Penne with Pesto and Vegetables Recipe | Vegetarian Times Skip to main content

Penne with Pesto and Vegetables

Pasta with pesto sauce is a terrific standby for weeknight dinners. But how do you moisten and bind pesto without adding loads of olive oil? Tofu to the rescue. Silken tofu magnifies the flavor of a small amount of olive oil to create an exceptionally creamy, healthful pesto. To make this dish even more substantial and nutritious, I've added steamed potatoes and green beans. The leftover steaming water produces a tasty vitamin-packed broth, which is perfect for thinning and warming the pesto. For a variation, substitute flat-leaf parsley and walnuts for the basil and pine nuts.



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4 oz. green beans, trimmed and halved (1 cup)
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12 oz. penne or other short tubular pasta
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6 small red potatoes , cut into ¾-inch chunks (12 oz.)
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¼ cup pine nuts (1 ½ oz.)
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1 medium clove garlic, peeled and crushed
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1 ¼ tsp. salt
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1 ½ cups fresh basil leaves
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½ cup low-fat firm silken tofu (4 oz.)
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1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Bring large pot of lightly salted water to a boil for pasta.
  2. Make pesto: In dry small skillet, toast pine nuts over medium-low heat, stirring, until light golden and fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and let cool.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle or side of chef's knife, mash garlic and 1 teaspoon salt until paste forms. Transfer to food processor along with toasted pine nuts, basil and pepper flakes and process until finely chopped. Add tofu and oil and process until mixture is smooth. Transfer to medium bowl and season with freshly ground pepper to taste. Set pesto aside.
  4. Place potatoes in a steamer basket in large saucepan over 2 cups boiling water and season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook 4 minutes. Add green beans to steamer basket, cover and cook until potatoes and beans are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer vegetables to large serving bowl; cover to keep warm. Measure 1/3 cup water remaining in steamer and stir into pesto until well blended.
  6. Meanwhile, add penne to boiling water; stir to prevent sticking. Cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. Drain pasta, reserving a little cooking water. Add pasta to vegetables along with pesto, adding a little reserved pasta water if needed. Toss to coat well and serve hot.

Nutrition Information: 

10 g
Total Fat: 
10 g
Saturated Fat: 
1 g
43 g
0 mg
687 mg
3 g
0 g
4 servings