Pesto Pasta Salad

I have some news! Finally, Cookie and I are moving out of this run-down rental home and into a new home. It is not a charming farmhouse, but it is a beautiful, practical room with an open kitchen and bright white walls. I am really happy.

I haven’t wanted to complain, but I’ll say it now: as I’ve been creating my cookbook, I’ve grown to absolutely detest my present kitchen. No matter what wattage I put on the one overhead light, it’s still dark in there. I keep returning to the bathroom tap throughout the day because the water from the faucet tastes strange to me. Under my feet, the grout flakes off between the tiles. The last place I want to be is one that is filthy and dungeon-like.

It goes without saying that it has become a risk to my career, so I’m thrilled to have an escape strategy at last. Woohooooo! I’m going to be lot more motivated to create brand-new meals for you guys in there and to host dinner guests. I’m eager to decorate as well. I can’t wait to get rid of the things I don’t enjoy and switch from my eclectic thrift store aesthetic to a more mature, unified one. It’s now.

I’ll stop talking now and give you the recipe for spaghetti salad. Fall is a great time for picnics, and this light and refreshing pesto pasta salad is perfect. The Australian food blogger Jessica Prescott of Wholly Goodness, author of the forthcoming cookbook Vegan Goodness, served as the recipe’s primary source of inspiration. The book contains more than 60 plant-based recipes, all of which are beautifully photographed to highlight the beauty of the ingredients and finished dishes. Don’t you think carrots can be so lovely?

Also read: Pear, Date & Walnut Salad with Blue Cheese

I experimented a lot with this recipe because I am not very good at following directions exactly. Her recipe called for sautéed mushrooms and asparagus, but I can’t get asparagus at this time of year, and I didn’t enjoy it with just mushrooms. I altered up some of the add-ins and added additional pesto and cherry tomatoes.

Instead, I substituted cheese, chickpeas, and olives, all of which are delicious, but I’ll let you decide how to proceed on this one. Enjoy and let me know in the comments how this recipe worked for you!


  • 1 pound whole grain pasta (fusilli, rotini, penne or farfalle)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 3 handfuls baby arugula or spinach
  • Optional cheese: Crumbled feta cheese, little mozzarella balls or diced mozzarella or grated Parmesan
  • Optional additions: ½ cup thinly sliced Kalamata olives and/or 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas)
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • ½ cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)*
  • ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Before draining, reserve about ½ cup pasta cooking water, then drain and immediately rinse the pasta under cool water to prevent the noodles from sticking to one another. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, to prepare the pesto: In a small skillet, toast the pepitas over medium heat, stirring often, until they are fragrant and making little popping noises, about 5 minutes. Pour half of the pepitas into a bowl for later (we will use them as garnish).
  3. Pour the remaining pepitas into a food processor. Add the basil, parsley, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Process while slowly drizzling in the olive oil, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, until the pepitas have broken down to create a pretty smooth sauce.
  4. To assemble the pasta salad, pour all of the pesto over the pasta and toss until the pasta is lightly and evenly coated, adding a tiny splash of reserved pasta cooking water if necessary to thin it out. Then add the cherry tomatoes, arugula, remaining toasted pepitas, and any optional add-ins (olives, chickpeas and/or cheese).
  5. Toss again to combine, then season to taste with pepper. If the pasta needs more flavor, add salt, to taste, or a splash of lemon juice. If the flavors are too bold, let it rest for a few minutes, and add a little splash of olive oil if necessary to tone down the rest.