What is it about summer that almost demands you make a pasta salad? Maybe it’s just me, but I love getting creative with pasta salads during the warmer months. And today’s recipe is pretty much the essence of summer, packed with summer veggies and pesto.
I kept the pesto dressing dairy free, but you can always add a bit of parmesan if you’d like. Buying some already prepared pesto at Farmer’s Market is a great shortcut, (although it’s usually not dairy free). Another favorite thing to do is sub in cilantro in place of the basil in the pesto dressing for a different version.
This recipe is also great if you happen to have a large supply of zucchini on your hands. You need a pound of zucchini per batch of pasta salad, so it will help you make a slight dent in the summertime supply! Added to the zucchini is more of summer’s abundance: bell peppers, onion, and cherry tomatoes.
For more ideas on how to use up lots of zucchini, check out my 5 Ways to Use Up Large Amounts of Zucchini.
All the veggies spend some time on the grill which adds another layer of flavor. Then they’re chopped up, and it’s all tossed together into the best veggie packed meal I’ve had in quite a while. And if you’re lucky enough to have some leftovers, they pack really well for lunch the next day!
As a side note, if you have lots of cherry tomatoes, grill extra to use in all sorts of things. They’re great in scrambled eggs or omelets, as well as a variation of the classic Caprese Salad.
The pesto dressing isn’t a straight pesto because I’ve added some vinegar into the mix. This touch of acidity is critical in a flavorful pasta salad, and it helps to keep the basil from browning immediately.
Finally I like to garnish this pasta salad with a few extra pine nuts, which looks great and adds some crunch factor. And a few basil springs doesn’t go amiss either, just a small amount of greenery goes a long way!Print
- 2 zucchini, 1 pound
- 2 red bell peppers, 14 ounces total
- 1 red onion, 12 ounces
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, 12 ounces
- 1 – 12 ounce package gluten free pasta, I used fusilli
- 1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 Teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, almonds and walnuts work as well
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast, see notes
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup baby spinach, 1 ounce
- 2 cups basil leaves, 1.5 ounces
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- Basil leaves or springs
- Preheat the grill over medium high heat until it reaches a temperature of 350º-400ºF.
- While the grill heats, prepare the veggies. Start by cutting off both ends from the zucchini, then slice them in half lengthwise. Core the bell peppers, cut them in half, and remove the ribs and seeds. Cut off both ends on the onion, and peel away the tough outer layer. Then cut it into 1/2″ slices from the top to the bottom. Wash the cherry tomatoes and drain them in a colander.
- Clean and oil the grill, then place the veggies across the surface. Grill for 4-6 minutes per side, or until crisp tender, for everything except the cherry tomatoes which cook in just 2-3 minutes.
- When all the veggies are done, remove them from the grill and set them aside to cool.
- Meanwhile cook the pasta to al dente, then drain and thoroughly rinse the pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Place all the ingredients for the dressing into a blender and blend until mostly smooth, but with a bit of chunkiness remaining.
- When the veggies have cooled enough to work with, cut them into small bite sized pieces. Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes to make bite sized pieces, depending on their size.
- Mix together the chopped veggies with the cooked pasta, and toss with the dressing.
- Garnish with the pine nuts and basil if desired, and serve. Any leftovers keep well for about 1 day. Gluten free pasta will get harder over time in the refrigerator unlike regular pasta.
The nutritional yeast adds a slight cheese flavor and some depth, but it’s not absolutely necessary if you can’t find it.