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Punchy Pesto Pasta Salad

Smitten With Squash: A Punchy Pesto Pasta Salad (with zucchini) recipe – peace. love. quinoa

Jul 30

I am the proud new owner of a book, Smitten With Squash – a book that has taught me a lot about squash, which is something I never paid much attention to (outside of Spaghetti & Butternut Squash) because I didn’t think I liked it much. Thanks to this book that has given me some new ideas, I’m thinking I’ll become “smitten with squash”…. (haha, did you like that one??)

While in Minneapolis last week, I got to meet Amanda Paa, the author of the book and she autographed a few copies for me and some very special friends of mine. After sharing an amazing dinner downtown Minneapolis, Amanda & I knew we’d become besties. The chick is adorable and likes to eat damn good food – my kind of girl!! 

The first thing I did when I got my book was to bookmark all of the recipes I wanted to try first…. which was funny because as soon as I made it home from a 13 day, multi-city trip, I tried a recipe that I hadn’t even bookmarked. I don’t remember why it stood out to me – it just did. 

This Punchy Pesto Pasta Salad (that you see below) is the recipe I made on my first night home, and back in my kitchen. I used gluten-free noodles because I knew Amanda would be proud (she’s a gluten-free chick) and I knew that I would  LOVE with this pasta salad when I licked the spoon after mixing the pesto & red wine vinegar together. 

I invited a special guy friend of mine over to eat some of the pasta salad and he said “he’d meet the salad at the altar” – clearly, he liked it.

I did altar the recipe slightly – I used white Northern Beans instead of the Kidney Beans that the recipe calls for simply because I forgot to grab Kidney Beans and the store and I happened to have Northern Beans on hand. Also, I didn’t add the additional Parmesan Cheese that the recipe called for – again, I don’t keep it on hand so I didn’t have it available.  I didn’t feel bad about the alterations because Amanda encourages the customization of each recipe. I liked that I could change it up slightly and still produce a tasty meal.

So, Amanda’s got a few blogger friends featuring her recipes on their blogs and everything looks so damn good! It is so cool to see what was once a recipe written in black ink, brought to life in colorful photos! Actually, the photos these bloggers have taken of these squash recipes are so damn good looking that I’m almost intimidated to post my photos. I’m just not as good at taking food photos as the other bloggers are. Regardless of what my photos look like, I made a damn good dish.


Punchy Pesto Pasta Salad (with zucchini)

Author: peace. love. quinoa


  • 8 ounces cavatappi or penne pasta (gluten free if desired)
  • 1 (7 ounce) jar good-quality pesto (or make your own)
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney OR northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, be sure to add a pinch of sea salt to the water.
  2. Drain and rinse well under cold water.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together pesto, vinegar, and salt. Then add beans, arugula, zucchini, red onion, and cooked pasta. Fold to combine.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl, serve at room temperature.


Will keep in refrigerator for 2 days.


The recipe you see here reflects the slight changes I made in order to fit my needs and desires. I would prefer to use vegan pesto but I wasn’t able to find an so I used a traditional pesto that contains cheese (which is one more reason I didn’t add any extra parmesan – not even the vegan kind). If you can find vegan pesto, you can certainly use it in this recipe. I’m going to do my research to find out where I can purchase vegan pesto (and if you already know – hook a girl up!!) I have never made my own pesto but I’d like to – especially using ingredients from my garden. 

I’m pretty stoked to try more of Amanda’s recipes including the Vanilla Bean Butternut Apple Crisp (which was the very first recipe I bookmarked), White Beans + Butternut Squash with Crispy Chard (the chard will come out of my garden), Orange Butter-Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash (I told you I love Butternut), AND the Chocolate Coconut Zucchini Bread (drool).

These are just a FEW of the recipes I’ve bookmarked (obviously) …oh, and you know what I really love about this book? Many of the recipes are veg-friendly. Win! 

Tagged with → amanda paa • arugula • book • healthy • pasta • pesto • recipe • smitten with squash • squash • vegetable • vegetarian • zucchini 



a trip up North – Island Lake How Does Your Garden Grow?