Lemon Sunflower Pesto Pasta

This Lemon Sunflower Pesto Pasta is a lovely quickie pasta dinner that gives your go-to red sauce spaghetti a night off. If you are a homemade pesto pasta lover like me, you’ve probably noticed that the price of pine nuts is pretty outrageous these past few years. Most stores sell them for around $30 a pound. So my traditional “pesto” recipe has taken a few turns over the past few years to accommodate the soaring pine nut prices. Instead of using all pine nuts in my pesto – I now use a wide variety of “nutty” bases. Walnuts work perfectly and lately I’ve been loving raw sunflower seeds as my base. Plus, they are super cheap and healthy too. Give my vegan pasta recipe a try!

Sunflower seeds provide the perfect nutty texture and mild flavor for a rustic pesto sauce. This sauce blends up to a bright seafoam/clover/spring green color – and has lemon-y basil flavors throughout. You will notice my pasta has a slight yellow-ish tinge to it since I added in a dusting of savory nutritional yeast. It acts as a dusty faux parm cheese sprinkle. You can add in more or less lemon juice depending on how zesty and bright you want your sauce. And optional jalapeno adds spiciness. This luscious sauce reminds me a lot of my Sunny Asparagus Tapenade.

Lemon Sunflower Pesto Pasta
vegan, makes at least 6 servings

1 pot of fresh pasta – any variety

Lemon Sunflower Pesto Sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice + a few grinds of fresh zest
4 cloves garlic or 2 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of fresh basil leaves
1 cup raw spinach
1 small jalapeno – with seeds for spicy kick
1 Tbsp maple syrup
3/4 cup raw sunflowers
1/2 cup pine nuts (optional – sub with walnuts or more sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup + leftover ‘pasta water’ drained from boiled pasta
salt and pepper to taste (at least 1/2 tsp salt)
add-in: 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (optional, but highly recommended for an added cheezy, savory flavor – plus oodles of nutrients!)


1. Cook your pasta. Drain water – reserve some of the pasta water.
2. Blend up your pesto sauce. I use my swift Vitamix to blend quickly. To adjust thickness, add more or less oil/water/lemon juice according to your taste preferences.
3. Pour sauce over hot drained pasta and serve immediately – or place covered in oven until ready to serve.

Check out 30 more lovely, lemony recipes here!

Article Posted 7 years Ago

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