Pesto pasta with vegetables is a simple, healthy side or main dish made with pasta, pesto, spinach, green beans and tomatoes. Packed with flavor and ready in 20 minutes.
I like this hearty pasta warm, but room temperature is good too.
Needless to say, you can choose your preferred veggies. The recipe is versatile and it’s quick to make even if you choose to make your own pesto.
I use our 5 minute classic basil pesto recipe for this pasta salad, but if you have another favorite – even a store bought pesto – feel free to use that.
Bottom line: Pesto pasta with vegetables is an easy recipe and a great way to use up that extra basil in the garden. Full of flavor, healthy and a good make-ahead recipe for a potluck or buffet.
What to serve with this pesto veggie pasta
This dish can stand on its own as a vegetarian main dish. You can also bulk it up with extra protein by adding tofu, cooked chicken or shrimp. Or serve it with a soup like easy butternut squash soup, curried lentil soup (instant pot) or a cold gazpacho on a hot summer day.
Tailor to your Taste
This recipe is super versatile. Here are a few variations and substitutions you can try.
- Pesto options: If you don’t like basil pesto, try spinach, arugula, kale, parsley or cilantro pesto.
- Pasta: My go-to for this recipe is orzo pasta, but any small regular pasta in various pasta shapes will work – baby penne, small fusilli, baby bow ties, etc.
- Vegetable options: Choose your preferred fresh vegetables. Try spring vegetables like beans, asparagus and spinach or summer vegetables like baby kale, bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower. Or just use your favorites if they are available at your local grocery store. Be sure to adjust the cooking time for the type of vegetable you’re using.
- Cheese: I like to crumble on goat cheese or ricotta as a garnish. Other options are feta, grated Parmesan cheese or no cheese at all. Vegans can use nutritional yeast to make a vegan pesto sauce or as an add-in.
- Add-ins: Add chopped pitted black olives, sundried tomatoes, chopped green onions or matchstick radishes for some crunch.
How to make veggie pesto pasta
FAQ about pesto
Pesto is a thick green sauce made from a herb (usually basil), garlic, olive oil, pine nuts (or walnuts) and parmesan cheese. It originates from Italy. Use it with pastas, as a topping for fish, burgers, veggies or grilled cheese, as a dressing for a panzanella (bread salad) and on pizza.
According to healthline, pesto has some good nutritional benefits. Although it is high in fat and calories (cheese, nuts, oil), most of the fat is the good kind of unsaturated fat. It may help reduce your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and cancer risk
Absolutely. Use the same ingredients – basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, salt, lemon juice – and substitute nutritional yeast for the Parmesan cheese.
- Use a good store bought fresh pesto. Jenna loves the one at Costco.
- The pesto orzo can be served at room temperature. Or make it ahead then rewarm for a couple of minutes in the microwave. If you prefer, add the cheese after it has been warmed.
- Pesto will last for a week or two in the fridge. Or it can be frozen.
Healthy Pesto Pasta With Vegetables
- 1 cup orzo
- large handful green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 cup baby spinach or kale, roughly chopped
- 10 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 3 tablespoon pesto, bought or homemade (Note 1)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or 2 tbsp)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: splash of lemon or lime juice
- Garnish: goat cheese and/or Parmesan cheese
- BOIL ORZO AND GREEN BEANS: In a medium pot, bring water with a tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add orzo and boil for 5 minutes. Add green beans. Continue boiling for about 5 more minutes until orzo is soft and beans are tender, but both should still have a bit of 'bite' (al dente). Drain well, then add back to pot.
- FINISH THE DISH: Add chopped spinach to orzo in pot and toss well until slightly wilted. Add tomatoes, pesto and enough oil to achieve the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper to taste. And mix in a squeeze of lemon or lime juice if you like. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with goat cheese and/or Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
- Pesto: Use any pesto you like or our Classic Basil Pesto recipe: Process in food processor until smooth: 1 cup packed Basil leaves, 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1/4 olive oil. (makes 1/2 cup)
- Make Ahead: Great served at room temperature. Or make ahead then rewarm for a couple of minutes in the microwave. If you prefer, add the cheese after it has been warmed.
This recipe was previously published in 2017. We’re re-publishing it again with edits and new information.