Beet Pesto Penne Pasta (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

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Jazz up pasta night with a nutritional powerhouse pesto sauce featuring the beautiful red beet! Beet Pesto Penne Pasta includes delicious fresh basil combined with sweet roasted beets, lots of garlic, and nutritional yeast in place of Parmesan for a “cheesy” vegan pesto. Nutritional yeast is high in vitamins, especially Vitamins B6 and B12!  

This beet pesto is a household favorite. My husband claims that this pesto is so good that he would lick the blades off the food processor (Don’t worry - no one was harmed in the making of this recipe). Beet Pesto Pasta tastes light but is rich in flavor. Roasted beets and basil are a delightful combination, and the toasted walnuts (we replace pine nuts with walnuts because walnuts contain awesome health benefits) add delicious nutty flavor and extra nutrients.

Walnuts are crazy high in plant Omega-3s, which improve cardiovascular function and brain health and other amazing health benefits. Walnuts also contain excellent plant-based proteins. One cup of walnuts equals over 12 grams of plant protein (as does some gluten-free pasta - our go-to pasta is organic edamame spaghetti as it’s filled with plant power protein). Yes!

One of the things that we love about adding beets to our pasta sauce is that red beets are anti-inflammatory AND nutritious. The red beet is a powerhouse of antioxidants, aiding cardiovascular health. Your heart will “beet” for this dish! Each serving of this pesto contains high amounts of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Plus - the crimson (sometimes pink) color is so stellar. The pasta is playful AND delicious!

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This pesto contains some chunky walnut pieces, which we don’t mind, but if you prefer a smoother pesto texture, finely grind walnuts before toasting. Also, toasting walnuts is optional, but toasting or sautéeing walnuts creates a DELICIOUS toasty taste and reduces the slight bitterness found in some walnuts.

Serve this pasta with your favorite baguette and/or gluten-free breads (or crostini), adding a side of greens for extra flavor and nutrients. For extra flavor top with chopped basil, fresh whole basil leaves, or vegan cashew cream. If not vegan, adding some Greek yogurt or regular sour cream works well too.

This pesto is also fantastic atop gluten-free bagel chips to make a deliciously vibrant beet appetizer. Beet pesto is quite diverse. It can be used with pasta, added to garlic breads (if not on a gluten-free diet), or used on crostini.

For more beet and walnut combos, try Beet Walnut Dip and Curried Beet with Toasted Walnuts Salad.

If you really want to change up your pasta night, try spiralized noodles? 35 Creatively Delicious Spiralizer Recipes showcases amazing ways to reduce your carb intake while increasing vegetables in your diet. Enjoy.

Beet Pesto Penne Pasta (Vegan and Gluten-Free) Recipe

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  • 2 medium red beets, roasted and peeled

  • 2-3 garlic cloves

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (or pine nuts), toasted

  • 3/4-1 cup fresh basil

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1/3 cup Nutritional Yeast

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • about 3/4 lb gluten-free penne pasta (most packages are 12-14 oz)


1.  Cook gluten-free pasta according to packaged directions. Remember, gluten-free pasta is more sensitive than regular pastas, so follow all directions accordingly!

2. While the pasta is cooking, pulse all ingredients in food processor starting with beets, walnuts, garlic, and basil. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and other ingredients until fully blended. 

3. Add pesto to cooked pasta, and lightly mix.

4. Garnish with more nutritional yeast, chopped walnuts, or chopped basil. Pine nuts rather than walnuts also work well.