This vegan butternut zucchini pesto pasta is bursting with flavor! It’s easy to prepare, and it makes great lunch leftovers. The pasta can be a perfect addition to your weekly plant-based meal prep.
It’s been cool enough in New York this week that I can begin to indulge my love of fall cooking. I’m not quite ready for bowls of soup or cinnamon-scented baking projects. But neither of those is very far off!
In the meantime, I am ready to embrace winter squash, crispy apples, and other harbingers of September.
This butternut zucchini pesto pasta has lots of sweet notes from the roasted vegetables. Yet it’s brightened by the lemon and garlic of fresh pesto and the crisp bite of raw arugula.
One of my favorite things about pesto is it’s adaptability. I love the flavor of basil in my go-to, classic vegan pesto. However, I also love to use other herbs in place of, or along with, basil. For example, cilantro makes a wonderful pesto, if you’re in the cilantro lovers club.
Sometimes I use pesto as a vehicle for greens along with herbs. 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 hemp seeds to make pesto. I used what I had, which was sunflower seeds, for this batch.
While I usually use olive oil as a pesto base, I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with tahini as well. My tahini pesto is now a favorite, especially for pasta salad or as a sandwich spread.
If you prefer not to use oil in pesto, you can substitute that recipe to make the butternut zucchini pesto pasta.
Just as I like to experiment with different pesto varieties, I also love trying new pastas. I tend to use regular wheat pasta as my go-to. However, I appreciate some of the new legume-based pastas for their ability to add plant protein to meals.
I used Chickapea pasta in this recipe. It’s made with chickpeas and lentils, and it has a great texture in spite of being a non-traditional option. You could use another legume pasta, rice pasta, or whole wheat pasta in the recipe.
As for pasta shape, the choice is yours! I loved using shells when I made my butternut zucchini pesto pasta. Their sturdiness allows them to hold their own alongside the cubes of roasted vegetables. And they collect extra bits of the pesto. You’ll have the same effect if you use rotini, rigatoni or penne.
This is an easy meal to make ahead by roasting your vegetables and preparing the pesto ahead of time. It’s my preference to serve the butternut zucchini pesto pasta cold, so I usually do roast the vegetables a day in advance and then chill them.
Sometimes I cook the pasta ahead of time, too. Make ahead pasta is one of my favorite tricks for batch cooking, and I don’t even think much oil is necessary for it to work!
On the other hand, if you prefer to serve the salad warm, you can combine everything right when the pasta and vegetables are ready. The arugula will become a little wilted, which can be nice.
On the other hand, if you want the arugula to stay crispy, keep everything cold and then toss the ingredients together a few hours before serving.
Leftover pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
The butternut zucchini pesto pasta is perfect for lunch gatherings, picnics, or potlucks. The ingredients will be seasonal well through early fall.
My favorite thing about this recipe is that the leftovers keep well for at least a couple of day. So it’s perfect for back-to-school packed lunches, my own included.
Speaking of that, I’ve got a busy week ahead. I’ll be preparing for my own transition back to school. 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 vegan pastas. Thanks for your support!
Leave a Comment
I used my farmers market bounty for this recipe – it was so delicious. I used gemelli pasta and Parm-Reggiano in the pesto. The presentation was beautiful and we enjoyed every bite! Thanks for a great recipe!
Wonderful! Glad you enjoyed!
I just made this for dinner and it is simply fantastic! My quest for basil today was unsuccessful so I made a full-arugula version of the pesto and it was delicious! This was my first experience with chickpea pasta and I have to say I still prefer the rice pasta I usually buy, so I think next time I make this I will try it with rice pasta instead. And I’ll load up on the squash and zucchini, since I like my pasta salads with lots of vegetables. Thanks for a great recipe! I’d been looking for some inspiration to change up what I usually cook and this was a great way to do that 🙂
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Danielle!
I just made this today (with regular wheat conchiglie pasta) and it was absolutely delicious! Thanks for a great recipe.
So glad you enjoyed it!
Soooo good. We loved it!! I added some fresh corn – it was a good choice. Thanks so much for this one.
So glad to hear it, and corn sounds like a wonderful addition!
I’ve been holding out on buying squash at the store since I’m overwhelmed with CSA tomatoes at the moment, but seeing this post makes me even more happy and excited for this next season ahead. What a wonderful recipe for the transition between summer and fall, and also looks perfect for packing in lunch boxes. 🙂
I made this for dinner tonight and it was fabulous! I love how the arugula and the vegetables really lightened up the pasta.
I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, Anne!
A wonderful flavor mix in this amazing dish, love the Chickapea pasta!
This looks so lovely, the perfect way to bridge the gap between summer and autumn!
Great combination! I love butternut squash, it’s one of my favourite autumn and winter flavours, and who doesn’t love courgettes and rocket? Lovely recipe.
That sounds super tasty, I have yet to see pumpkin in the stores yet but the ones in our garden are looking fab although not ripe to use just yet… Not far off though 🙂
This looks delicious! I love the combination of flavors and I especially love how easy it is to make. Yummy!
ooh i haven’t tried chickpea pasta but i’m intrigued! i love the fall vibes with the butternut squash.
Ah man, this recipe is definitely getting me in the mood for Autumn 🙂 Love the combination of flavours… can’t wait to try it.
This recipe has so many great ingredients in it.
Looks delicious!!! Surely gonna give it a try 🙂
This is such a beautiful dish, Gena! I am a big arugula fan, and a big pesto fan– I do the same as you, throw whatever greens and nuts I have one hand. I make a batch almost every week and we use it for all sorts of things. And yay for butternut season!
Can’t get that particular brand here in the UK but you’ve opened my eyes to a world of chickpea pasta shells that I’m ready to get involved with! Thanks Gena
As a professional food blogger I’m always looking for new inspiration. What I love about this recipe is that it’s healthy, delicious, and seasonal. Can’t wait to make it!
Delighted and perfect for now
Such a great combo. Love that the kids can take this to school.
This pasta salad looks absolutely delicious and perfect for fall! Putting it on my to-make list as we speak!!!
Greens and golds….. so pretty to look at and SO TASTY to eat! Cannot wait to try this healthy pasta dish flecked with delicious chickapea pasta! I love every ingredient here.
Nice recipe – looks yummy!
This is simply the yummiest way to say good bye to summer and hello fall comfort food! Love the diverse flavours here, Gena. Perfect for the kids’ lunches too. And next week is #OrganicWeek. Sharing 🙂