep

With this in mind, I recently got a request from a reader for a healthier pasta salad that was ripe with opportunity for health-ifying. My memories of pasta salad tend to be of the traditional, super cream sauce-heavy (not in a good way), mostly beige ones. Proportions-wise, we’re talking about a whole lot of noodle and not a lot of veggie. But if it’s me who’s making the dish, this is far from the case!

So what’s inside this healthier Pesto Pasta Salad?

Pasta of course! That’s a pre-requisite. Rather than conventional recipes where the pasta makes up 75%+ of the mix, I’ve used gluten-free brown rice spirals in a pasta-to-veggie ratio that is much more balanced.

On that note, the veg: cucumber and cherry tomatoes. We’re keeping it simple here because simple is a good thing – especially when it comes to making food choices and doing meal prep. I also added roasted red bell peppers because I love their smoky flavour, but you can do without them if you prefer, or swap regular bell peppers. Just know that roasted is awesome.

Then there’s the protein source, which is kidney beans. That’s right – this is a vegan and vegetarian-friendly recipe that also happens to be very budget-friendly. If you and kidney beans don’t get along, these can be swapped for any other bean. And of course. if you’d prefer to use meat, diced chicken or a can of tuna work perfectly too.

And finally, there’s the flavaahhhh – the extra little bits that (again) are simple, but make a huge difference. Fresh herbs, lemon juice, pesto (store-bought is fine!), balsamic vinegar and a good glug of EVOO dress the salad up and make it come to life. The flavour of this pasta salad gets even better if you let it sit for a while, so it’s a perfect candidate for big-batch cooking.

Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad | gluten-free, vegan and packed with flavour, this is a great big-batch meal prep recipe! | My Fresh Perspective | #mealprep #vegan #vegetarian #cleaneating #mealprep

One quick word about pesto: I LOVE pesto. Basil is the bomb, and when I make this salad I add a little more than the called for amount. Everyone’s preferences are different, so I recommend starting with the recommended 1 tbsp, tasting your dressing, and whisking in a bit more if you like. Also note that traditional pesto typically contains cheese, so if you (like me) choose to avoid dairy, just be sure to read your labels. Vegan pestos have become more common so they shouldn’t be hard to find.

Right, to the kitchen!

Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad | gluten-free, vegan and packed with flavour, this is a great big-batch meal prep recipe! | My Fresh Perspective | #mealprep #vegan #vegetarian #cleaneating #mealprep

Print
Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad | gluten-free, vegan and packed with flavour, this is a great big-batch meal prep recipe! | My Fresh Perspective | #mealprep #vegan #vegetarian #cleaneating #mealprep

Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad


  • Author: Angela Simpson
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: about 10.5 cups 1x

Description

Ready for a healthier version of pasta salad? This easy, gluten-free healthy Pesto Pasta Salad is full of flavour and nutrition thanks to simple, real food ingredients. It’s also vegan, quick to prepare, and makes great leftovers!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked gluten-free rotini pasta, or your pasta of choice (I used brown rice spirals, and this made about 4 1/2 cups of cooked pasta)
  • 2 cups cooked kidney beans, drained and well-rinsed*
  • 2 cups each thinly sliced cucumber and halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers (rinsed if previously jarred)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Pesto Balsamic Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (dark or light – your choice)
  • 1 tbsp prepared pesto (dairy-free if necessary)**
  • pinches of sea salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare all remaining ingredients as directed above. Shake up the salad dressing ingredients in a small glass jar. (You may have some leftover, depending on how much you want to use.)
  3. When the pasta is ready, drain all excess water off and transfer it to a large bowl with the remaining salad ingredients.
  4. Pour some of the dressing over top and toss well to coat before serving.

Notes

  • If you don’t like kidney beans or prefer to use another type of bean, feel free to swap them in for the same quantity. Alternatively, try baked chicken or tuna. (Obviously, the recipe will no longer be vegan-friendly.)
  • Depending on how much you love the taste of pesto, you may want to add a little bit more to your dressing. The key is to shake it up before putting it on the other ingredients to avoid getting any overly pesto-heavy bites!
  • Category: salad
  • Method: boil
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: pasta, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, lunch, meal prep, salad, low sugar, sugar free

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.