This budget-friendly recipe for Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad with Creamy Cilantro Dressing is a delicious, easy vegan dinner that the whole family will enjoy.
Not only is this recipe quick and easy to make, it's also nutritious and very versatile. Feel free to substitute the vegetables for ones you already have on hand, and swap out the pasta for another grain of your choice. The roasted veggies are also delicious on their own.
More Roasted Veggie Recipes:
🥬 Why This Recipe Is Fabulous
- It's veggie loaded. You get a huge portion of your daily veggie servings in one meal.
- Roasting the veggies makes them sweeter and more appealing to kids. Even better is that they all get roasted on one baking sheet, so there's minimal clean up.
- The creamy cilantro dressing adds healthy fats from the cashews and avocado.
- Make this a high protein dinner simply by adding roasted chickpeas. Roast them at the same time you roast your veggies, but on a separate baking sheet.
- The ingredients are budget-friendly. This means you'll probably make this dinner over and over again.
📖 How to Make This Recipe
Soak the Cashews & Cook the Pasta:
Start by soaking the raw cashews. Ideally, it's best to soak them overnight, but the quick soak method works perfectly well too. For the quick soak method, boil enough water to cover the cashews by about 2 inches. Soak the cashews in the hot water for at least an hour. Drain, and rinse.
Cook the pasta as per the directions on the packet until al dente. Set aside.
Roast the Vegetables:
Toss the zucchini, bell pepper, and red onion in olive oil, salt and black pepper. Roast them on a large, rimmed baking sheet in a single layer for 10 minutes. Don't overcrowd the veggies or they will end up soggy.
Make the Creamy Cilantro Dressing:
While the veggies are in the oven, make the dressing. If you have a high-speed blender, this is the best option for blending the cashews. It will produce a creamier dressing. Transfer the dressing ingredients to the blender and blend on high until smooth.
Remove the roasted veggies from the oven and add the garlic and cherry tomatoes. Roast for 10 minutes more. Add the kale and roast for another 2 minutes, or until the kale is just wilted.
Mix the roasted veggies with the pasta, olives, and the desired amount of dressing.
📖 Ingredients & Nutrition
Cilantro leaves add a fresh, citrus-like flavor to the creamy cashew dressing.
Cashews are low in sugar and rich in fiber, heart-healthy fats, and plant protein. They are the gold standard in vegan cooking for making creamy sauces and dressings.
Lycopene, a carotenoid responsible for the red color in tomatoes and other fruits, has long been known as a powerful antioxidant that decreases cancer and heart-disease risk. Tomatoes release more lycopene when cooked because heat breaks down plant cells, making it more bioavailable. Raw tomatoes have many health benefits too, but roasting them makes them sweeter, intensifies their flavor, and brings out their umami quality.
The roasted tomatoes are a must in this recipe. Combined with the roasted minced garlic, they make this dish.
Kale is veggie superstar for good reason. High in nutrients, and very low in calories, it's among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It offers the benefits of dark leafy greens but with lower oxalate levels. Kale is also a good source of calcium which is sometimes lacking in vegan diets.
Kalamata olives add a unique, salty Mediterranean flavor to this pasta salad. They can be expensive, so feel free to substitute for other types of olives, or leave them out.
Olives are very nutritious. They're rich in antioxidants, one of these being hydroxytyrosol, which has been shown to decrease bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL).
Although they have several heath benefits, olives are high in sodium, and so should be eaten in moderation. I rinse mine in water before using to remove some of the salty brine.
Some people possess a gene that makes them super-sensitive to the aldehyde component found in cilantro. What’s even more interesting, women are more likely to detect a soapy taste and dislike cilantro. Some suggest that crushing the cilantro leaves before using it diminishes the soapy characteristic. Over time, if you have enough positive associations with eating cilantro, even the most extreme cilantro-haters can be converted into liking it.
Fun fact: The primary chemical that makes cilantro taste like cilantro (citronellol), is also the number one fragrance in Ivory soap! Although this may be true, this dressing tastes nothing like soap, I promise.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
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Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad
- 3 cups dry pasta
- 1 large zucchini sliced into ¼-inch-thick half moons
- 1 small red bell pepper cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ medium red onion cut into ¾-inch squares
- Drizzle of olive oil for roasting*
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ pint grape tomatoes or cherry, halved
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 cups chopped kale
- ¼ cup kalamata olives halved (optional)
For the dressing:
- ¾ cup cashews raw, soaked overnight*
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- ¼ large avocado
- 1 large clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice plus more to taste
- ½ cup water
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet. Set aside.
- Roast Vegetables: Transfer the zucchini, bell pepper, and onion to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Toss to coat. Transfer the tossed vegetables onto a large, rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes.
- Dressing: While the vegetables are roasting, make the dressing. Drain the cashews. Add them to a high speed blender with the cilantro, avocado, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, fresh lime juice, and water. Blend until smooth. Add more lime juice to taste. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Add Tomatoes: Remove the vegetables from the oven and add the tomatoes, and garlic and toss. Roast for another 10 minutes.
- Add Kale: Transfer the kale to a small bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Remove the vegetables from the oven, and add the kale. Cook for 2 minutes more, or until the kale is just wilted. Stir to combine.
- Combine: Mix the pasta, roasted vegetables, olives, and the desired amount of cilantro cashew dressing in a medium bowl.
- Soak cashews: Soak overnight, or use the quick soak method. For quick soak: cover with boiling water and soak for 15 minutes before using. If you own a high speed blender, this step is optional.
- For oil-free: Substitute for balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
- Substitute the veggies with what you have on hand. Broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, and Brussels sprouts work well. Use the same quantities listed in the recipe.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is an ESTIMATE only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased can change the nutritional information in any given recipe.