Red pesto pasta with spicy baked chickpeas is the ultimate vegan pasta dinner with luscious sundried tomato and roasted red pepper pesto topped with crispy seasoned chickpeas. This healthy meal is made without added oil, can be made mostly ahead of time. Depending on the pasta you use, it is also gluten-free.
why you need this recipe
Although this recipe sounds and tastes extravagant, you’re about to discover that it’s simple to create a delicious meal with healthier pesto than you’ll ever buy. Better yet, you can make all but the pasta ahead of time.
For your awareness and planning, I'm accounting for roasting your own red peppers in the oven. Jarred roasted peppers are widely available, but more often or not, they are packed in oil. They can also be quite expensive. For these reasons, I just roast them myself.
It's easy to roast the peppers, and if you've not roasted garlic before, you're in for a treat. And the chickpeas? They can go on a separate tray or in a baking dish. All together now!
Crispy seasoned chickpeas – A fancy term for nothing more than chickpeas seasoned with garlic powder, smoked paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper, plus salt and pepper. Shaken, not stirred, then baked crispy.
Red peppers – Use two large red peppers and roast them in the oven. Remove the stem and core and place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a baking mat. Peppers can be messy when roasted.
Garlic – Add 2-3 garlic cloves to the baking tray and roast them with the red peppers. Roasting takes the sharpness out of the garlic. If you end up using jarred red peppers, you can simply cut the garlic to 2 cloves and process it with the pesto.
Sundried tomatoes – I used dry-packed sundried tomatoes. You can also find them in jars, even water-packed. Semi-dried tomatoes are also a suitable option. You can also make them yourself, although you'll want to account for the time this takes and maybe make them a few days ahead. Semi-dried tomatoes will also work for the pesto.
Walnuts – Walnuts, blended with the pesto, give it an earthy flavor and chewy texture. Use raw, unsalted walnuts. If you need a substitute, hazelnuts would be closest, although almonds can also be used. If you use sunflower seeds or pepitas, roughly grind them separately before adding the rest of the pesto ingredients.
Tomato paste – Tomato paste not only adds a sweet, concentrated tomato flavor, but it helps the other red pesto ingredients to smooth out. I recommend using a regular tomato paste. If you use sundried tomato paste, it could end up being a bit too salty and strong-tasting.
Miso paste – Welcome to my favorite secret ingredient that brings on umami flavor with a simple teaspoon. My preference is white, Shiro miso paste, which is mild, but you can use whatever you like.
Lemon juice – Lemon juice balances out the sweet and salty flavors with citric acid to brighten the pesto.
Red chili flakes – We like things spicy, so I added red chili flakes. Adjust the amount you use accordingly.
Pasta – We've all got our favorites when it comes to pesto, but I find that something substantive such as penne or fusilli clings to the pesto. This creates a hearty dish. My preference is wholewheat pasta; however, this dish also works well with gluten-free pasta.
how to make red pesto
While the peppers and garlic roast, rehydrate the sundried tomatoes if you don’t have a high-speed blender. Add approximately 1 cup of tomatoes in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. This softens them. Drain them before adding them.
To make the pesto, simply add all the ingredients to a food processor or blender. Blend the pesto until smooth. It will be thick and pasty. No worries, I’ve got a fool-proof secret for making your final dish creamy.
since the oven’s on anyhow…
Although you can skip the baked chickpeas, I urge you not to. They are so yummy and really add notes of spice and texture to the pasta.
Roast the chickpeas at the same time you make the roasted red peppers and garlic. Remove them from the oven when the red peppers are brown (about 20 minutes), or leave them in the cooling oven. They will heat up enough when mixed into the pasta. Just try not to snack on them – it’s a challenge!
the secret to creamy pesto pasta
Have you ever made pesto pasta only to discover that in minutes it's on the dry side? Pasta simply absorbs pesto, and you're left with the rather unappealing option of dry pasta. Well, we're solving this – again. I talked about it in my basil pesto pasta post. Because it's such an important step, I'm covering it here and will continue in the future. The solution is so simple it deserves to be celebrated.
It’s the pasta cooking water.
I'm serious. Before you drain the pasta, reserve a cup of cooking water. After you mix the pesto and pasta, add water, a little at a time. For this recipe, I used about ¾ of a cup, but as use as much as you need until you have a creamy consistency that you like.
Red pesto is as healthy as the ingredients in it. If you buy prepared pesto, it can be made with added oil or unhealthy ingredients that boost calorie and fat levels. For the healthiest red pesto, make your own. This gives you total quality control. When buying prepared pesto, be sure to consider all the ingredients listed on the label.
Red pesto with pasta is a satisfying meal on its own. Particularly with roasted chickpeas. We've found that this dish is well served with arugula (rocket) or other sturdy greens. Roasted veggies such as zucchini, other summer squashes, or sauteed mushrooms also complement the flavors of red pesto.
There is no best pasta for pesto. Traditionally, pesto is served with flat types of pasta such as linguini, spaghetti, or twisty pasta such as fusilli. We prefer smaller, tubular pasta such as penne as long as you use pasta water to moisten the pesto and ensure a creamy texture and maximum coverage.
red pesto pasta
Red pesto pasta with spicy baked chickpeas brims with umami flavor and creamy mouthwatering textures for a luscious vegan dinner.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 6
- Category: pasta
- Method: blend
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 can chickpeas (15 ounces/400 grams), drained but not rinsed
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of pepper
- 2 red bell peppers, quartered with the seeds and core removed
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
- 3 ½ ounces (100 grams) sundried tomatoes (1 cup)
- ½ cup walnuts
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon miso paste
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 16 ounces (450 grams) pasta
- Reserve ¾ - 1 cup of the pasta water
- Roast the red peppers and garlic. Preheat the oven to 4250 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.
- Season the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas to a container with a lid, then sprinkle them with the smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Secure the container lid and shake it to combine the spices and cover the chickpeas. Turn the chickpeas out on a lined baking tray and add it to the oven along with the red peppers and garlic. Roast the chickpeas until they are firm and slightly brown (about 20 minutes). Set the chickpeas aside when they are done until you finish the dish.
- Start the pasta. When the peppers have roasted for about 15 minutes, start the water for the pasta. When the water reaches a boil, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Before you drain the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
- 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.
- Finish the pesto pasta. Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot or place it in a large bowl. Mix the pesto until the pasta is covered. Start adding the pasta water a little at a time. Mix the pasta, adding more water as needed until it is creamy but not watery. Mix in half the chickpeas, then add the rest on top as a garnish.
- If you use dry-packed (dehydrated) sundried tomatoes and do not have a high-speed blender, soak the tomatoes by adding them to a small bowl and covering them with water.
- We like serving pesto pasta over a bed of arugula (rocket); however, you can also add other veggies such as sauteed zucchini or mushrooms. Other garnishes such as black olives or vegan parmesan will add another dimension of flavor.
- You can also, make this recipe using jarred roasted peppers. Use 2 jars and if they are packed in oil, wash them with warm water to help release the oil.
Keywords: sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, chickpeas, pasta, red pesto