Creamy red pesto pasta with spicy chickpeas is made with our special blend of sun-dried tomato, red pepper pesto (pesto Rosso), and seasoned and baked chickpeas for a delicious vegan pasta dinner.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Like all our recipes, the pesto sauce and chickpeas are prepared without added oil. Read on for our tips about oil-free sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers.
- Spicy baked chickpeas make a delicious source of vegan protein for this pasta recipe.
- Unlike our other vegan pesto recipes, we swap pine nuts for healthy walnuts for an earthy, rich flavor.
- Roasting red bell peppers ensures you get whole nutrition. And they are far less expensive than jarred, swimming in oil, roasted peppers.
Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Sun-dried tomatoes. Use dehydrated sundried tomatoes or try our homemade, oil-free oven-dried tomatoes (it's easy!). Semi-or jarred are suitable alternatives if you can find them without oil.
Walnuts. Use raw, unsalted walnuts for the best earthy flavor and chewy texture. Hazelnuts are the closest substitute, although almonds can also be used. For using sunflower seeds or pepitas, roughly grind them separately before adding the remaining pesto ingredients.
Miso paste. My favorite secret ingredient that brings on umami flavor with a simple teaspoon. White Shiro miso paste is mild, but you can use whatever you like. A tablespoon (or two) of nutritional yeast is a good substitute.
Lemon juice. The sweet and salty flavors are balanced with citric acid to brighten the pesto. You can add a teaspoon of lemon zest as an option.
Chickpeas. Seasoned with garlic powder, smoked paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper, plus salt and pepper. Shaken, not stirred, then baked crispy. These are so yummy! Make a double batch just for snacking.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
Step 1: Roast the red peppers and garlic.
Step 2: Season, then roast the chickpeas.
Step 3: Blend the pesto ingredients until smooth.
Step 4: Mix the pesto with cooked pasta.
Step 5: Add pasta cooking water to make a creamy sauce.
Step: 6: Mix half the chickpeas, saving the rest to garnish the pesto pasta.
- Drain, but don’t rinse the chickpeas. Let the aquafaba (chickpea liquid) help the seasonings stick. No oil is needed.
- If you don’t have a high-speed food processor or blender, soak the sun-dried tomatoes before chopping them.
- Before draining the cooked pasta, scoop 1 – 1 ½ cups of the cooking water and save it. This is the secret to making creamy pesto pasta recipes of all kinds.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Let the package instructions guide you as to timing. As a guide, start the water after the peppers have roasted for about 15 minutes. You want to time it to finish the pesto while the pasta cooks.
- Pasta al dente means that when you test the pasta, you easily bite through it, but it should not be mushy.
This hearty pasta dish benefits from a bit of green, like a bed of arugula (rocket), or fresh herbs like basil and parsley. You could top it with a sprinkle of baked vegan parmesan cheese – handy if you snaked on the crispy chickpeas while making the pesto.
Quite by accident, we discovered that pesto pasta is excellent at room temperature as a pasta salad. Toss in a few sliced cherry tomatoes and diced red onion. As far as pasta salads go, this is a delicious one!
Frequently Asked Questions
Red pesto is as healthy as the ingredients in it. Store-bought pesto can be made with added oil or unhealthy ingredients that boost calorie and fat levels. For that reason, you should always read the labels. Homemade pesto is the way to go for the healthiest red pesto and total control of the ingredients.
There is no best pasta for pesto. Traditionally, pesto is served with flat pasta such as linguini, spaghetti, or twisty pasta such as fusilli. We prefer smaller, tubular pasta such as penne, using pasta water to moisten the pesto and ensure a creamy texture and maximum coverage.
To replace oven-roasted red peppers in this recipe, use 2 jars of roasted red peppers. If possible, use peppers in water rather than oil. To help reduce calories, rinse peppers in warm water if they are packed in olive oil.
Peeling roasted red peppers is optional if you blend them to make pesto. The easiest way to peel them after roasting is to add them to a small dish and cover them with plastic wrap until they cool. The peels will slide off.
Store leftover pesto with pasta in an airtight container for 5 days. Or freeze it for 3 months. Reheat on the stove at medium heat with a bit of added water. You can also reheat it in the microwave.
More Vegan Pesto Recipes
Do you have a question or recipe request or need a cooking tip? Leave a comment below or contact Denise. I’m here to help! If you want more healthy vegan recipes, please subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Pinterest for the latest updates.
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Creamy Red Pesto Pasta with Spicy Chickpeas
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- 1 can chickpeas - (garbanzo beans) 15 ounce can
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
- 2 medium red bell peppers - quartered with the seeds and core removed
- 2 cloves garlic - peeled and left whole
- 3 ½ ounces sundried tomatoes
- ½ cup walnuts
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon miso paste
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 16 ounces pasta - reserve 1-1 ½ cups of pasta cooking water.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F. (220 C.).
- Place the peppers and garlic on a lined baking tray, skin side up. Bake the peppers for 25 minutes or until they start to get soft and brown.
- Add the chickpeas to a container with a lid or bowl and sprinkle them with the smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Shake or mix the spices with the chickpeas.
- Spread the chickpeas on a lined baking tray and add them to the oven along with the red peppers and garlic. Roast the chickpeas until they are firm and slightly brown (about 20 minutes). Toss them a few times as they cook. Set the chickpeas aside when they are done until you finish the dish.
- When the peppers have roasted for about 15 minutes, start the water for the pasta. When the water reaches boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Before draining the pasta, reserve 1 ½ cups of the cooking water.
- To make the pesto, add the sundried tomatoes, walnuts, miso paste, lemon juice, and red chili flakes to a food processor or blender. As soon as the peppers are brown, remove them from the oven and slide them and the garlic into the food processor. Blend the pesto until it is smooth.
- Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot or place it in a large bowl. Mix the pesto with the pasta and add the reserved water a little at a time.
- Mix half of the chickpeas, then add the rest as a garnish.
- If you use dry-packed (dehydrated) sundried tomatoes and do not have a high-speed blender, soak them by adding them to a small bowl and covering them with water.
- You can also make this recipe using jarred roasted peppers. Use 2 jars; if they are packed in oil, wash them with warm water to help release the oil.
- Store red pesto pasta in the fridge for 4 days. You can also freeze pesto for 3 months.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.