Fresh Nut-Free Pesto Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Red Bell Peppers and Chickpeas

Keep some whole wheat rotini pasta, canned chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) and roasted sunflower seeds on hand to make this quick fresh pesto pasta salad any time of year.


We love the versatility of veggie loaded pasta salad for easy weeknight meals, make ahead lunches and potluck parties. You can easily swap other veggies and beans and use your favorites. Here’s a few swap ideas:

  • chopped broccoli for asparagus

  • frozen green peas (defrosted) for chickpeas

  • sun dried tomatoes for red bell pepper

We made this nut-free pesto during one of our live cooking demos so the students with nut allergies could still enjoy the vibrant flavors of freshly made pesto. Roasted sunflower seeds give a deep nutty flavor and fit right in with parmesan and fresh basil.

If you’re too strapped for time to make fresh pesto - you can usually find it prepared in the refrigerator aisle of many grocery stores as well as jarred options in the pasta aisles.

Fresh Pesto Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Red Bell Peppers and Chickpeas

Roasted sunflower seeds add a nutty flavor to the fresh pesto in this vibrant veggie loaded pasta salad.

Makes: 4 Servings

Fresh Pesto Pasta Salad

Ready In:

  • ½# whole wheat rotini noodles (about ½ box or package)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 2” strips
  • 12-16 oz fresh asparagus, cut into 1-2” pieces
  • 1 (15-oz) can, garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Nut-Free Pesto Sauce (makes 1 cup):
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds, roasted, salted
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 of a small lemon)
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Prepare Nut-Free Pesto Sauce by pureeing all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

  1. In a large pot, cook whole wheat noodles according to package directions.
  2. When done, keep the hot water in the pot, but remove noodles (using a strainer). Give the noodles a quick rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. Drain any excess water.
  3. Place rinsed and drained noodles in a large bowl and add garbanzo beans.
  4. Bring water in large pot back to a boil.
  5. Blanch asparagus and bell pepper by adding to boiling water for 2 minutes, or until they reach desired crisp tenderness.
  6. Quickly remove veggies from pot and place in ice bath to stop cooking. Drain and add to pasta.
  7. Add pesto to pasta and veggies and gently combine all ingredients.

Kitchen Shortcuts:
  1. While you wait for the water to boil - prep the rest of the ingredients: Rinse fresh veggies, basil and lemon and cut veggies. Drain and rinse beans. Mince garlic. Juice lemon. That way as soon as the noodles are done, you'll be ready to blanch the veggies.
  2. Save extra time by pureeing the pesto while the pasta is cooking.

Optional: top with grated parmesan, fresh basil leaves, grilled or roasted protein (chicken, salmon or shrimp would all work well).


500 calories, 21 g total fat, 3.5 g sat fat, 0 g trans fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 540 mg sodium, 66 g carbohydrates, 12 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 18 g protein

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