It’s been cool enough in New York this week that I can begin to indulge my love of fall produce and cooking. It’s a piecemeal process, something that happens one ingredient at a time. I’m not quite ready for pumpkin soup or a parade of cinnamon-scented baking projects—though neither is far off—but I am ready to embrace golden-hued winter squash, crispy apples, and a few other harbingers of September. This roasted butternut squash, zucchini & arugula pesto pasta salad is a perfect celebration of early fall: sweet and hearty thanks to the squash, but brightened up with the summery flavor of fresh pesto and the crisp bite of raw arugula.
One of my favorite things about making pesto is the ease and adaptability. I do love the flavor of basil in pesto, but other herbs and greens can work in its place, or along with it. I happen to have a lot of arugula right now, some of which went into the pasta salad itself, and some of which was thrown into my food processor along with a fistful of basil leaves. Ditto for the nuts: I’ve used walnuts, pine nuts, and pepitas to make pesto, but for this batch, I used what I had, which was raw sunflower seeds.
The pasta salad features one of my favorite new product finds, which is Chickapea pasta—a tender, versatile pasta that’s made with only two ingredients, chickpeas and lentils. It’s got no artificial additives or sugar, it’s 100% vegan, and it also happens to be organic, non-GMO, and kosher, which means that it’s perfect for many types of eating styles.
Chickapea cooks up just like conventional pasta and in the same amount of time, but with 27 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber in a 3.5 ounce serving. I love pastas of all kinds, but I think it’s fantastic that this option, which harnesses the superfood power of legumes, is available now. It means that pasta suppers can be just a little more nutrient dense without sacrifices in flavor or texture, and it’s such an easy option for those who are trying to work more protein into plant-based meals.
The Chickapea shells, spirals, and penne could be used in any type of pasta dish, but the shells are especially good for this pasta salad: their sturdiness allows them to hold their own alongside the tender roasted veggies and crispy arugula, and their crevices conveniently collect extra bits of the pesto sauce.
The pesto recipe here is based on my standard version, but with tweaked proportions and sunflower seeds. Feel free to use a mixture of all basil if you’re lucky enough to have a garden that’s teeming with fresh herbs right now, or to try cilantro or parsley in its place. If you’ve got lots of arugula but no basil at the ready, an all-arugula blend is lovely—and spicy!—too.
Roasted Butternut Squash, Zucchini, & Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad
- 1 small butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 1 pound/450 grams after preparation)
- 1 medium zucchini about 12 ounces/340 grams, ends trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil such as grapeseed, safflower, or refined avocado (30 milliliters)
- 2 handfuls regular or baby arugula roughly chopped if the leaves are big
- 8 ounces Chickapea pasta shells 230 grams
For the arugula pesto:
- 3/4 cup packed arugula 24 grams
- 3/4 cup packed basil leaves 20 grams
- 1/3 cup hulled sunflower seeds walnuts pieces, or pine nuts (50 grams)
- 1-2 cloves garlic roughly chopped (to taste)
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 75 milliliters
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice 15 milliliters
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan cheese 10 grams
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and line two baking sheets with parchment or foil. Place the butternut squash in a mixing bowl and toss it with 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil, then transfer it to one of the baking sheets. Toss the zucchini pieces with the remaining tablespoon oil, then transfer them to the other baking sheet. Season the squash and zucchini with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, then transfer both baking sheets to the oven. Roast the zucchini for 25-30 minutes, or until tender and browning. Roast the squash for 40 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender and browning at the edges.
- While the vegetables roast, make the pesto. Place all ingredients into a food processor and process till the pesto is relatively smooth, but some pieces of the seeds are still visible. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, lemon, and nutritional yeast to taste.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the Chickapea shells according to package instructions. When the pasta is ready, transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the roasted butternut squash and zucchini, then the raw arugula. Add the pesto, using just enough to coat all of the pasta and vegetables well (if you have a couple tablespoons leftover, you can save them for topping roasted vegetables, salads, bowls, polenta, or other pasta dishes, or you can freeze them in an ice cube tray!). Taste the pasta salad and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve.
The pasta salad is perfect for easy lunch gatherings, picnics, or potlucks, and the ingredients will be seasonal well through early fall. But quite possibly my favorite thing about this recipe is that the leftovers taste fantastic and keep well for at least a couple of days, which means that it’s perfect for packed lunches—whether you’re headed back to school this fall, or simply committing to bringing your lunch to work more often.
The fact that Chickapea pasta is so nutrient dense means that you can feel great serving it to little eaters, too—it’s a great vehicle for sneaking more legumes into kids’ diets!
If you’re keen to try Chickapea for yourself, you can purchase it online or through Amazon. You can also find a store or supplier near you through the Chickapea website. I hope you enjoy this flavorful, fresh pasta salad while the early fall bounty is still rich and colorful 🙂
I’ve got a busy week of back to school and work catch up ahead of me, but with any luck it’ll be offset with plenty of therapeutic home cooking. See you for the usual roundup this weekend!
This post is sponsored by Chickapea pasta. All opinions are my own, and I’m loving these nutrient-dense, legume-based vegan pastas! Thanks for your support.