You wouldn’t normally think of a pesto pasta as being healthy for you. No matter the great taste and comfort it may provide, it is typically still a super rich and oily dish. Luckily for you, today we’re going to share our low-fat vegan pesto pasta recipe – so you can enjoy all the good without the tummy ache.
On our quest to adding more whole plant-based foods on our plate, we discovered that some dishes are easier to healthify than others.
Of course, adding more vegetables to just about any meal already boosts the nutritional value for the day.
That’s why you’ll find broccoli in our Mac and Cheese recipe – and you’ll also find some here, along with a few of our other favorite green veggies, such as zucchini and asparagus.
Why? Because they all go along just so wonderfully with the green pesto!
Choosing whole grain pasta over white pasta is another step to add more whole foods to your meals. But did we cheat on the pesto here? Nope.
Sadly, we lived a couple of years as healthy vegans without any pesto in our lives. Because, as you know, it’s mainly just oil with a few basil leaves.
But then, we came across a brilliant idea in Dr. Michael Greger’s book “How Not To Die” (highly recommended to all of you health nerds like us! More of our favorite vegan books here.) for how you can create a low fat, even oil-free pesto!
The Magic That Is Bean Pesto
Yes, it’s legumes. You got that right. White beans work best, but peas are also fine. Most beans would probably do here but we can’t guarantee it. Not only are beans very tasty (at least to us), they also offer tremendous health benefits!
One serving of legumes, which is half a cup, provides about 115 calories, 20 g of carbohydrates, 7–9 g of fiber, 8 g of protein, and only 1 g of fat.
They also offer vital nutrients such as iron, zinc, folate and potassium – some of which are also found in meat products. Legumes are basically the cholesterol- and cruelty-free nutritious sister of steak!
What’s more, they are associated with longevity, a slimmer waist, lower blood pressure and improved insulin levels. Unfortunately, almost all of us don’t eat enough of them!
When you’re just starting out on a whole foods plant-based diet, you might find the taste and texture of these legumes pretty weird. We get that.
A great way to get around this is to just use the legumes to create something awesome – like vegan black bean meatballs or a creamy low-fat vegan pesto pasta.
We were so blown away by how creamy this turned out without any added fat or animal products! I bet you’d choose protein-rich over oily any day, too.
Why Our Vegan Pesto Pasta Is so Awesome!
- High in protein and low in fat
- Completely oil-free and very wholesome
- Creamy and comforting
- High in fiber and micronutrients
- Delicious whether enjoyed hot or cold
- Put together in 20 minutes
- A beginner level recipe
Making Our Easy Vegan Pesto Pasta
The good news doesn’t stop at the great nutritional value – that’s only one good reason to make our recipe.
What makes this recipe even better is that no real cooking skills are required for this green goodness; it’s basically a one pot meal!
Granted, you need some kind of food processor or at least an immersion blender (a personal blender will do as well). But that’s pretty much all the extravagance we ask of you!
Please view our bean pesto recipe as a basic blueprint.
If that’s too much garlic for you, start with just one clove. If you don’t have hemp seeds at home, just skip them for now. And, as mentioned above, use another legume if you like.
The same goes for the veggies that you cook with your pasta. Right now is a great time to get asparagus, but that’s not the case year-round. Use what’s in season and what tastes great to you!
Heck, start without any veggies if that would keep you from trying it all (though we would recommend some cherry tomatoes, at least).
You will see that it’s pretty easy to make a healthy vegan pesto by just replacing parmesan with nutritional yeast.
And if you’re looking to make a pesto pasta salad during hot days or to add to your next meal prep, you can just use cold pasta and a couple of different veggies instead.
Depending on the pasta you choose, this can very easily be turned into a gluten-free dish as well.
Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta (Oil-Free)
Our easy creamy vegan pesto pasta is low in fat and completely oil free! By using white bean pesto and vegetables along with a whole grain pasta, this dish is very high in fiber and nutrients.
Vegan Bean Pesto
- 1 cup cannellini beans, cooked (260g)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves (42g)
- 1 cup fresh spinach (30g)
- 2 tbsp hemp seeds
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp water
- ¼ tsp salt
- Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
To Assemble the Pesto Pasta
- 5 oz whole wheat pasta (140g)
- 1 zucchini, cut into cubes
- 1 cup green peas, frozen (160g)
- 4 asparagus springs, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, to garnish
- Handful fresh basil leaves
Heat water for the pasta into a medium pot.
Make the bean pesto by placing the spinach, garlic, basil, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and lemon juice into a food processor and pulse to obtain a creamy mixture.
Add the beans and process to incorporate, then add water to obtain the pesto texture – if needed, more than the suggested 2 tablespoons.
Season with salt and pepper and transfer into a lidded jar.
Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Within five minutes before your pasta is done, add your vegetables into the same pot.
Drain everything and transfer into a bowl.
Scoop the pesto on top of the cooked pasta and veggies, and mix to combine
Divide into serving bowls, garnish with pine nuts, nutritional yeast and basil leaves. Finally, drizzle with lemon juice and serve warm.
Fussili, orrechiete or penne work perfect because their shapes “trap” the delicious pesto.
Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.