Tahini Pesto Pasta Salad
July 2, 2018

Tahini Pesto Pasta Salad | The Full Helping

This is one of those recipes that felt incredibly obvious once I’d made it; given my love of tahini and love of pesto, how is it possible that I hadn’t thought to combine them before? My curried tahini pasta salad proved to me that tahini is a great creamy base for pasta salads—a little more nutritious than vegan mayo, but still tasty and accessible. And tahini and fresh herbs are always a winning combination, as lots of my favorite dressings go to show.

This tahini pesto pasta salad will be on repeat all through the summer, with new vegetables appearing as they come into season. It’s delicious, easy, and it’s pretty perfect for all of your warm weather potlucks and gatherings, 4th of July festivities included.

Tahini Pesto Pasta Salad | The Full Helping

For a long time, I used this pesto recipe religiously, and it’s still my go-to for something basic and traditional. I’ve learned, though, that other fats can be used for a pesto base, and sometimes they’re even creamier and more interesting than regular pesto. I love an avocado pesto for pasta, and now that I’ve tried tahini, I have no immediate plan to turn back.

Tahini Pesto Pasta Salad | The Full Helping

I worried at first that the flavor of tahini might be too distinctive for pesto, that it would overwhelm the basil and lemon. It’s true that this sauce doesn’t taste like a traditional pesto; it’s nuttier and earthier for sure. But for me, it still makes sense. Tahini often joins forces with parsley in Middle Eastern cooking, and that pairing is alive here; the only thing that’s really different is that there’s also plenty of basil thrown into the mix.

I didn’t add nutritional yeast to this recipe, as I usually do to pesto, but if you’re craving cheesy flavor, you can definitely include it (I listed it as an option in the recipe). You can adjust the garlic to fit your taste. Once you’ve got the sauce blended up—and it’s easy to prepare in advance of the rest of the dish—you simply toss it with pasta and veggies of choice.

It’s been scorching hot here in NYC, so I wanted to add veggies to the dish that required as little cooking as possible. I used raw cherry tomatoes and threw zucchini and peas into the pasta pot in the last few minutes of cooking. You could roast your vegetables before adding them, if you prefer, or use cucumber and shredded carrot for all raw mix-ins (this would have lots of nice crunch). I’d love to try the dish with roasted cauliflower and carrots when it’s cooler.

Tahini Pesto Pasta Salad

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yields: 4 -6 servings

Ingredients

For the tahini pesto:

  • 6 tablespoons tahini
  • 1-2 cloves garlic to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • A few turns freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast optional
  • 1/4 cup water

For the pasta salad:

  • 12 ounces pasta of choice
  • 1 heaping cup cherry or grape tomatoes halved or quartered
  • 2 cups zucchini or another chopped green vegetable of choice, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 cup green peas fresh or frozen and thawed

Instructions

  • To prepare the pesto, add the tahini, garlic, basil, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast if using to a food processor. Pulse 10-15 times, enough to break down the herbs and roughly combine everything. Turn the motor on and drizzle in the water. You're aiming for the texture of a thick sauce—so a little thicker than a tahini dressing. Keep processing until the sauce is pretty smooth (it's fine if some of the herbs are visible). Taste and adjust lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
  • To prepare the pasta salad, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions; about 3 minutes before the end of cooking, add the zucchini and peas to the pot.
  • Drain the pasta and veggies, then transfer them to a large mixing bowl and add the cherry tomatoes. Add the pesto and mix everything well to combine. Serve.

Notes

Tahini pesto will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. The pasta salad will keep in an airtight container for 2 days.

Tahini Pesto Pasta Salad | The Full Helping

I love tinkering with the proportion of pasta to veggies in pasta salad; if you’re eager for something that’s more salad-like than pasta-like, you could definitely use 8 ounces of pasta and an extra cup or two of the zucchini and tomatoes. I’m guessing that some chopped arugula, à la this recipe, would also be lovely in the dish.

If you’re a fellow tahini addict, this one is worth your time. Even if you don’t use it in a pasta salad, it’s a great sauce for grilled veggies or grain bowls—and such a perfect way to savor the flavors of summer. Hope you enjoy it, and wishing everyone a great holiday this week, if you’re celebrating. I’ll be having a mostly regular work week around here, but I hope to find some time to gaze up at the New York City fireworks on Wednesday night!

xo

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    22 Comments
  1. I’ve been making a lot of pasta salad this summer and this one sounds wonderful. I love that it sounds “hearty” with tons of flavor 🙂

  2. Looks amazing!! I too am curious what type of pasta you used? I love Banza pasta so I’m wondering if it would hold up well?! Thanks!

  3. 5 stars
    So I just finished cleaning the bowl with my finger to get the last tasty bits of that sauce! What a great and easy recipe!

  4. This would be perfect at a cookout. I’m going to try it the next time we have one at our house. First of all, I love tahini. Secondly, I love pesto! This is such a great combo that I never thought of. Thank you for the idea!

    What is your favorite type of noodle? Do you just use a regular noodle? I’m thinking that will hold up the best here. I love brown rice pasta, but I don’t know if it’ll work?

  5. 5 stars
    My husband made this for dinner and I loved it! Will definitely make it again, thanks for the great recipe!

    Danielle
    solongusa.blogspot.com

  6. I love, love the idea of tahini in pesto. I was just given a ton of fresh herbs from a friend’s garden and can’t wait to try this. Do you think it would freeze well also?

  7. 5 stars
    Auugh…! I wish i had seen this before the 4th! My friend asked me to bring pasta salad and it certainly wasn’t as delicious as this one. Well, and i still have a bunch leftover. I made the tahini pesto tonight since i have everything on hand!!
    I used some as a dip with cucumbers, bell pepper and cherry tomatoes which was amazing, love the creamy tahini and herbs together. Also smeared a bit on some tempeh after i seared it to get the edges crispy and that was also a great combo!
    Will certainly be remaking this

  8. 5 stars
    Your timing is perfect. I have an abundance of basil and cherry tomatoes in the garden and was pondering a pesto salad, and voila, this recipe showed up in my in box. Made this for our holiday meal. It was a hit. Followed the recipe as is, but had golden zucchini in garden instead of green.
    This is an excellent salad! I have to say the tahini pesto is pure genius. I also love tahini, and have decided I like this better than regular vegan pesto (I made it sans nootch as you did). This sauce would also be tasty on baked potatoes, veggie bowls, grains, etc. I can’t wait to try other veggies.
    Thank you, Gena! Wishing you a happy Independence Day.

  9. This pesto sauce is so delicious I can eat it by the spoonful. Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

  10. Oooooh so creative!! I’ve never seen anyone think of using tahini for pesto before. I’ve been scavenging for recipes to use of all my fresh herbs (specifically basil and parsley) so this is perfect timing. Now, I am not a big tahini fan – on its own – but if you say that its flavor here isn’t too distinct, then I’m excited to give it a try!