Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad (Meal Prep)

Author: Sarah Cobacho

Published: March 20, 2024

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A person gently arranges four glass meal prep containers on a table, each filled with layers of creamy pistachio pesto, spelt pasta, cherry tomatoes, greens, and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, ready for the week ahead.

This Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad is the perfect meal prep for a takeaway lunch you’ll really look forward to! Is there anything more satisfying than a hearty pasta salad? This twist on the classic brings all the flavors of spring to the Mediterranean, but with some conscious ingredient choices to optimize both the taste and its nutritional profile. With 25 g of protein, 12 g of fiber, healthy fats from the nuts, and a serving of beans, whole grains, and greens in each bowl, it certainly delivers!

Final prepared serving of Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad in a bowl, showcasing the creamy green pesto coating the pasta, with tomatoes, greens, and seeds on top, ready to be enjoyed.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Deliciously Creamy: Our creamy pistachio pesto is a delicious, nutrient-dense, dairy-free, and oil-free alternative to regular pine nuts pesto. It’s also very versatile, and you could use any nuts. Nuts bring healthy fats and minerals.
  • Perfectly Balanced: Combining nutritious greens with protein-rich beans and nuts.
  • Adaptable: Easily switch to sunflower seeds for a nut-free version of gluten-free pasta for those with sensitivities.
  • Easy to make: This recipe is no fuss and really easy to put together. All you need is a quick blend for the sauce, cook the pasta, chop some tomatoes, and assemble!
  • Perfect for taking on the go: there is no need to reheat, and it will stay fresh for four days, making it an ideal meal-prep salad to take to work or school.

Ingredient Notes

Overhead view of ingredients for Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad laid out on a table, each labeled: sea salt flakes, pumpkin seeds, lemon juice, green olives, fresh basil, pistachios, cooked cannellini beans, soy milk, nutritional yeast, dry spelt pasta, cherry tomatoes, and a mix of spinach and arugula.
  • Pistachios: Offer texture and a flavor punch, substitute with sunflower seeds for nut allergies. We are using raw, unsalted pistachios.
  • Spelt Pasta: Spelt pasta brings a hearty fiber boost to every serving. I find spelt pasta extremely similar to wheat pasta in taste and texture, making them a wonderful way to add more wholegrain onto your plate without having to change much of your eating habits, especially if you’re used to “regular pasta.” It is a great swap to try for kids, too!
  • Cannellini Beans: Packed with plant protein and fiber, the cannellini beans in this pasta salad really up its nutrition profile while adding a delicious texture. They are also a great source of magnesium, iron, and folate.
    When using canned beans, make sure to rinse well to reduce sodium and improve digestion. Salt and oligosaccharides (the compound in beans that can sometimes make us feel a little bloated) accumulate in the liquid in the can. Rinsing is a simple and efficient strategy to reduce both.
  • Cherry Tomatoes: Add a fresh pop of flavor and color, and vitamin C.
  • Greens: Fresh greens add essential vitamins and minerals, enhancing the salad’s nutritional profile. I used a mix of baby spinach and arugula (rocket) to add more diversity, but you could use either of your favorite greens. Did you know that fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, or coriander also count in our daily green intake? They are often overlooked but are a delicious way to add more micronutrients, and all have anti-inflammatory properties.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Close-up of shelled pistachios in a round pink bowl, the key ingredient for the creamy pesto, displayed with rich texture and color variation.

Soak the pistachios to soften them for the pesto. Cook the pasta to al dente, then rinse under cold water to prevent clumping. Blend the soaked nuts, greens, and additional ingredients to create the creamy pesto. Layer your containers starting with pesto, followed by beans, pasta, tomatoes, and greens, then top with olives and pumpkin seeds for a lovely crunch.

Step-by-step meal prep showing cooked spelt pasta portioned into four clear glass containers, ready for layering with other salad components.

Variations and Tips

  • Greens Swap: If you prefer, you can use only spinach or arugula. Kale or mixed lettuce leaves are also a great option. If you’ve just washed them, ensure they are well-dried before adding them, as wet greens will go bad quickly.
  • Pasta Choices: Pick gluten-free or whole-grain options as you wish.
  • Keep It Fresh: Use fitted containers and follow our layering order to keep ingredients fresh and prevent sogginess.
  • Sticking Prevented: Rinsing pasta post-cooking ensures each piece remains distinct.
  • Customize the veggies: Our pesto sauce pairs perfectly with many vegetables. You could drizzle it over roasted red bell peppers, broccoli, or zucchini or even as a dip for roasted potatoes.
  • Love pesto and want to try it in some other way? I’ve got you! Try my High-Protein Mediterranean Pesto Bowl, One Pot Creamy Pesto Orzo, or High-Protein Orzo Pesto Salad. You can’t go wrong, they are all delicious!

Why You’ll Love This Creamy Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad

  • Nutrient-Dense
  • Texture-Rich
  • Wholesome
  • Customizable
  • Vibrant Flavors
Progression of meal prep for Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad, with the ingredients layered in glass containers; starting with a green pesto base, then adding beans, pasta, and tomatoes.
Progression of meal prep for Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad, with the ingredients layered in glass containers; starting with a green pesto base, then adding beans, pasta, and tomatoes.

Creamy Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad

5 from 2 votes
A vibrant, nutritious salad perfect for meal prep, featuring homemade oil-free pistachio pesto.
Sarah Cobacho (plantbaes.com)
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time50 minutes

Video

Servings 4

Ingredients

Creamy Pistachio Pesto (Oil-Free)

  • cup pistachios
  • 1.5 cup fresh basil, packed
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup soy milk
  • ½ tsp sea salt flakes (see notes)

Salad

  • 11 oz dry spelt pasta (or substitute with pasta of choice)
  • 2 cups baby spinach and arugula mix (or use one or the other)
  • 2 cups cooked cannellini beans
  • 7 oz cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
  • 16 green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Instructions

  • Soak the pistachios in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
  • Cook the pasta in salted water according to the packet instructions. Once cooked, drain, and rinse under cold water, until the pasta is cold. This prevents the pasta from sticking together.
  • In a blender, combine the soaked pistachios, basil, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, soy milk, and salt. Blend until smooth. This is your creamy pistachio pesto.
  • Prepare 4 containers, pour the creamy pistachio pesto, followed by the beans, pasta, tomatoes, greens, olives, and pumpkin seeds.

Notes

If using regular table salt, start with ¼ tsp and adjust to taste.

Per Serving

Calories 539kcalCarbohydrates 87gProtein 25gFat 12gSodium 580mgFiber 12gVitamin A 127IUVitamin C 17mgCalcium 149mgIron 5mg
COURSE Salad
CUISINE Mediterranean
KEYWORDS High Protein, Meal Prep, Nut-Free Option, Vegan
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FAQ

Can I use a different type of milk for the pesto?

Absolutely, any plant-based milk will do just fine.

How do I store the pasta salad?

In airtight containers, refrigerated, it will stay fresh for up to 4 days.

Is this pasta salad high in protein?

Each bowl contains 25 g of protein. To increase the protein intake, choose pasta with a higher protein content, such as lentil pasta.

Can I prepare this recipe in advance?

Definitely, it’s perfect for meal prep.

Are there any other nut options for the pesto?

While this recipe calls for pistachios, feel free to experiment with almonds or walnuts, or cashews if no allergies are present. For a nut-free option, I recommend sunflower seeds.

Is this gluten-free?

No spelt is not gluten-free. It’s a very nourishing and nutrient-dense whole grain. For gluten-free sensitivities or coeliacs, use gluten-free certified pasta; I love buckwheat pasta for this salad.

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