Butternut zucchini pesto pasta is a perfect celebration of the transition from summer to fall. It features roasted butternut squash and zucchini, as well as a peppery arugula pesto.
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!
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!