I did a poll on my Instagram stories for this Mediterranean Diet recipe and am so excited to share it with you! I knew I wanted to form a summer dairy-free salad but wasn’t sure if it should have a vegan pesto sauce or a light-weight vinaigrette and y’all voted basil pesto so here it is! If you were team vinaigrette, here’s another tasty recipe for you or do that one with zucchini noodles!
This recipe is one that takes traditional salad and offers it an EBF Mediterranean diet upgrade — and it’s perfect timing because May is Mediterranean diet month!
If you’re not accustomed to it, the Mediterranean diet has been gaining popularity for awhile now… and permanently reason! Studies show that it can cause weight loss and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes, premature death. And a recent study also showed that it’s better for gut-health than other diets.
So what’s the Mediterranean diet all about? Well, it’s supported foods commonly eaten in countries bordering the Mediterranean — Italy, Greece, Spain, and Turkey. (Pretty sure i want to require a visit to every location only for a touch Mediterranean diet research. Who else wants in?)
The focus of the diet is whole foods including vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts (like walnuts!), fruit and additional virgin oil. Fish, lean meat, dairy and eggs are eaten occasionally, but beef is eaten rarely. Avoided foods include added sugar, processed oils and refined grains.
As you recognize I don’t have a label for my way of eating which may be a diet focused mainly on whole, real foods. That said, of all the diets out there, the Mediterranean diet is perhaps the closest to how I eat.
And I incorporated most of the most components of the Mediterranean diet into this recipe. Let’s break it down:
- Vegetables: check! i exploit peas, cherry tomatoes, fresh arugula, and fresh basil. Veggie packed!
- Whole grains: Yep! I subbed traditional white flour noodles for whole grain, gluten free noodles. I used rice and quinoa noodles, but you may also use legume based noodles! i really like the additional protein and fiber rice and quinoa noodles wake up the dish. Side note: rotini noodles are my fav because the swirls capture all the sauce. #priorities
- Nuts: I used walnuts to form the vegan pesto sauce which adds incredible flavor and keeps the dish dairy-free. Walnuts have historically been a component of the Mediterranean diet due to their heart-healthy properties. Walnuts within the U.S. are primarily grown in California because the climate is comparable to it of Mediterranean countries. Pretty cool, huh?
- Extra virgin vegetable oil: Yep! Make the pesto sauce with olive oil for plenty of healthy fats and a full-bodied, unique flavor.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve been eating a better fat diet lately and LOVE it! It keeps me so full, makes things taste delicious, helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and helps keep my skin and hair hydrated and exquisite. cause all the healthy fats!
Back to the present vegan pasta salad! I can already tell it’s visiting be a staple recipe this summer! It’s so perfect for summer parties, cookouts or barbecues. Speaking of which, if you’re searching for recommendations on the way to eat healthy during summer events pop over to my YouTube channel. I shared a bunch of great tips for healthy eating at cookouts and three plant-based recipes.
A Mediterranean diet inspired vegan pesto pasta salad that is loaded with veggies and tossed in a dairy-free walnut pesto sauce. The perfect dish to bring to summer parties and cookouts!
Vegan Walnut Pesto
- 1 cup baby arugula
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- juice of one lemon
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (more to taste)
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts
- 1 pound rotini pasta (I used GF brown rice + quinoa pasta)
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup fresh baby arugula
- 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- sea salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil (optional)
- Make pesto sauce by adding arugula, basil, oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor (affiliate link) and processing until smooth. Add the walnuts and pulse until the walnuts are ground to desired consistency. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Rinse with cool water and drain. Let pasta cool for about 5-10 minutes. Add pasta to a large salad bowl and toss with thawed peas, tomatoes, arugula toasted walnuts and olive oil. Add pesto, starting with ½ cup. Taste and add more pesto if you’d like. I like my noodles coated so I used all the pesto. Taste and season liberally with salt and pepper. Pasta salad can be served immediately, cold or at room temperature.