Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad

by on July 12, 2009
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Pine nuts, nutritional yeast, and asparagus add flavor to this no-oil, vegan asparagus pesto. It’s even better the next day!

Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad

I had to make a dish to take to a potluck yesterday, and when I went to the pantry to assemble the ingredients for the pasta salad I’d planned to make, I found I was out of two essential ingredients. And I seemed to be missing an ingredient or two of every other “tried and true” recipe I could think of. I didn’t really want to experiment on a new recipe when I would be serving the results to other people, but then I figured, what the heck: I didn’t know most of the people who would be eating it anyway, and if it turned out terrible, I could put on a innocent expression and deny responsibility!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to such subterfuge. The asparagus pesto I decided to make was a hit, and I didn’t have to sneak my serving bowl out under my shirt when the dinner was over. In fact, several people who saw me claim the (empty!) bowl walked up to ask me how I’d made the sauce.

I don’t think I would have ever thought of making pesto with cooked asparagus if I hadn’t happened across this recipe. I would normally make pesto with a little silken tofu (instead of olive oil), but that was one of the many ingredients missing from my pantry. So when I saw the recipe for asparagus pesto sauce, I knew I had to try it. And I’m glad I did: Between the asparagus and the lemon juice, this turned out much more tangy than regular pesto. It’s definitely a keeper!
Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad

Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is one of those dishes that improve overnight as the sauce has time to develop its flavor.
Serves: 8
  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (lightly toasted)
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 pound whole wheat or gluten-free spiral pasta
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the asparagus spears. Cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Without emptying the water from the pot, lift out the asparagus spears and place them in a colander. Rinse with cool water.
  2. Bring the water back to a boil. Add salt, if needed, and add pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water, and drain and rinse the pasta with cool water. Put into a serving bowl.
  3. Place the asparagus on a cutting board. Trim off the top 3 inches of the asparagus spears, and put the tips into the bowl with the pasta. Cut the bottoms into several pieces, and set aside to use in the pesto sauce.
  4. Use a food processor to make the pesto: With the processor running, drop in the garlic cloves and allow them to chop. Add 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts, and pulse to chop. Add the lemon juice, basil, salt, nutritional yeast, and the asparagus pieces (not the tips!) along with 3-6 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. (Start with 3 tbsp. water and add more as needed.) Puree until smooth.
  5. Toss the pasta, asparagus tips, and tomatoes (if using) with the pesto, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/8th of recipe Calories: 255 Fat: 2.5g Sodium: 151mg Protein: 11g

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Pine nuts, nutritional yeast, and asparagus add flavor to this no-oil, vegan asparagus pesto. It's even better the next day!

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Azahara September 23, 2009 at 9:01 am

This makes a great take-away lunch.

Thank you once again!

p.s.: my omnivorous dad is crazy about your blueberry-oat bars. He keeps asking me to make some more 😀


2 Rachael West November 5, 2009 at 11:52 am


I have never really thought of putting it into a pasta. This sounds delicious and I cant wait to make this. Thanks so much for your creative ideas. I will link to this post.

Thanks Again,


3 Lexi May 31, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Hey Susan!

I made this pasta salad a while back and LOVED it. ( I ate it cold)

I’m now toying with the idea of making the same pesto sauce above tonight with gnochhi instead and serving warm. Do you think this would work well work or is it important that it be cold? I remember you mentioning that this benefits from sitting overnight. If I made the sauce in the morning, let it chill, and then reheated it for dinner, do you think it would be ok? We might have company.

Thanks and keep up the delicious recipes! 🙂


4 Farnoosh ~ Prolific Living July 5, 2010 at 7:30 am

Yum! These look fantastic. I am on my 5th day of being a vegetarian and so happy to have stumbled here! I can’t wait to try some of these recipes!


5 April July 13, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Another great recipie!

I tried to half the recipe but don’t think I made enough of that delicious pesto sauce. It was very easy to follow and the results were a great to-go lunch. Thank you!


6 Kunal July 19, 2010 at 1:44 pm

This was oh-so-nice! and yet so simple. thank you.
All your recipies look great and can’t wait to try many more of them.


7 Sacha August 18, 2010 at 1:25 am

I had to search all over my small town to find nutritional yeast and finally came across it at a vitamin store – for $15!! But, I was determined to try this recipe out so I bought it… and I’m glad I did. This pesto is delicious!


8 Mary November 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

Hi, Just finished making it, it looks so delish! Can’t wait till dinner time.. Thanks Susan


9 Meghan December 4, 2010 at 10:13 am

I’m going to two potlucks next weekend and said I’d bring pasta salad & this looks awesome. Do you think I could use frozen asparagus for the recipe? Or maybe fresh spinach instead? Also, if I make a double recipe of this Thursday night do you think I can reserve one batch for Sunday? Or would it be best to make the second batch Saturday?
Thanks! All of the recipes I’ve made from your site have been amazing!



10 Holly St.Denis March 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm

This is one of my husband’s favourite meals I’ve made him. Very easy to make and much healthier then most pesto recipes. Great recipe!


11 Christopher Kandrat April 5, 2011 at 11:22 am

Looks great, amazing dish.


12 Maria April 30, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Really fresh tasting and light! this will definitely be a summer favourite!


13 Kelsie August 3, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I can’t handle this! I just made it and it’s taking everything in me not to go back to the fridge and devour the whole bowl of it! Mmm. I love your blog, by the way. I fell in love after finding your pumpkin cheesecake (which my cheesecake hating, non-vegan boyfriend LOVED). 😀


14 SusanV August 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Thanks for writing! I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who can’t resist that pasta!


15 AY November 17, 2011 at 4:03 am

This recipe looks awesome! Unfortunately, I can’t use nutritional yeast for personal dietary reasons. What else can I substitute it with so that I can get flavors similar to it? Thanks!


16 lindsay January 31, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Could I use kelp noodles or shiratake noodles or spaghetti squash in place of the pasta?


17 Susan Voisin January 31, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Sure, use whatever type of noodles you want. But add the pesto to taste because those noodles don’t absorb sauce so you probably won’t need as much.


18 Marie April 7, 2012 at 7:38 am

I’m going to make this for a garden party with my family and I was wondering if it makes a difference which kind of asparagus I use, since I can’t get my hands on the green one.


19 Susan Voisin April 7, 2012 at 7:50 am

I haven’t tried it with anything but green, but I don’t think it will make a difference. Hope your family enjoys it!


20 bunso April 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm

well, I am going to give this a try for sure! Ooh, i bet the pesto sauce would be good over those zucchini strips/noodles…mmmm


21 Erica April 27, 2012 at 9:58 am

Made this last night. VERY dangerous–kept going back for more, had some this morning before breakfast, craving some right now, can’t wait until dinnertime. 🙂

Think to minimize calories (because clearly I’ll keep bingeing on it), I’ll add more veggies (upping asparagus and tomatoes, wondering if red peppers and kale or spinach might be good additions?) and decrease the pasta next time. Might also make a good sandwich spread with grilled veggies, if you decrease the water.

Thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful website. I’m a reformed carnivore doing the Engine 2 challenge right now, and hoping to at least continue the vegan portion of the diet going forward–your website has helped me stick to it, and will continue to. Thank you!!!!!


22 Sharon May 27, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Nice flavor (we ate it before cooling). Also very pretty. I thoroughly enjoyed this! Next time I will likely add some oil for mouth feel. (And I thought I had really gotten to the fat free stage! Uh, oh, I also used 3 scant tbs parmesan cheese instead of the nutritional yeast. I just can’t get used to nutritional yeast. That said, this was far lower calorie than traditional pesto. Loved it and will make it again.


23 Sharon May 27, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Oh, I also used the tomatoes and will use a heavier percantage of tomatoes and chopped asparagus next time I make this.


24 Christina March 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Susan ,
This sounds and looks yummy. We will try this as soon as asparagus is reasonably priced here locally. Looking forward to it!


25 laloofah April 1, 2013 at 8:07 am

We made this for the first time yesterday and absolutely love it! It tastes like spring and summer. 🙂 Thanks for another big hit!


26 Laloofah April 7, 2013 at 11:54 am

Just wanted to let you know that we made this again today, and as I was stirring it all together my husband said, “This is Susan Voisin’s recipe, isn’t it?” When I said yes, he said, “She’s so reliable! We can always count on her recipes to be great.” 🙂


27 Andrea July 24, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I just made this today and it was one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten!!!
Really easy too!! I’m going to make it again this weekend to take sailing with a bunch of meat eaters, some of which make fun of my vegan ways. I’ll show them that vegan can taste delicious! Thanks!


28 NK January 22, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Can i substitute pine nuts with walnuts or almonds since i have these nuts in-house? but I know pine nuts roast real well. Last time, I tried roasting whole almonds, they didn’t do very well. please advise.


29 Susan Voisin January 22, 2014 at 2:45 pm

You can use either of those nuts, but don’t roast them. Just use them raw and it should come out fine.


30 NK January 22, 2014 at 2:50 pm

wow! that was quick reply. Thank you. Omitting the roasting step sounds even better:-))


31 NK January 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm

sorry for multiple queries, I just realized the recipe calls for basil. I already have rosemary and thyme. can i use either of them? Thank you.


32 Susan Voisin January 22, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I wouldn’t. Both are very strong herbs and rosemary is very spiky. It’s hard for me to imagine a pesto made with either of them. If you have dried basil and spinach, you could try using 1 cup of spinach and a teaspoon or two of the basil to get the basil flavor without using fresh.


33 Nicole January 31, 2014 at 8:52 pm

I recently had anaphylaxis shock and found out it was because I am VERY allergic to cilantro and mildly allergic to beans… The DR. Said I could have a small amount of beans a couple times a week. Is it going to be too hard for me to go vegan? I’ve noticed a lot of vegan recipes are centered around them.


34 Kaylene Fullmer March 28, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Can I leave out the nutritional yeast? How will that affect the taste?


35 Susan Voisin March 28, 2014 at 10:35 pm

It adds depth of flavor and more of a cheesy taste. You can leave it out if you want to. It won’t be quite the same but still good.


36 Nadine April 28, 2015 at 10:16 am

So excited to find your blog, just in time for a family bbq! I have not eaten meat since I was 13 (almost 40 years ago!) and now vegan. Finding new and tasty recipes to keep my non-vegan husband happy too is always a challenge. Thank you, can’t wait to start cooking…..and eating!


37 Martha July 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Have you made this pesto without the asparagus pureed into it? Would it be just as good?


38 Susan Voisin July 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm

No, the asparagus is the base of the sauce (pesto) and the recipe wouldn’t be the same without it. You could try substituting another vegetable for the asparagus, but again, it wouldn’t be the same.


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