Cilantro Pesto Quinoa Pasta Salad

The past few weeks have been some of the most exciting and challenging of my 28 years. I’m in the testing phase of my newest project, which means presenting my recipes (a.k.a my babies) to an entire team of people. Thankfully, we’re a close group who all have the same fundamental goals for our business, but amidst some ecstatic successes, there have been a few misses as well. Oh yes, I actually planned for that beverage to oxidize to the color of a manure and leave a bitter aftertaste?! 

The testing phase has left me with ample humility, ample confidence and ample…HERBS (like that transition?). Several of my recipes call for 1/2 cup herbs, which translates to approximately 10 cups of leftovers. As a result, pesto has been the name of the game recently in my kitchen! Pesto is so foolproof, customizable and delicious, it really should be a staple in everyone’s pantry. You can scoop it into ice cube molds and freeze it for a rainy/lazy day!

For this particular dish, I needed to utilize almost an entire bunch of cilantro. Pecans are such a decadent nut, that I thought they’d add some extra umami to a dairy-free pesto, along with the use of nutritional yeast. I considered pureeing the sundried tomatoes into the pesto, but they’re so beautiful folded throughout, and I love the zing of rich sweetness that you get biting into a piece.

As the weather has (finally) started to warm up, the notion of a big bowl of cold pasta salad has been infinitely appealing. This recipe hit the spot! Plus, it makes a ton, which means less work in the kitchen, so I have more free time for work…oh yeah, that’s in the kitchen too :).

Cilantro Pesto Quinoa Pasta Salad


  • 1 8 oz box quinoa spaghetti noodles (I use Ancient Harvest brand)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 3 cups cilantro, rinsed and de-stemmed
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped (use three if you want a pronounced garlic flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2-3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped


  1. Fill a large sauce pot 3/4 way with water and bring to a boil on the stove. Add pasta noodles, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir to combine.
  2. While pasta cooks, add to a food processor: remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pecans, cilantro, garlic and nutritional yeast. Process until ingredients are mostly incorporated. While machine is still running, slowly pour in olive oil until you reach desired consistency. Add black pepper to taste.
  3. When pasta has finished cooking according to package directions, drain in a colander, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. 
  4. Put pasta back in pot away from heat and add 3/4 of your pesto, or more as desired. Stir to coat noodles, adding cooking liquid to thin out as necessary.
  5. Fold in sun-dried tomatoes. Place pasta in a glass or metal container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. When you take pasta out, it will seem like some of the noodles have congealed. Just use a fork and your fingers to fluff it and gently pull them apart. Because you added the olive oil while cooking, they shouldn’t stay stuck together.
  6. Top with more freshly-ground black pepper to serve!

If you’re new to my blog and are thinking of unsubscribing due to this bizarre “yeast” product I use, never fear! Nutritional yeast is simply a dried version of something in the fungus kingdom…like a mushroom, but a bit different (am I actually helping my cause here?). It’s super high in B Vitamins and it has an amazing nutty, cheesy flavor, making it the parmesan of the vegan world. Pick some up at your Whole Foods bulk section and experiment with it on salads, dressings, grains beans etc. 

Enjoy this recipe and have a wonderful Spring day!

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5 responses to “Cilantro Pesto Quinoa Pasta Salad

  1. This sounds so delicious. I can’t wait to try it. Can I get the quinoa noodles at whole foods?

    • Hi Ellen! Yes, the quinoa noodles are made by a company called Ancient Harvest and can be purchased at Whole Foods. Let me know if you have any questions!

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