The best Spring Pesto Salad
This primavera pesto pasta salad is perfect for Spring! The pesto is made with creamy cashews and peppery arugula and the salad is packed with veggies. We utilize a bevy of fresh raw veggies, roasted veggies and frozen corn to pack tons of flavor and texture into this pasta salad. The flavors are balanced by adding fresh parsley, tangy olives and sweet corn. The pesto is creamy, garlicky and peppery. It really is a feast for the palette as well as the eyes. Make it for meal prep, a Memorial Day cookout or bust it out in the Summer when the garden produce is popping. I like to make this one in early Spring when I am craving something green but still want hearty foods.
What is pesto?
Pesto is a delightful Italian sauce that is made by blending herbs with nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. It is delicious in pasta dishes, on sandwiches or breakfast toasts, in omelets or on pizza. Like I always say, "Pesto is the best-o". Vegan pesto is really easy to make and you hardly miss the cheese. I have several versions of pesto on the blog, on social media and in my meal planner app. They are always a fave. Pesto is intensely flavorful and slightly spicy. It can be made nut-free easily by omitting the nuts or replacing them with hemp seeds or sunflower seeds.
Ingredients for Primavera Pesto Pasta Salad
The ingredients for this pasta salad recipe are fairly basic. The only one that may be hard to find is purple cauliflower. I found it at Whole Foods. However, the taste will not be altered if you replace it with regular white cauliflower. I just love the purple one because, well, purple! Purple food is such a novelty that I always pick some up when I see it in the market. Also if baby bell peppers are hard to find, you may use the large variety instead. If you are not an arugula fan, replace it with basil. This pesto is extremely versatile. For extra protein and cheesy flavor, throw in a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
- cashew arugula pesto
- purple cauliflower
- olive oil
- frozen fire roasted corn
- kalamata olives
- cherry tomatoes
- baby bell peppers
- black pepper and crushed red pepper
Cashew, Arugula Pesto
- olive oil
- cashews (if you have a nut allergy, replace these with hempseed or sunflower seeds)
How to Make Primavera Pesto Pasta Salad
This is a simple and straightforward recipe with a few steps. It is fairly quick and easy if you can time it properly.
- Roast cauliflower florets tossed in oil and lightly salted on a sheet pan for 20 minutes at 400. Turn once halfway.
- Meanwhile cook pasta, rinse and set aside to drain fully.
- Make pesto.
- Defrost corn in a microwave safe bowl or add to sheet pan with the cauliflower for last 5 minutes of cooking.
- Add cooked pasta, roasted and raw veggies and pesto to a large bowl and toss well.
- Garnish with dusted cashews, parsley and copious pepper.
Tips for making the best pasta salads
- First, always choose ripe and fresh produce. Make sure the herbs are not wilted and the produce is not ready to turn. Fresh is best in salads. Iffy produce is for soups.
- Second, always choose a pasta with a visual interest and a great texture. Cook it al dente and always rinse and drain it well. Water is the enemy of flavor in a salad. That is what my mentor Janice Chapler always told me. And she was right because water, waters down the dressing which dilutes the flavor. Since pasta salads are inherently great for meal prep, it is especially important to keep those flavors popping.
- You need the proper tools for the best salads! Sharp knives, peelers, quality cutting boards all contribute to a kick-ass salad. Also you need a great blender to make pestos and dressings. Good thing I have links for all my favorite tools. These are affiliate links, I make commission when you use them to purchase, thanks for supporting my work.
Other delicious Vegan Pesto Recipes
Primavera Pesto Pasta Salad
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ cup cashews
- 1 lemon
- 8 oz arugula
- 4 oz basil
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 pound rotini
- 1 head purple cauliflower chopped
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 cup frozen corn use fire roasted if you can
- ¼ cup kalamata olives sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 3 baby bell peppers or 1 large chopped small
- 3 tbsp parsley
- black pepper and crushed red pepper to taste
- ¼ cup cashews, ground to dust in a blender
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add cauliflower florets, olive oil and a pinch of salt to a sheet pan and toss. Roast for 20 minutes, turning once halfway. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the box. Rinse with cool water and set aside to drain fully. Toss with a splash of olive oil to prevent sticking and let cool until ready to use.
- Make pesto by combining arugula, basil, olive oil, cashews, salt, lemon and olive oil in a high speed blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Defrost corn in a microwave safe bowl or add to the sheet pan with the cauliflower for the last 5 minutes of cook time.
- Add pasta, cauliflower, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, parsley and pesto to a large bowl and toss well.
- Garnish with dusted cashews or vegan parmesan, parsley and copious pepper.