The Vegetarian Penne Pesto Pasta is my go-to recipe whenever I find myself short on time or not in the mood for a complicated meal. It’s a delightful dish that’s both quick and easy to prepare, and the abundance of vegetables in it leaves you feeling fantastic. Besides, the combination of pasta and cheese is the sort of thing that is universally accepted as delicious! Moreover, this simple recipe is ideal for solo cooking but can be effortlessly scaled up to cater to a larger gathering.
- Only Have 20 Minutes To Make Dinner?
- Vegetables To Use In This Pesto Pasta Recipe
- What Cheese Goes Best With Pesto Pasta?
- What Protein Goes Well With Pesto and Pasta?
- Homemade Pesto For A Winning Dish
- Recipe FAQs
- Storage & Reheating
- Serving Suggestions
- Other Recipes Using Pesto
- Easy Penne Pesto Pasta (Vegetarian)
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Only Have 20 Minutes To Make Dinner?
Vegetarian Penne Pesto Pasta is a perfect solution for busy individuals, as it can be whipped up in just 15 minutes and uses very simple ingredients! For those pressed for time on a busy weeknight, we also encourage you to explore our other mouthwatering recipes that require no more than 20 minutes to prepare, ensuring delicious and satisfying, but easy meals that the whole family will enjoy!
- Lemon Butter Baked Salmon (In 20 Minutes)
- 20-Minute Chicken and Chorizo Pasta With Creamy Tomato Sauce
- Creamy Boursin Pasta (Quick & Easy Recipe)
- Easy Prawn Noodles
- Beetroot and Feta Pasta
Vegetables To Use In This Pesto Pasta Recipe
You can be adventurous or practical, by using frozen or fresh ingredients. We like fresh peppers and tomatoes, but almost always use frozen garden peas or green beans.
One thing I would never skip though is fresh cherry tomatoes. They’re juicy and pop in your mouth providing extra flavours and fresh sweetness. Other vegetables that go well with easy pesto pasta include:
- Bell peppers.
- Garden peas (frozen or fresh).
- Broccoli or Tenderstem Broccoli.
- Sun-dried Tomatoes.
- Black Olives.
- Spring onion.
- Fresh Herbs, like fresh basil, parsley or chives etc.
- Mange tout.
- Green Beans.
- Baby corn.
Here’s what we used in our recipe (find the exact ingredients we used in our Penne Pesto Pasta in the recipe card at the bottom of the post).
What Cheese Goes Best With Pesto Pasta?
Who doesn’t like a mount of cheese on top of their pasta, right? We recommend using cheese that is used in your pesto, which more often than not is Parmesan cheese.
However, if you are on a tighter budget, there are some great alternatives to try. This Veggie Pesto Pasta works really well with Grana Padano or even Mature Cheddar (which is our typical choice).
What Protein Goes Well With Pesto and Pasta?
Protein in this wonderful recipe comes from garden peas and cheese, but if you wish to add extra protein to your vegetarian pesto pasta, you can chuck a bunch of additional nutritious protein-rich ingredients, including:
- Edamame beans.
- A scoop of spirulina.
- Chunks of tempeh.
And if you’re not vegetarian, some pan-fried prawns or chunks of chicken breast are both great options! We highly recommend our 15-Minute Red Pesto Pasta With Prawns too!
Homemade Pesto For A Winning Dish
Whilst you can make this penne pesto pasta with a store-bought pesto, it’s so much better if you craft some homemade pesto sauce to use in this dish.
If you have a food processor, your own pesto is really easy to make, but it can also be made in a pestle and mortar (especially if you’re using softer buttery nuts in your pesto, like pecans, walnuts or pine nuts). Here are two of our favourite homemade pesto recipes:
Top TIP: if you are using a freshly made pesto in this recipe, transfer your pasta and veggies to a large bowl first, then mix in the pesto. A hot pan will make your homemade pesto turn an unpleasant dark colour, losing all the vibrancy.
Put your pasta in a pan with a pinch of salt and pour boiling water over it. Cook to package instructions until it is cooked al dente, and whilst the pasta is boiling, cook your vegetables.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and add garlic, spring onions, bell pepper and peas. Fry for about 5 minutes until vegetables are starting to soften but still retain a good amount of crunch (cooking time will depend on the amount of frozen veggies you used as well as how chunky they are).
Two minutes away from your pasta is done, add cherry tomatoes to the frying pan, and stir everything together. Season with salt and black pepper if you wish, but I find that pesto and cheese will provide all the flavours I need.
Drain the pasta and tip in a pan with vegetables. Add a couple of tablespoons of pesto and mix together. If your pesto needs loosening, just add a splash of water to achieve the desired consistency (TOP TIP: save some starchy cooking water for that).
Spoon your pasta over a bed of spinach and top it with a generous amount of cheese. Dig in!
For this recipe, the best pasta to use is penne, trofie or strozzapreti, which truly represent Italian food traditions by pairing with pesto. However, if you’re looking for alternative pastas, feel free to experiment with short and long-noodle-style kinds of pasta. Gluten-free pasta is an excellent choice for those with dietary restrictions. Additionally, whole wheat pasta can be used to add a nutty depth of flavour and boost the dish’s nutritional value.
No problem! These days, you can find a bunch of different types of vegan pesto in large supermarkets. Our personal favorite brand is Sacla Vegan Basil Pesto. It’s really fragrant with basil and tastes creamy too!
Skip the cheese and use nutritional yeast instead! It’s by far our favourite vegan ingredient! We use Engevita!
Storage & Reheating
Fridge: Cool any remaining pesto penne pasta to room temperature and spoon it into an airtight container. Keep it refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Freezer: Simply transfer the pasta to a freezer-friendly bag or container, and it will stay fresh for up to one month in the freezer.
Reheating: When you’re ready to enjoy it again, thaw the frozen pasta by transferring it to the refrigerator 24 hours before serving. To reheat, either warm it up in a pan over medium heat for 5 minutes or use the microwave for a quick 1-minute reheating.
- Main Course: This recipe shines as a delicious vegetarian pasta dinner, serving as a satisfying and wholesome main course.
- Cold Pasta Salad: For a refreshing twist, refrigerate the leftovers and enjoy them as a delightful cold pasta salad.
- Simple Side Dish: Elevate your meal by pairing this penne pesto pasta as a scrumptious side dish alongside your favourite protein and vegetable.
I love serving almost all pasta dishes on a bed of greens. Watercress, rocket, and spinach, all work great. We used baby spinach on this occasion.
And if you’re looking for an extra filling meal, serve your pasta with some garlic bread on the side! It can also be used to mop up any leftover pesto at the bottom of your bowl!
Other Recipes Using Pesto
Looking for a recipe idea to use up any leftover pesto? Here are some great ways to incorporate more pesto into your diet!
Easy Penne Pesto Pasta (Vegetarian)
- 160 g penne pasta
- 10 cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ bell pepper diced
- 2 spring onions finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 80 g frozen peas
- 3 tablespoon basil pesto
- 30 g cheddar or parmesan grated
- 40 g spinach, watercress or rocket, or a mixture to serve
- Cook pasta as per packet instructions, making sure keeping it al dente.
- In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan. Add the spring oniion, garlic, bell pepper and peas, and fry for 5-6 minutes until starting to soften but still retail quite a bit of crunch.
- When pasta is about 2 minutes away from being done, add cherry tomatoes to your vegetables and stir.
- Drain your pasta and tip into the pan with vegetables. Add pesto and stir until everything is covered.
- Serve on a bed of greens (spinach, watercress, rocket etc.) topped with cheese.