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red lentil pasta with vegan basil-pistachio pesto

by Jackie Newgent  |  January 8, 2018  |  4 Comments

red lentil pasta with vegan basil-pistachio pesto

What’s one of my favorite ways to go vegan without giving up a thing? This bowl of yum! So, if you happen to be looking for a comforting pasta dish that’s actually good for you, here you go! And if you need to go gluten-free, this recipe is a winner, too. The pasta is made from red lentils. The fresh pesto is accented with lemon, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika in lieu of parmesan cheese. And the tomatoes add pops of vibrant color and bursts of juiciness. Altogether, this simple Mediterranean-style pasta dish is a complete meal in a bowl. Hint: It’s a scrumptious pick for a Meatless Monday!

red lentil pasta with vegan basil-pistachio pesto

red lentil pasta with vegan basil-pistachio pesto

Yield: 1 serving



  • 2 1/2 ounces organic red lentil rotini or pasta of choice
  • 1 cup heirloom cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 teaspoon avocado oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh vegan basil-pistachio pesto (see recipe below), or to taste
  • Pinch of fleur de sel or other sea salt



  1. In a medium saucepan, boil pasta according to package directions, about 8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the avocado oil until lightly coated. Add the tomatoes to the hot skillet and cook while shaking pan a couple times until tomatoes are blistered and browned, about 2 minutes.
  3. Drain the pasta, toss with desired amount of pesto, and transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the tomatoes, sprinkle with the fleur de sel, and serve.

Per serving: 600 calories, 31g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 480mg sodium, 59g total carbohydrate, 15g dietary fiber, 6g total sugars includes 0g added sugars, 27g protein


fresh vegan basil-pistachio pesto: 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves · 1/2 cup shelled roasted pistachios · 2 to 3 large chopped garlic cloves · zest of 1 small lemon · 2 teaspoons lemon juice · 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste · 1/8 teaspoon each crushed red pepper flakes and smoked paprika · 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil | In a food processor, pulse all ingredients except olive oil until finely chopped. Then drizzle in olive oil and puree until desired consistency. Makes 1 cup.


The “Before” Version

Compare to Olive Garden’s Gluten-Sensitive Entrée: Rotini with Parmesan Pesto Sauce

Per serving: 960 calories, 61g total fat, 8g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 10mg cholesterol, 760g sodium, 92g total carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 2g total sugars, 14g protein



Tasteover Tips

  • Instead of adding meatballs or other meat to your pasta meal for ample protein, simply choose a pasta that’s naturally protein rich, like red lentil rotini
  • If you don’t have or can’t have cheese, whirl up a vegan pesto
  • Kick up taste in vegan pesto by way of lemon (zest and juice!), crushed red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika—and punch up protein and greenness by choosing pistachios as the nut of choice
  • Boost color of your pesto pasta with heirloom cherry or grape tomatoes
fresh vegan basil-pistachio pesto
fresh vegan basil-pistachio pesto

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  1. Hi Jackie,

    Could I replace the basil with something else in your recipe for red lentil pasta with vegan basil-pistachio pesto?
    I really don’t like the taste of basil but want to have the nutrients it adds.