This vegan creamy pesto pasta comes together in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. The recipe has just a few ingredients but this dish is the creamy pasta of your dreams.
For more fast and easy pasta sauces be sure to check out my spinach walnut pesto, cilantro lemon pesto and my 10 minute white sauce for pasta and my full collection of gluten-free sauces and dressings.
Here’s a quick look at how it’s done
Vegan pesto – make it from scratch with the recipe below, or use a store-bought one. My favorite store bought is American Basil’s Dairy-Free Pesto Perfectto. Trader Joe’s also carries a vegan pesto.
If you make the pesto from scratch:
- I highly recommend Violife Just like Parmesan Wedge. The taste and texture are so close to dairy parmesan! If your cheese is not already grated, a microplane works best to get it finely grated.
- Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts. They have become crazy expensive, so I use almonds or walnuts instead.
- If you are low FODMAP feel free to omit the garlic. I often leave it out and the pesto still has plenty of flavor.
Dairy-free yogurt is what gives the sauce its creamy texture. I highly recommend Kite Hill’s Almond Milk Yogurt, The flavor is perfect and the texture is amazing! Their coconut yogurt is good too, but has a definite coconut flavor. So Delicious and Coco Yo are also good options. I do not recommend Forager Cashew yogurt – the texture is overly thickened and is not right for this recipe.
Pasta water thins the sauce to just the right consistency and adds a little starchy goodness. Be sure to generously salt your water BEFORE cooking the pasta.
Optional ingredients – I top my pasta with fresh chopped tomato and basil. Other toppings that go well with this dish are, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata or green olives, artichoke hearts, chopped nuts.
Pasta – My favorite gluten-free pasta is Barilla. It cooks up al dente and doesn’t get mushy. Feel free to use your favorite!
How to Make Pesto
Pesto is simply a paste, traditionally made with basil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. It’s incredibly easy to make. There’s no chopping, slicing, cooking required. The machine does all the work – food processor, high speed blender or my favorite mini food processor. It’s budget-friendly, smaller and light-weight but still does the job.
The one tripping point with making pesto is the basil. It turns brown very easily, especially when chopped or blended too much. So the trick is to get the nuts, garlic and cheese chopped first, and then add the basil. This avoids too much beating on those delicate basil leaves. Also, most recipes will tell you to add the oil after the basil has been blended in. I add them together, The oil coats the basil leaves and slows the browning/oxidation process.
Store any unused pesto in a zip top bag with all the air removed or in a sealed container with a piece of plastic directly on top of the pesto to keep it air tight.
Healthy Pasta Replacement/Additions
Use zucchini noodles instead of pasta. Cook the zoodles in a skillet with a little bit of oil for 3-4 minutes. Add the combined pesto and yogurt and stir to heat. The water content of the zucchini should be enough to thin the sauce to the right consistency. If it is too thick, add 1 or 2 Tbsp vegan broth, water or vegan milk subs.
To cut down on the amount of starchy pasta and add some veggies. I use 1 c prepared broccoli slaw in place of half of the pasta. This is relatively inexpensive and easy to find ready made. When the pasta has about a minute or two left to cook, add the slaw to soften it. Complete the recipe as directed in the recipe below. My non-vegetable-eating husband cleaned his plate with no complaints.
More Vegan Pasta Sauces
Be sure to check out my vegan creamy pasta sauce with a riced cauliflower base and my no-tomato, low acid pasta sauce with butternut squash as the base.
Vegan Creamy Pesto Pasta
- 4 servings your favorite gluten-free pasta
- ⅓ c vegan pesto see recipe below or use store-bought
- ⅓ c dairy-free yogurt
- ¼ c pasta water
- garnish and topping – your choice of chopped fresh tomato basil, olives, walnuts, marinated artichoke, vegan parmesan (Violife is excellent)
- 2 Tbsp chopped nuts almonds, walnuts, pine nuts
- 1 small garlic clove more if you love garlic, or leave it out
- 2 packed Tbsp finely grated vegan parmesan
- 1 tightly packed cup of fresh basil thick stems removed
- 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pinches salt
- Fill a 4 quart or larger pot with water, 3/4 full, and add 1 Tbsp kosher salt.
- Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the pasta when the water boils and cook as directed on the package.
- I highly recommend Barilla Gluten-Free Pasta. It cooks al dente and is not overly starchy or mushy.
- While the water is heating and the pasta is cooking, make the pesto (if not using prepared) and prepare the toppings,
Make the Pesto
- Add the nuts and garlic to a blender or food processor. This mini food processor is my favorite tool for pesto. Run on high until very finely chopped.
- Add the vegan cheese (best if grated with a microplane) and run to combine.
- Add the basil and oil. Run on high until it forms a paste.
- Add 2 pinches salt and run for a few seconds. Taste. Depending on the saltiness of your vegan cheese, you may need to add more. Add a pinch or 2 at a time.
Assemble the Dish
- Mix ⅓ c of the pesto with the yogurt.
- When the pasta is cooked to al dente, ladle out 1/2 cup of the water into a measuring cup. Drain the remaining water.
- Put the drained pasta back into the pot. Add the pesto/yogurt mixture and just 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Stir over very low heat until the pasta is coated. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little more pasta water.
- Dip a spoon into the sauce and taste. Add a pinch or 2 of salt, if needed and pepper, if desired.
- Plate the pasta and top with chopped tomato and basil and your other favorite toppings.