Creamy Olive and Arugula Pesto Pasta

Created by Laura Wright
4.91 from 11 votes

Creamy olive and arugula pesto pasta is a naturally vegan main course that is siple to prepare, very flavourful, and comes together quickly.

An overhead shot of a slightly creamy, light green arugula pesto pasta in a wide pot.
A spatula is stirring a creamy green sauce.
An overhead shot of ingredients for a creamy vegan pasta dish.
An overhead shot of clicked zucchini on a cutting board.
Image shows a vegan pesto about to be mixed up in a food processor.

All winter, I share my poorly lit dinners on Instagram stories only because I don’t have any daylight to get a nice photo of them. These tend to spark higher interest from people than the nicely lit and styled photos that I’m actually taking the time to post to the grid! Not sure if it’s the nature of engagement on stories or perhaps that the weird kitchen lighting is more relatable and real, but I get a sense of what’s going to work on the blog from this alone sometimes.

I posted a version of this creamy olive and arugula pesto pasta last week and even though it looked borderline brown/snot green in the direct kitchen light, a bunch of people asked me about it. So here we are! I tend to like very strong flavours, so this recipe ticks all the boxes. Salty olives, peppery arugula, buttery walnuts, cheesy nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon, and a good hit of non-dairy creamer to smooth everything out on top of a cozy pasta pile. It’s late winter perfection to me. The green reminds us that some day Spring will be here, but the richness of the sauce and the carbs keep us firmly rooted and satisfied in the never-ending winter.

My guy is a bit of a red sauce purist when it comes to pasta, but he quite liked this one–probably something to do with all those salty olives hehe. I love how quick this recipe is too! Roast a tray of vegetables and while that’s happening, boil some water and blitz the pesto up in the food processor. Cook the pasta, toss it all together, and done! My favourite kinda meal. I use an unsweetened non-dairy creamer (nutpods is usually my go-to) to smooth out our sauce out of convenience, but you could also make some thick cashew milk like I did with this recipe. I’ll include this option in the recipe notes!

I’ve been loving this pasta lately, which is a mix of wheat and red lentils! It holds together, but still has that extra bump of plant-based protein. Sometimes all-legume pastas feel like they’re crumbling in on themselves in my mouth. Anyone else? This one is a happy medium for those who aren’t gluten or wheat intolerant.

Hope that you’re having a wonderful week and that you get a chance to make this olive and arugula pesto pasta! So enjoying the extra daylight in the evenings and am hopeful that spring will be here soon.

Image shows a creamy, bright green pesto in a food processor.
Image shows steamy pasta draining in a colander.
An overhead shot of a slightly creamy, light green arugula pesto pasta in a wide pot.
An overhead shot of a slightly creamy, light green arugula pesto pasta in a wide bowl.

Creamy Olive & Arugula Pesto Pasta

Creamy olive and arugula pesto pasta is a naturally vegan main course that is siple to prepare, very flavourful, and comes together quickly.
4.91 from 11 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings 4


  • 2 cups baby arugula, packed (plus extra)
  • ¾ cup pitted green olives
  • ½ cup walnut halves, toasted
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 ½ tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • cup + 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¾ lb (340 grams) penne pasta, or other shape that you like
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into thin half moons
  • ¾ cup non-dairy creamer (see notes)
  • chili flakes, to serve (optional)


  • I used walnuts for the base of my pesto, but you could also play around with toasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, or the super traditional (albeit expensive) pine nuts.
  • My favourite unsweetened non-dairy creamer is original nutpods, but I offer a homemade alternative to this ingredient in this recipe (¼ cup raw cashews blended with ¾ cup water until smooth).
  • I cooked zucchini to go with this because it’s what I had on hand. Mushrooms would be sooo perfect!


  • Start bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the “S” blade, combine the arugula, olives, walnuts, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse the mixture until everything is finely chopped. Then, place the lid back on and, with the motor on, drizzle ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into the feed tube. Once you have a slightly creamy paste, stop the motor. Check for seasoning, adjust, and set aside.
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta and wipe out the pot. Place the pot back on the heat.
  • Add the oil to the pot and swirl it around. Add the zucchini to the pot and saute until soft, bright green, and lightly browned on the edges, stirring often. Then, add the olive and arugula pesto to the pot and stir. Add the non-dairy creamer and stir until the sauce is silky, fluid, and heated through.
  • Add the pasta to the olive and arugula pesto sauce and stir to thoroughly coat and combine. Stir in an extra couple handfuls of baby arugula if you like.
  • Serve the pasta hot with chili flakes.
A 3/4 shot of a slightly creamy, light green arugula pesto pasta in a wide bowl.
13/03/2019 (Last Updated 31/10/2022)
Posted in: autumn, cashews, creamy, gluten free option, main course, pasta, quick, refined sugar-free, salty, side dish, spring, summer, umami, vegan, winter


4.91 from 11 votes (10 ratings without comment)

Recipe Rating

  • Betsy

    4 stars
    Made this tonight with mushrooms instead of zucchini. I omitted the nutritional yeast and used pasta water instead of creamer and doubled the amount of pesto. Very good needs maybe vinegar or sugar 

  • Suzanne

    I really dislike nutritional yeast. I don’t care for the flavor & it not only doesn’t add anything positive to the flavor, but adds an unpleasant taste. There are at least a couple of pretty good vegan Parmesan cheeses available. Wouldn’t they work in this dish? Or a vegan feta?
    This recipe/dish looks amazing, btw!

    • Laura

      Hi Suzanne,
      Yes, you could substitute a pre-made vegan parmesan for nutritional yeast if you like. It’s a forgiving recipe. I would start with a handful and add more if you find it necessary.

  • Amy

    Is there anything I could include in place of the garlic? I love garlic but it tends to upset my stomach.

    • Laura

      Hi Amy,
      Can you eat shallots? I would chop up a small shallot, sauté it in oil until it’s lightly browned and soft, and then add that to the bowl with the food processor to replace the garlic. I’d probably give it a little extra squeeze of lemon too.

      • Amy

        Thank you, Laura! Usually shallots are fine — I’ll try this out. I appreciate the response!

  • Isabelle


  • Allegra

    Just made this and it was so delicious, thanks for the recipe! xo

  • Angela Robinson

    This was AMAZING!

  • Jennifer Nelson

    This was terriffic! I followed it as written except I added some dice red cherry tomatoes to serve. Excellent! Thanks for your fantastic recipes. Also love your beautiful photography. Just gorgeous.

  • Marcy youker

    Love your recipe, can I use black olives, I am not to into green olives. will try it anyway.

  • Jen @

    Darn just finished all my arugula for lunch, will need to get more asap to make this. I made another pesto some time back with green olives for the first time and loved it, so no doubt this one will also be a winner. I do enjoy the Barilla red lentil pasta for anyone in need of a good gluten free option, it holds together quite well and although it does taste a bit beany, the flavor is easily masked by any good sauce.

  • Jean

    Very much longing for the green world under all this white stuff and this recipe brings the color to the table along with a punch of flavor from those olives. What a perfect pesto!

  • Judy Bertelsen

    The “print the recipe here” doesn’t seem to be activated for this recipe (the arugula pesto).