Food & Drink Magazine

Healthy Pesto Pasta Salad

By Msadams @HilaryFerrell

I came to the sad realization this weekend that summer is over.

No more days at the beach.

No more grilling outside.

No more lazy afternoons in the sunshine.

Considering we’ve woken up to 60 degree mornings for the last few days, I think it’s save to say that fall is back with a vengeance. I’m sure there are plenty of you who are ecstatic about this new development but I, for one, will miss my favorite season, summer.

So in an act of protest against fall’s impending weather stranglehold, I decided to make one last distinctly summer dish. When I think of summer, I’m immediately taken back to childhood memories of fresh home cooked meals from our backyard garden. These meals were unforgettable because they featured fresh herbs picked at their peak. Eating them was almost like getting a little kiss from the sun.

Keeping with the summer theme of fresh picked herbs, I created a healthier version of pesto sauce, which was then smothered on top of pasta, beans, and sundried tomatoes.

Nothing says summer quite like basil and pasta salad.

Healthy Pesto Salad

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  • 16 ounce package of uncooked orzo
  • 1 cup sundried tomatoes, diced into small pieces
  • 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups basil, loosely packed
  • 14 ounce package of tofu, drained and pressed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (if you are vegan you can use a vegan version—I did)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth (you can use more if you would like a thinner sauce)


Start by cooking your orzo according to the directions on the box. Mine said to boil it for 8 minutes.

While the orzo is cooking, you can make your pesto. It’s really important to get out most of the moisture from your tofu block before you make your sauce. Otherwise, your sauce is just going to be runny. So place the tofu between some paper towels and squeeze out all the extra water. This is a good way to get out your frustration about summer’s sayonara.

Add the tofu, basil, lemon, nutritional yeast, parmesan, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt, and vegetable broth to a large food processor. Turn the processor on and let it work its magic for about 5 minutes.

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Once the 5 minutes are up, check the consistency of your pesto. If you feel like it’s too thick you can add in some more vegetable broth and mix everything up again.

At this point, your orzo should be ready. Drain the pasta and then place it in a large bowl.

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Pour your pesto sauce over top of the orzo. Then add in the cannellini beans and sundried tomatoes.

Mix until the pesto is evenly distributed throughout the orzo.

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Then enjoy your last bite of summer’s herby goodness.

Even though it was sad to see summer end, at least I can say I kicked it out with the bang.

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A bang of pesto that is.

Here’s to freezing for the next 6 months.

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