Veggie Pesto Pasta is a flavorful, nutritious weeknight dinner that comes together in just 25 minutes. This bright and zesty vegetarian dish features al dente pasta, zucchini, and asparagus tossed in herby pesto, lemon juice, and zest.
Veggie Pesto Pasta is our go-to vegetarian pasta in the summer and spring. It can also be made in the fall and winter with frozen asparagus. It's light, bright, and robustly flavored. Make it with store-bought pesto or our homemade basil or kale pesto for extra fresh flavor.
This is a great entry-level recipe to make for a weeknight dinner and entertaining. It's affordable, comes together quickly in one pan, and feeds a crowd easily!
About Veggie Pesto Pasta
- Taste - The sweet asparagus and zucchini combine with the bright pesto to make a light and flavorful pasta.
- Texture - The zucchini is tender and the asparagus and pasta are firm.
- Effort - This easy pasta has just a couple steps. Just prepare the veggies, cook the sauce and pasta, then enjoy!
- Time - It takes about 5 minutes to prep the ingredients then about 20 minutes to cook the veggies and pasta.
- Olive Oil - Extra virgin olive oil is a flavorful base for cooking the veggies.
- Garlic - Garlic is a classic aromatic with a pungent taste.
- Asparagus - Asparagus is a delicious and earthy green vegetable.
- Zucchini - Zucchini is a summer squash with a slightly sweet flavor.
- Salt - Salting pasta water adds flavor to the pasta noodles.
- Pesto - We recommend our basil or kale walnut pesto because both are easy and pair deliciously with the veggies. However, you can also use a store-bought pesto and it will still be tasty.
- Lemon juice and lemon zest - Lemon juice and zest brighten the dish.
- Short pasta - Short pasta is best because matches the size of the chopped asparagus and zucchini. It also ensures the perfect ratio of pasta and veggies in each bite. Specifically, penne (rigate) and rigatoni are great because they have ridges that catch more pasta sauce.
See recipe card for quantities.
- Basil Pesto - Our homemade basil pesto is more vibrant and flavorful than store-bought pesto.
- Kale Walnut Pesto - Try our Kale Walnut Pesto for a peppery pesto.
- Vegan Pesto - Use vegan pesto (or modify our basil or kale pesto recipes) and vegan cheese to make this dish vegan.
- Homemade Pasta - Use homemade pasta from scratch instead of store-bought.
- Gluten Free - Use gluten free pasta to make this recipe gluten free.
- Zucchini noodles - Try zoodles instead of regular pasta noodle for a nutritious alternative.
- Whole Wheat or Brown Rice Pasta - Replace traditional pasta with whole wheat or brown rice pasta for a healthier option.
- Pine nuts - Sprinkle toasted pine nuts on the pasta for a delicious crunch.
- Spicy - Add red pepper chili flakes or extra freshly ground black pepper to make the pasta spicy.
- Cherry tomatoes - Blistered cherry or grape tomatoes will taste delicious with the asparagus and zucchini.
- Extra veggies - Add more veggies, like broccoli, rapini, and cauliflower, to make this dish even more veggie-packed.
- Meat - If you want to add protein, add sausage or try our Sausage Pesto Pasta with Rapini (Broccoli Rabe).
- Extra lemony - Add a little more lemon zest for extra lemon flavor.
- Basil - Fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons, add a fresh and herby garnish.
- Parsley - Chopped parsley brightens the dish with a fresh herb flavor.
- Cook asparagus - In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Then add garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Occasionally turn the asparagus to ensure it cooks evenly. Then season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the pan onto a plate. (Photo 1)
- Cook zucchini - Add more oil to the pan if necessary. Add sliced zucchini, turning over halfway through. Cook until the zucchini is just cooked through and starting to turn golden on both sides, about 6-8 minutes. Then season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook in batches if necessary and place finished zucchini on a plate. (Photo 2)
- Cook pasta - Cook the pasta while the veggies cook. In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Then add pasta to the water and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
- Mix ingredients - In a large pan over very low heat, add the pasta, pesto, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Then add in the pasta water, about a quarter cup at a time, until the pasta sauce reaches a silky consistency. (Photo 3 and 4)
- Mix ingredients - Toss the pasta until it is coated in the pesto sauce and turn off the heat. Then season with salt and pepper to taste. (Photo 5)
- Fold in veggies - Finally, fold in the asparagus and zucchini, reserving a few pieces for garnish. (Photo 6 and 7)
- Serve - Serve immediately with grated parmesan cheese and garnish with zucchini slices and asparagus. (Photo 8)
Pro Tip: Remember you don’t have to use all of the pasta water. The amount necessary will depend on the thickness of the pesto.
What to Serve with Veggie Pesto Pasta
This pesto pasta recipe is the perfect light dinner. Typically, we enjoy it on its own or with an appetizer like our Burrata Caprese or Peach Arugula Salad with Prosciutto and Burrata. If you want to make an extra nutritious meal, try it with our Sautéed Broccolini or Furikake and Lemon Shishito Peppers.
Generally speaking, yes. Pesto is usually made of healthy ingredients like basil, nuts, olive oil, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and pepper. But you should always check the nutrition facts, especially of store-bought pesto.
Yes! Zucchini is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Asparagus is high in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and fiber.
We recommend eating pesto pasta warm or cold. If the pesto is heated or cooked too much, it will degrade the taste and texture of the fresh pesto.
Besides zucchini and asparagus, blistered cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms taste delicious with pesto pasta.
You will want a wine to match the pesto's basil, garlic and olive oil flavors. A Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, or Pinot Gris are all good options.
Refrigerate leftover vegetable pasta pesto for up to 5 days in an air-tight container. In order to reheat, simply place the desired amount of leftover pasta and sauce in a braiser or dutch oven. Then reheat over low heat, stirring occasionally until hot.
- Salt the pasta water - Make sure you salt the pasta water so the pasta noodles will be extra tasty.
- Mix the sauce well - Before serving the pasta, make sure the sauce is well mixed in with the pasta noodles so the sauce coats each piece of pasta.
- Remix the pesto - If you store and refrigerate leftover pesto separately, be sure to mix it again before using it. Otherwise the ingredients can separate overnight in the refrigerator.
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Veggie Pesto Pasta
- 2 tablespoon olive oil plus more if necessary
- 1 garlic clove pressed
- 1 bunch asparagus trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias
- 1 zucchini thinly sliced
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 lb short pasta
- 8 tablespoon homemade or store-bought pesto plus more depending on the shape of the pasta
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice about half a lemon
- 2 teaspoon zest about half a lemon
- Parmigiano-Reggiano grated
- Cook asparagus - In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Occasionally turn to ensure the asparagus cooks evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the pan onto a plate.2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 garlic clove, 1 bunch asparagus, Kosher or sea salt, Freshly cracked black pepper
- Cook zucchini - Add more oil to the pan if necessary and add sliced zucchini, turning over halfway through. Cook until the zucchini is just cooked through and starting to turn golden on both sides, about 6-8 minutes depending on the thickness of the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook in batches if necessary and place on a plate.1 zucchini
- Cook pasta - Cook the pasta while the vegetables cook. In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Add pasta to the water and cook until al dente per the packaging instructions. Reserve a cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.1 lb short pasta
- Mix ingredients - In a large pan over very low heat, add the pasta, pesto, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Toss with the pasta water about a quarter cup at a time, until the pasta sauce reaches a silky consistency. You don’t have to use all of the pasta water and the amount necessary will depend on the thickness of the pesto. Toss the pasta until it is coated in the pesto sauce and turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and fold in the asparagus and zucchini, reserving a few pieces of each for garnish.8 tablespoon homemade or store-bought pesto, 2 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoon zest
- Serve - Serve immediately with fresh grated cheese and garnish with zucchini slices and asparagus.Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Salt the pasta water - Salt the pasta water with kosher salt to make the pasta extra flavorful.
- Mix the sauce well - Before serving the pasta, make sure the pesto is well mixed in with the pasta noodles so the sauce coats each piece of pasta. The pasta water will emulsify the sauce and help make the sauce a silky consistency.
- Remix the pesto - If you store and refrigerate leftover pesto separately, mix it again before using it. Otherwise the ingredients can separate overnight in the refrigerator.
- Make ahead - Make the veggies and pesto the day before to help cut down the prep time.
- Use frozen veggies - Use frozen veggies and heat in a pan per the instructions.