This pesto broccoli pasta salad recipe is a healthy summer side dish or vegetarian main dish. Great for using fresh veggies and herbs from the garden. And when you use this gluten free pasta it adds lots of plant protein as well!
You might also like this sweet & tangy broccoli salad without mayo!
I love cold salads in the summer time. They are hearty, tasty and keep you cool when the weather is hot. Today my mission was to make this pesto broccoli pasta salad recipe with hopes my son would eat it.
He does not like any kind of cold pasta salad and I thought this one would work because he loves the flavors of pesto sauce and broccoli mixed with rotini but he was still resistant. The good news is that my hubby and I love it and it’s very healthy!
I used a chickpea pasta that I bought at Aldi and it is full of protein! It was the perfect addition to the broccoli, tomatoes and basil dressing!
Recipe ingredients I used.
Below you can see the simple ingredients I used which were chickpea rotini, grape tomatoes, fresh broccoli, olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh basil and parmesan cheese.
About the chickpea pasta.
This chickpea rotini pasta is pretty healthy in my opinion. The only ingredients are chick peas. A 1 cup serving has 11g of fiber and 19g of protein. That is compared to regular rotini which has 2.5g fiber and 8g protein.(source)
While I used it to make this dish even more healthy and to add some protein, you can certainly use regular pasta. I would suggest a shape like rotini or penne rather than regular spaghetti though.
How to make healthy pesto broccoli pasta salad.
Step 1: First you want to do is get a big pot of water going and cook pasta according to the package directions. You don’t want to over cook the pasta though.
When it’s done, drain and rinse with cool water to quickly bring it down to room temperature. Set aside while make the rest of the dish.
Step 2: To make the pesto, add the fresh garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse until minced. Then add the basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Blend until the basil is minced and a paste forms.
Step 3: Chop the broccoli into small, bite sized pieces and slice the grape tomatoes in half. Add the pasta and veggies to a large bowl and mix with the pesto paste.
I tried to keep the olive oil to a minimum but if you want to add more olive oil you can.
TIP: If raw broccoli is hard for you to digest, you can microwave it for 1 minute in the microwave then run under cold water. Or blanch it in boiling water for a 2-3 minutes then immediately place in a bowl of ice water so it retains the color and doesn’t continue boiling.
Step 4: Place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours until it’s chilled through. Store leftovers in an airtight container. (Please scroll down to view the printable recipe card.)
Variations to this recipe.
I wanted to eat this as a colorful side dish this summer but you can eat this a complete meal if you want. Ways you can change up this recipe is:
- Add other fresh vegetables, like asparagus, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, snap peas, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, onion, spinach, green beans etc.
- If you want to add meat to this pasta dish you can add cooked chicken or shrimp.
- Other things to try are walnuts, pecans or other nuts and seeds. Olives, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes or any antipasto item. Or add more fresh herbs like parsley, thyme oregano, cilantro, etc.
Other healthy summer salads to try.
I have over 70 salad recipes on this blog that you might like. Most are low carb but some are just family favorites of ours.
- antipasto tortellini salad
- zucchini quinoa salad with mint
- Mexican bean salad (popular favorite!)
- avocado coleslaw
- Greek sweet potato salad
- rainbow Asian slaw
- cauliflower rice tabouli
While this did not work out for my picky son, this was a winner with me and my husband. And I think it was a great way to the chickpea pasta and add some extra protein to a pasta dish.
I hope you give this one a try and that you like it. Enjoy!
The nutritional information for 1 serving is 211 calories / 11.7g fat / 20.6g carbs / 4.9g fiber / 8.9g protein
- 6 oz chickpea rotini (or regular rotini)
- 2 cups broccoli florets, bite size pieces
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Get out a large pot and fill with water to make your pasta according to the package instructions.
- Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water to quickly cool the pasta. Set aside to bring it to room temperature.
- Add the basil leaves to a food processor along with the garlic cloves and pulse until both are finely minced. Then add in the parmesan cheese, salt and olive oil. Blend until it makes a paste.
- Chop the broccoli florets into bite sized pieces and slice the grpae tomatoes in half.
- Add the cooled pasta to a large mixing bowl along with the broccoli, rotini and tomatoes. Mix in the pesto sauce well to coat all the ingredients.
- Set into the refrigerator and chill for 1-2 hours to let the salad marinate. Serve as a side dish or as a main dish.
TIP: If raw broccoli is hard for you to digest, you can microwave it for 1 minute in the microwave then run under cold water. Or blanch it in boiling water for a 2-3 minutes then immediately place in a ice bath so it retains the color and doesn't continue boiling.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 211