Vegan since 1975, I decide to answer the question, "What DO you eat?" These posts tell about some meals and recipes my family and I have enjoyed over the years.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Noodle Salad and Vegan Pesto

Chopped collards, carrots and green onion

I don't feel like cooking every night in the summer, but cold pasta dishes are quick and easy to prepare, and enough can be made ahead, in case the next day is even hotter, or if you are going on a picnic or to a potluck.

Cook up a bunch of noodles in as big a pan as you have, filled three quarters full with water and a sprinkle of salt. There are plenty of different varieties of pasta, so pick your favorite. I usually use the organic spiral rotini or the diagonally cut penne tubes, just because I buy it in bulk and have a lot around. You can find noodles made from whole grains or gluten free varieties, if you want them.

Different kinds of noodles take different times to cook, but all like to be cooked in boiling water, and most take around seven minutes. Read the package if there are instructions, and if not, just retrieve a noodle to test every minute, until they seem done. As soon as the noodles are soft enough, run some water over them after draining them in a colander, to stop the cooking and just to cool them off. I don't do that in the cooler months, because I don't mind the heat as much and I think the seasonings sink into the warm noodles more thoroughly, but in the summer, I try to avoid heating up myself and the kitchen as much as possible.

Either before you cook the noodles, or while you are cooking them, you can make the marinade for a Noodle Salad or some Vegan Pesto. Mix either one with the cooked noodles and you are ready to eat.

For the NOODLE SALAD, chop up one red onion, three stalks celery and a large carrot into small pieces. If anyone hates raw onion, you can always plunk the cut up pieces into the cooking noodle water about a minute before you drain the noodles, to cut the sharp flavor.

In a large measuring cup mix up half a cup of apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar, half a cup of olive oil, two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a quarter cup of mustard, a tablespoon of tamari, a teaspoon or more of hot sauce, and add the chopped up vegetables.

Stir the marinade into the noodles. Taste it, and add more seasonings if you'd like. I also added some chopped up cooked kale and collards the last time I made it, and finished it off with a dollop of creamy miso dressing that I got at Hannaford's supermarket, which is like a goddess dressing. You could use Nayonnaise instead, which is a dairy and egg free mayonnaise.

For VEGAN PESTO, either buy or go out and pick about four cups of fresh basil. I threw a little cilantro and parsley into mine, and I used some lemon basil and purple basil, as well as the usual green kind, just because I had it, but just plain basil is just as good.

Pesto is easiest to make in a food processor, but a blender works, too. You just have to stop it a lot to push the leaves down before you blend again. Push the approximately four cups of basil down into the processor.

Add half a cup of pine nuts (pignolia nuts). These are expensive, but not if you just buy a small amount of them. You could use walnuts instead. Pine nuts have a distinctive flavor, though, so you might like to try them first. They are small oval light tan smooth nuts from conifers out west.

Instead of cheese, I use two tablespoons of a light miso, like a light rice or chick pea variety, and a quarter cup of nutritional yeast. I add two cloves of garlic and sometimes the juice of one lemon to brighten the flavor. You might have to add some water in order to get the mass of leaves moving around, but try to add as little as possible. If you wash the basil before blending, which you'll want to do, that will probably add enough water. Blend until mostly smooth, with a little bit of leaves and nuts still showing, and then mix up with the noodles and eat right away, before the pesto turns brown.

Pesto can also be frozen in ice cube trays and then put in plastic bags, for storage and use after the basil season is over. But don't forget you can also bring in the basil plants in pots before the frost kills them.


  1. The pesto noodles were quite tasty, and it made great left-overs. But I might have prefered it without the brightening of the lemon.