Penne Pasta Salad (30 minutes!)

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Mixing bowl with penne pasta salad for a gluten-free vegan meal

Welcome to recipe #3 of my Thanksgiving Week Extravaganza!

That’s what I’m calling it because it’s everything I would ever want to eat at Thanksgiving and it’s all happening in 1 WEEK. I know, it’s a lot to take in. Are you prepared for all this deliciousness?

In case you missed it, Creamy Fall Soup in Acorn Squash Bowls and Roasted Squash, Pecan & Pomegranate Salad are already on the table. What’s missing? Pasta salad! Let’s fix that.

Food processor with ingredients for making basil pesto

Originally I had planned to make a traditional pasta salad modeled after this Vegan Macaroni Salad, but when I made the dressing it just wasn’t the quite flavor combination I had in mind. I had a craving for pesto and decided to switch directions.

This pasta salad is vegan and gluten free, comes together in about 30 minutes, and requires just 9 ingredients! This could be one of the last things you prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, or you can even make it ahead of time and let it rest while everything else finishes up as the flavors seem to improve the longer it hangs out.

The base is gluten free penne (I share my favorite brand below!), roasted tomatoes (use parchment paper while roasting unless you want a sad, blackened baking sheet like mine), and an insanely delicious and simple pesto dressing. Classic flavors, easy preparation, big flavor.

Baking sheet with freshly roasted cherry tomatoes for gluten-free pasta salad

I hope you all love this recipe! It’s:

Creamy
Hearty
Cheesy
Super flavorful
Healthy
Satisfying
& Quick

This is another simple side dish for Thanksgiving. Just a touch of pasta on the table while keeping things sophisticated. This would also be delicious year-round, especially when tomatoes are abundant.

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Mixing bowl with gluten-free penne pasta with pesto and cherry tomatoes

Penne Pasta Salad (30 minutes!)

Wholesome and delicious classic pasta salad made with creamy pesto dressing and roasted tomatoes. Made with just 9 ingredients in 30 minutes! The perfect quick + easy side dish.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Glass bowl filled with our Vegan Gluten-Free Penne Pasta Salad recipe
4.7 from 20 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6
Course Side
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? 4 Days

Ingredients

PASTA SALAD

PESTO

  • 2 cups semi-packed fresh basil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (4 cloves yield ~2 Tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (plus more for serving // or sub raw walnuts)
  • 1 medium lemon, juiced (yields ~3 Tbsp or 45 ml as original recipe is written)
  • 1/4 cup vegan parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
  • 1 pinch sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin is best // plus more for pasta)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Add tomatoes to the baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil and a pinch each salt and pepper. Arrange cut side up and roast for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and slightly shriveled. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a generous pinch of salt. Once boiling add pasta of choice and cook according to package instructions. Then drain and set aside. Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to prevent sticking.
  • Make pesto by adding basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, vegan parmesan cheese, and salt to a food processor and blending to combine. Stream in the olive oil until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed. If too dry, add a little water. It should be thick but pourable (see first photo).
  • Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more lemon juice for acidity, vegan parmesan cheese for cheesiness, salt for saltiness, or garlic for bite/spice. Set aside.
  • Add cooked pasta and roasted tomatoes to a mixing/serving bowl and top with pesto. Toss to combine and enjoy immediately. Garnish with extra vegan parmesan cheese and/or fresh parsley or basil (optional).
  • Best when fresh, though leftovers keep in the refrigerator up to 4 days. Enjoy at room temperature for best flavor/texture.

Notes

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with whole-grain penne and all of the pesto and tomatoes but no additional toppings.
*Pesto adapted from my Vegan Pesto Parmesan Breadsticks.

Nutrition (1 of 6 servings)

Serving: 1 serving Calories: 352 Carbohydrates: 37.3 g Protein: 9.6 g Fat: 19.7 g Saturated Fat: 2.7 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 116 mg Fiber: 1.6 g Sugar: 1.6 g

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  1. ilana says

    Thank you for your beautiful recipes Dana! I’d like to make this with zoodles, and I have two questions please. How would you suggest cooking the zoodles for this salad? And which of the steps (aside from making the pesto) can I make in advance? Many thanks :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Ilana, we would recommend briefly sautéing the zoodles on the stovetop in a small amount of oil. The pesto, vegan parmesan, and pasta can all be made in advance. Let us know how it goes!

  2. Igor says

    Hey Dana,

    This looks like a lovely recipe. Just curious, if I were to meal prep this to take to work for lunch, should I wait to combine the pesto and pasta? Any other tips? Thanks!

  3. Rachel says

    This was fantastic! I didn’t keep it vegan and used the regular penne I had on hand. I added some small balls of mozzarella as well, my husband really liked that bit. I also modified the pesto as I didn’t have 2 cups of basil and substituted a cup of baby spinach leaves. Will absolutely make this again!!

  4. Abigail says

    Just made this for dinner this evening and I am impressed and in love ? Creamy, tangy, so much life-affirming basil.. 100% delicious. I used a penne made from green lentils and quinoa plus a half box of green pea rotini spiral pasta and I liked how it looked. I have a sample to a friend of mine and she could hardly believe it was vegan and gluten free! Big win. Will make again (with extra tomatoes because YUM) Thank you!

  5. claire says

    i get hungry just reading the recipes. it has made dinner time more interesting with all the delicious recipes. thank you so much.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Cindy. We are so glad you enjoyed it! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! Xo

  6. Eva says

    I just made this for a potluck at a homebrew beer festival barbecue competition. Looking to use lots of cherry tomatoes and basil from the garden. I didn’t bother with gluten free noodles (not too many folks at a beer festival looking for gluten-free options), used 1/2 pine nuts and 1/2 raw walnuts, and I didn’t let anyone know it was vegan. It was gone in an instant – everyone loved it, even the die-hard meat eaters. I doubled it. Excellent recipe!

  7. bonnie says

    My question: Can any of this be done the night before & if so, which part? Time will be of the essence–making for a luncheon and will be pressed for time. Thank you!

  8. Brittany says

    I made this exactly as directed and it was so lemony, it was inedible. I tried to salvage it by adding more of everything else, but the lemon was so overpowering that I had to throw it away and buy it from the store in time for our dinner with friends. I’ve never used lemon in a pesto recipe and now I know why.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Brittany, sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy the lemony flavor. Lemon is fairly common in dairy-free pesto recipes and other readers seem to love this recipe so we aren’t sure what went wrong. But you could certainly try leaving it out or reducing next time!

  9. Renee Plummer says

    I need to make this for 20 people can I triple the recipe? Have you tried this? Thank you

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Renee, we haven’t tried that, but it should work! The one thing that could be tricky is roasting the tomatoes as you will have to do that in batches unless you have enough oven racks and baking sheets. You could try subbing sun-dried tomatoes for simplicity. Hope that helps!

  10. Nancy F says

    Our entire family loved this recipe – it’s quick enough for a weeknight meal as well. I tasted it as written as a side and loved it, but I added sliced chickpeas to up the fiber/protein as a main dish. I enjoyed the roasted tomatoes enough that I may double them next time. Definitely will repeat!

  11. Gadgetgirl24 says

    Hi I’m really interested in making this, but have nut allergies. Is there an alternative to using nuts to make the pesto?

  12. janina coiro says

    OMG! Made this for a potluck at my school. Was kinda nervous bc I’m vegan, but my coworkers aren’t. Had SO many ask my for the recipe. Success! Thank you!!!

  13. Welithon says

    I made this and it turned out great!!!! I made it with Dairy parmesan cheese and I also added extra parmesan too.
    And to finish it I added some grilled shrimp! (It was solo good!) Thanks for the recipe!

  14. elaine says

    awesome and easy recipe for any night! i added a bag of vegetable slaw and a head of roasted broccoli to make it heartier and it was a hit.

  15. Becca says

    Looks delicious and not too difficult for my 14 year old self! My family and I are vegans, we are so excited to try out this recipe! Having it for supper tonight!:)

  16. Rachel says

    I’m making this for part of our Christmas lunch and am going to finish with some fresh rocket as well. Looks amazing! Hope the family likes it.

  17. Anna says

    I made this recipe for a vegan potluck today and everyone was pleasantly surprised by the vegan pesto and vegan parmesan cheese. Safe to say I returned home without any leftovers. ;)

  18. Morgan says

    I went into this with ideas of extra stuff I wanted to add, like red bell pepper and red onion. But once I tasted the pesto sauce, I knew I wouldn’t need anything but the recipe exactly as written. So delicious, bright and flavorful! I only wish pine nuts weren’t so crazy expensive — but I’m sure walnuts will still be great. Thanks for the fantastic and simple recipe! Your recipes have been a life saver as I’ve transitioned to a vegan lifestyle.

  19. Jen says

    I had tomatoes and basil fresh from the garden, so I was excited to try a new recipe. There was a bit too much garlic in the pesto for me. I’m hoping that no one stands too close to me today. Thankfully, I am fully stocked up on gum. I will make this again, but use less garlic. :-)

  20. Abby says

    I follow the recipe exactly and was so pleased with how it turned out. It’s been a hot summer and I was craving a good pasta salad and this hit the spot. The vegan parmesan was incredible!! I added a lot more olive oil to the pasta after i refrigerated it to keep it from drying out and I’m glad I did. Thanks for your recipes!!!!!!

  21. Gemma says

    Made this for a potluck with a few minor changes – Im not vegan so I used regular parm and I added a bit of Greek yogurt for creaminess. It tasted very good the first day but dried out a bit the next day (the day of the potluck). Unfortunately it was not a very popular dish.

    • Belle says

      You really shouldn’t take stars off a recipe if you changed it and then people didn’t like it…that’s basically your fault Gemma.

      • Gemma says

        Also as even when I first made this, it was not a five star recipe for me. It was good but not something I would recommend or make again.

  22. Roshae says

    I love anything with pesto so I knew this would be great. This was my first time making vegan Parmesan cheese, I was so amazed how great it tasted. The roasted tomatoes were great next time i’ll add more. I paired this with the garlicky kale salad with crispy chick peas. I appreciate all your wonderful recipes.

  23. Chrissie Lavender says

    I love this dish and it’s simplicity. I’ve made it twice now and each time the results were just delish. Love the pesto, love the tomatoes. Yum!

  24. Abigail says

    We made this tonight and absolutely loved it. We decided to add some roasted asparagus, artichoke hearts, diced red onion and sliced black olives in as well. It was so fresh and the different tastes blended really well. I love this pesto! I made the pesto and vegan parm then night before to save some time and it was perfect the next day – just needed to add some water to it.

  25. Luiza Kensell says

    Well, I added a little bit of a twist to this recipe and decided to share it with you. Instead of nuts I used sunflower seeds, added some diced onions into the mixture, and 1 hot pepper. I really loved the sweet-spicy flavor of it! None the less, this was a great recipe which I’m going to try more often.

  26. Paola Vaccari says

    I’m Italian and I do love pasta!!I have fresh basil in my garden, I’ll try this recipe…healthy and tasty!

  27. Kerry says

    I made a half recipe of this because my husband usually turns his nose up at cold pasta. Well…so much for that myth. I used grape tomatoes and tossed in a bit extra parm, and I used walnuts. It was absolutely delicious. Your recipes are so colourful, interesting and so, so tasty! Thank you for sharing.

  28. Amanda @ Ablonderfullife says

    This looks absolutely DELICIOUS! I have been looking for a recipe that is not my usual pasta salad that I bring to every event. I’m sure my family is sick of it! :) I cannot wait to try this.

  29. Laurie says

    Outstanding! I have to admit that I was not that excited about this meal because I usally don’t like cooked tomatoes but since every single recipe of yours that I have tried is an absolute keeper, I decided to give this a try (and… I had a bunch of basil that needed to be used up.) It is SO GOOD! I love the lemony pesto and the roasted cherry tomatoes were such a pleasant surprise! Keep those recipes coming – you have a gift! Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us!!

  30. Julie says

    I really want to make this, but I have a sister who is allergic to peanuts, so all nuts but almonds are not safe to use. Do you know what would be the best substitutes?

  31. Kay says

    This looks so good!! It’s impossible to find vegan cheese in my town – any suggestions on a substitute? Could I just leave it out?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi there! I make my own! Cashews, nutritional yeast, sea salt and garlic powder. Follow the link above!

  32. Michelle says

    This looks delicious (and definitely will be, because everything you make is amazing). Do you think this would be good with zoodles, in lieu of pasta?