Pesto Pasta with veggies in a bowl

Ben and I are watching a series on Peacock TV called Escape to the Chateau. It’s about a British couple and their two young children who purchase a derelict, yet COMPLETELY dreamy, 19th century French chateau to restore and turn into their home/event venue. If you like House Hunters but are always curious to know what happens next, this show is for you. Except replace a 2 bedroom condo in Boston with a 45 room chateau in the French countryside.

Can you say upgrade?!

The chateau is everything this history-lover could ever want in life, but also, I am so stressed out watching each episode. The thing is in such bad shape when they buy it! Luckily Dick is an engineer, and his wife Angel is a designer, so they know just what to do. Dick also grew up on a farm and transformed the Chateau’s weed-filled walled garden into a field of dreams with wild flowers and rows and rows with beds and beds of homegrown produce.

I can totally see Dick and Angel hopping out to the garden to pick the ingredients to make Pesto Veggie Pasta once a week. This vegetarian pesto pasta dish is packed with fresh herbs and vegetables!

Overhead Photo of a bowl of pesto veggie pasta

Pesto Veggie Pasta

Rotini pasta joins sauteed vegetables including zucchini, summer squash, sweet corn, and cherry tomatoes, seasoned with a robust Montreal seasoning blend, then homemade basil pesto and salty pasta cooking water are swirled in to create a light and silky sauce. I am obsessed with adding pasta cooking water to pasta dishes – including this pesto pasta. The starch in the pasta cooking water mixes with the pesto allowing it to cling to every single swirl of the rotini.

This gluten free, vegetarian pesto pasta dish is garlicky, super fast, and so so good. We will be making and eating all spring and summer long!

The Art of Homemade Pesto

I’ve learned over the years that making homemade basil pesto is somewhat of an art form. In an ideal world, pesto is made by finely chopping the ingredients then blending them together using a mortar and pestle, but here in my real world with a job and three kids, I rely on my food processor to get the job done! Here are the ingredients I use, and my main findings:

  1. Fresh basil: choose basil that hasn’t flowered or it can taste bitter, and remove the stems. Also don’t over-process the basil in the food processor – pesto should be loose vs pasty.
  2. Walnuts: I prefer using walnuts over pine nuts in my basil pesto simply because I don’t keep pine nuts in the house. Walnuts though? Easy to find, inexpensive, and always around.
  3. Fresh garlic: I am of the belief that you can never have too much garlic in a recipe EXCEPT when it’s uncooked. That said, since basil pesto is a raw sauce, you’ll want to stick to 2 small cloves in the pesto recipe.
  4. Lemon juice: A little bit of lemon juice totally wakes up the flavor of fresh pesto. The pesto shouldn’t taste lemony, but you can absolutely taste the difference when a squeeze of fresh lemon juice is added. Very bright and fresh.
  5. Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated, please! I like to stir the parmesan cheese into the pesto at the end to keep its feathery texture.
  6. Extra virgin olive oil: Have you ever made homemade pesto only to find it tastes bitter? The basil might have flowered before being picked, but chances are higher that the oil was over processed, causing it to break down and release bitter-tasting compounds called polyphenols. That said, do not process your pesto ’til kingdom come! Again, this is a loose sauce vs a mayonnaise-y paste.

Alrighty – let’s cook!

fresh homemade pesto in a bowl

Step 1: Make the Basil Pesto

Start by making the fresh pesto. To the bowl of a food processor add fresh basil, walnuts, garlic, salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Pulse until the basil is finely chopped.

Next, stream in extra virgin olive oil, scraping down the sides once. Again, you don’t need to sloooooowly stream it in as if you’re making mayonnaise. We’re looking for something between a pour and a stream – you’ve got it!

Remove the bowl from the unit then stir in freshly grated parmesan cheese. Taste then add more lemon juice if needed. We’re looking for a fresh and bright flavor vs an overly lemon flavor.

Step 2: Boil the Pasta

Next add gluten free rotini (or regular rotini if you don’t need to eat GF) into a big pot of boiling water that’s been seasoned with a small palmful of salt. Cook until the pasta is just shy of al dente then BEFORE DRAINING remove ~1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta then set aside.

Step 3: Saute the Vegetables

Meanwhile, add chopped shallot or onion, zucchini, summer squash, and fresh garlic to a large skillet with extra virgin olive oil. Season generously with Montreal seasoning, which gives the fresh veggies big, meaty flavor, then saute until they’re crisp-tender, 5-6 minutes.

Step 4: Mix Everything Together

Once the vegetables are crisp-tender, add the drained pasta, halved cherry tomatoes, the fresh pesto, plus a splash of the pasta cooking water and stir to combine. The cooking water will help loosen up the pesto and create a light yet flavor-packed sauce.

That’s all she wrote! Taste then add more salt if necessary before dishing up and digging in. I hope you love this fresh and tasty Pesto Veggie Pasta as much as we do – enjoy!

vegetarian pesto pasta in a bowl

More Fresh Vegetable Pasta Recipes

Pesto Veggie Pasta

5/5 (2 REVIEWS)


Pesto Veggie Pasta is a fresh and healthy vegetarian pasta dish that packs in the vegetables, yet is super satisfying.


serves 4-5

  • 8oz gluten free rotini
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot or small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 small summer squash, chopped
  • Montreal seasoning
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • Prepared pesto (recipe below)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • For the Pesto (makes a heaping 1/2 cup):
    • 2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
    • 2 Tablespoons walnuts
    • 2 small cloves garlic
    • big pinch salt
    • squeeze fresh lemon juice
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. For the Pesto: Add basil, walnuts, garlic, salt, and lemon juice to a food processor then pulse until basil is finely chopped. Stream in extra virgin olive oil while the food processor is running, scraping the sides down halfway through. Don't over-process as the extra virgin olive oil can become bitter tasting. Stir in parmesan cheese then add more lemon juice if needed. Pesto shouldn't taste lemony, just fresh. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add ~1 Tablespoon salt and the pasta. Cook until pasta is just barely al dente (it will continue to cook slightly when added to the skillet with the vegetables) then BEFORE DRAINING carefully scoop out ~1 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta then set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add shallots or onions, sweet corn kernels, zucchini, and summer squash. Season generously with Montreal seasoning then saute until zucchini begins to soften, 3 minutes. Add garlic then continue to saute until zucchini is crisp-tender, another 3 minutes.
  4. Add pesto, cooked pasta, and cherry tomatoes to skillet then stir to combine. A ~1/4 cup pasta cooking to help the pesto adhere to the pasta, adding a bit more if needed to create a thin, light sauce. Taste then add more salt if necessary, and then scoop into bowls and serve.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,

Photo collage of pesto veggie pasta