“When a Vegan Comes to Dinner”: Penne with Sweet Summer Vegetables, Pine Nuts, and Herbs

vegan roast vegetable pasta

All photos courtesy of Food 52

This recipe might as well be called “summer in a bowl.” It’s magnificently flavorful, sweet and savory, and it showcases all of my favorite summer produce: summer squash, plump, cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, and fresh herbs. It is honestly so good that I made it on a Friday and had gobbled up most of it twenty-four hours later, tempted along the way to lick the plate clean. Roast vegetable pastas are almost always a success (what’s not to love in that combo), but I think the caramelized tomatoes and sweet corn is what makes this particular dish sing.

I created this recipe for my newest column for Food 52. The column is entitled “when a vegan comes to dinner,” and it’s a short, helpful musing on how to cook for vegans if you don’t happen to be vegan yourself. I know for a fact that vegan entertaining can be remarkably simple, but that’s not something I would have known until I became vegan myself. Before then, I would have assumed that cooking for vegans would mean purchasing a ton of specialty ingredients and foods. Ironically, it wasn’t until I went vegan that I realized how accessible and everyday vegan food can be; how familiar and easy. Pasta. Rice. Beans. Salads. Soups. All things we know and love already.


As I’ve said many times, sure, it’s fun to get deeper into plant-based food and learn about specialty ingredients (like superfoods) and specialty prep methods (cashew cheese, spiralized zucchini). But veganism, per se, needn’t feel as divorced from omnivorous dining as it often does to people.

And that’s the point of this particular column. To remind folks that vegans and omnis actually have quite a bit of common ground! And one piece of that ground is simple, comforting, and much loved pasta. In many ways, it’s the ideal “starter dish” for folks who are just learning to cook for vegans—or who are trying to go vegan, and are cooking for themselves! Most all of us grew up loving the variety and taste of pasta dishes, and so they’re automatic crowd pleasers, in addition to which they’re often easy to make, and endlessly versatile.


To check out my recipe for penne with sweet summer vegetables, pine nuts, and herbs, click here. And please feel free to add your thoughts to the discussion of how eaters of all kinds can share a table with their vegan friends!


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Categories: Pasta
Method: Stovetop
Dietary Preferences: Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan
Recipe Features: 30 Minute or Less, Quick & Easy

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  1. Yes! I love what you have to say about how easy it is to prepare a vegan meal with just natural, whole foods. I hope your post helps get the message out – I don’t understand it, but lots of people seem to be completely perplexed by the idea of even a vegetarian (and not vegan) dinner. This meal looks delicious and omnivore-friendly!

  2. This looks so pretty! I’m not personally a pasta eater, so I would substitute chickpeas or white beans. That might be a bit more of a stretch for the traditional omni, so perhaps brown rice, barley or lentils might be more approachable.

    Either way, I think that it’s really important – both when cooking for omnis and when guiding them in cooking for vegans – to avoid ‘replacing’ meat with an imitation. It gives them the wrong idea about vegan food: that it’s a diet filled with over-processed and mostly disappointing meat substitutes. Making vegetables the star of the dish, like this recipe, is the best way to impress and introduce omnis to vegan dining!

  3. I’m not personally a pasta person either, but this does sound delicious, and I’m always nervous about going over to someone’s house to eat, so I’m really happy you wrote on this! My family loves penne so i may be using this recipe soon 🙂

  4. Looks delish! Not a pasta lover, but would put it over quinoa! I would love to try it for bbq’s, as i like to make something different than just salads all the time.

  5. I like the fact that you are sharing a cooked vegan article here as well. Realistically, I believe that most people who follow raw vegan dietary ways are not quite 100% raw, myself included. Sometimes, the exceptions can be healthy, if even for nothing more than mental/social health!

  6. I love this recipe. Thanks, Gena!!!! I have been roasting some multi-colored heirloom cherry tomatoes with garlic cloves, then with the yummy liquid that the tomatoes release after roasting, I buzz the roasted garlic with the liquid, and serve that all over pasta or rice, or whatever. The rest of the veggies, I’ve been grilling on the barbeque, an adding all that to the pasta!!! Absolutely delish!!! I love summer and my garden!!!

  7. What a great article! I deal with that issue a lot, especially since my children are vegetarians and I am a strict vegan. People tend to panic, telling me “they don’t know how to cook ‘vegan,'” which I always have to laugh at. Now I’ll direct them to this article!

  8. I love these easy crossover dishes as I live in a household of picky eaters. I’m beginning to learn which of my raw food meals the kids will eat as sides – makes my meal preparation so much easier if I’m not preparing a gazillion different dishes.

    BTW, I found you on the BlogHer Health Minder Day lineup and am so excited to see a well established raw foodie will be there. I look forward to seeing you there.


  9. i wished i would be able to get a plate like this when i go to a friends house. usually i bring the food and everybody eats what i cook 🙂 people are really open but not open enough to make something for me :….. haha.. no problem though since i enjoy cooking and spoiling people anyways 🙂 this post reminds me that i havent eaten paste in such a long time… i actually cant even remember. I am stuck to quinoa, buckwheat, millet grain dishes and the occasional spelt bread, somehow totally disconnected with the comfy bowl of pasta and roasted veg! maybe its time to introduce it to my life again! 🙂 thanks for the lovely reminder !

  10. That looks so delicious!

    I’m a vegan. I was totally raw for 6 months and now I’m trying to up my raw foods all the time.

    I’ll have to give this recipe a try. I usually eat a massive salad with a small portion of cooked foods on top so this is perfect.

    It’s funny that people think cooking for vegans is so difficult. So many times I’ve brought ‘normal’ food to get togethers and people have said ‘I have no idea this was vegan’ like they think vegan food only comes in packets labeled ‘suitable for vegans!’.

  11. That looks wonderful! I love that I could throw this together from my pantry and a trip to farmer’s market:)

  12. Wonderful column, congrats! Can I ask what (gluten-free please!) penne you used / recommend ? Thanks!

  13. I am going to spread this WIDELY! People ask the strangest questions about veganism…

  14. Great post gena!
    This is also I good recipe for when you have visitors who are aren’t vegan.
    Looks delicious! I may use the zuchini noodles in replacement of the pasta for when I’m cooking for myself 🙂

  15. That is just a gorgeous bowl of food. Can I come to dinner, please? 🙂

  16. Fabulous article, Gena! I’m going to share it with all my friends and family who are likely too afraid to invite me over for dinner because they don’t know what to feed me. A few of them have already admitted it to me, so this will be super helpful. Thanks!