Dreena Burton’s whole-grain pasta with pumpkin seed pesto has a unique, rich flavor. It’s easy to make, and fragrant with plenty of fresh basil. If you’re a pesto fan, you’re going to want to try this!
Dreena writes: “I have made basil pesto with a variety of nuts—cashews, Brazil nuts, and pistachios (I prefer them all to pine nut pesto). But could a nut-free version equally impress? This one sure does!
Not only a great option for those needing nut-free recipes, it’s also a great way to enjoy nutrient-rich pumpkin seeds. Time to get whirring!”
Pumpkin seeds: Dreena keeps raw, sprouted pumpkin seeds (such as the Go Raw brand) on hand. Seasoned with just a touch of salt, they are fantastic for snacking—and to cook with! If you want to use them (in full or partially) in this recipe, omit the salt and season to taste after blending. See this site’s Guide to Pumpkin Seeds.
Leftover pesto: Store any leftover pesto separately from the pasta. To use up leftover pesto, try it:
- as a base on pizza with your favorite toppings (I like roasted red bell peppers, sliced pitted kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onion).
- as a filling for portobello mushroom caps! Remove the stems, chop, and mix into the pesto. Scrape the gills from the underside of the portobellos and discard. Fill each cap with an inch or so of pesto, add a sprinkling of seasoned breadcrumbs, and bake (at 425°F) until golden and tender. You can also use button mushrooms and serve as a side or appetizer.
- as a spread for sandwiches.
- mixed into rice for a lunch bowl.
Dreena’s Kind Kitchen is available wherever books are sold
Recipe is from Dreena’s Kind Kitchen: 100 Whole-Foods Vegan Recipes to Enjoy Every Day ©2021 by Dreena Burton, BenBella Books. Reprinted by permission. Photo at top, Angela MacNeil Photography. See more about the book following the recipe box, and see Heavenly Vegan Baklava from this book.
Pumpkin seed pesto
- ¾ cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds (see note), plus 1 to 2 tablespoons crushed pumpkin seeds for garnish
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 to 2 medium-large cloves garlic, peeled (see note)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste (see note)
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1 cup loosely packed spinach leaves
- 2 to 5 tablespoons water
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 pound whole-grain pasta (see note)
- Handful of sliced cherry or grape tomatoes (optional)
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- For the pesto: In a food processor, combine the pumpkin seeds, tahini, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Process briefly to break up. Add the basil and spinach and process again. Depending on how dry the spinach and basil leaves are, you may need to add water at this stage to bring the puree together. Start with a tablespoon and puree again, adding more water as needed to reach a fairly smooth consistency. Once the pesto reaches your desired texture, add the lemon zest and pulse. (The pesto can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.)
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente (almost fork-tender). Retain a small amount of the cooking water (1/4 cup or so) and drain the pasta, but don’t rinse (see note).
- Return the pasta to the pot and toss with your desired amount of pesto, plus a tablespoon at a time of the reserved cooking water, until the pasta is as saucy as you like.
- Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper. Serve garnished with a sprinkle of crushed pumpkin seeds and basil, sliced tomatoes (if using), and lemon wedges.
Pumpkin seeds: Dreena keeps raw, sprouted pumpkin seeds (such as the Go Raw brand) on hand. Seasoned with just a touch of salt, they are fantastic for snacking—and to cook with! If you want to use them (in full or partially) in this recipe, omit the salt and season to taste after blending.
Garlic: Because the pesto is warmed by the pasta rather than cooked, the garlic maintains a raw taste, so I typically use just one garlic clove. If you love raw garlic, go for more!
Salt: You may want to add more salt to this pesto after tossing with the pasta; it depends on how much of the pesto you use. For instance, if you like just a light coating of pesto with your pasta, you may want a touch more salt. If you love a good dose of the pesto sauce, however, you may find it seasoned just enough.
Pasta: Dreena always instruct “don’t rinse the pasta” when working with a heated pasta dish. There’s one exception: brown rice pasta. Brown rice pasta is especially sticky, so it’s okay to give it a quick rinse. You can still keep some of the starchy cooking water to mix back into the pasta with the pesto.
More about Dreena’s Kind Kitchen
From veteran cookbook author Dreena Burton comes a collection of 100 dependable and delicious plant-based recipes that everyone will love.
For more than twenty years, Dreena Burton has been creating plant-based whole-food recipes. Home cooks know they can trust her recipes to work—and to be delicious! No more scouring social media, sifting through food blogs, or flipping through every book on the shelf; this is a one-stop resource for recipes that are reliable, flavorful, and healthy. Whether you need weekly staple meals or want a dish to wow for a special occasion, Dreena’s Kind Kitchen has you covered.
You’ll find a variety of breakfasts, salads and dressings, small bites, soups, entrées, and sweets, including:
- Potato-Cauliflower Scramble
- Truffle-Salted Nut Cheese
- Zucchini Fritters
- Seasoned Potato Squashers
- Smoky Caesar Salad & Potato Croutons
- A-Game Chili
- White Bean Corn Chowder
- ‘Quicken’ Noodle Soup
- Holiday Dinner Torte
- Fiesta Taco Filling
- Italian Ratatouille
- 1-Minute Alfredo
- Lentil Sweet Potato Meatloaf
- Charming Apple Crisp
Dreena also shares a cooking troubleshooting section so you can boost your kitchen skills. With helpful guidance on techniques, time-saving tips, and suggestions for repurposing leftovers into delicious new dishes, this dependable resource will boost your cooking confidence and help you find success in your own plant-powered kitchen.
Dreena Burton is one of the pioneering vegan cookbook authors. Vegan for 25 years, Dreena is also a mom to three “weegans.” She has charted her journey as a plant-based cook and mother of three through five bestselling cookbooks. Dreena has also collaborated with renowned plant-based physician Dr. Barnard on The Cheese Trap and coauthored their most recent Cookbook for Reversing Diabetes.
Dreena’s recipes have been featured with groups including PCRM, Forks Over Knives, Blue Zones, and The Food Network. Dreena was also the Culinary Coordinator with The Food Revolution Network’s Whole Life Club. Connect with Dreena’s online kitchen and community at dreenaburton.com.
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