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Red Lentil Pasta with Lemony Sunflower Seed Pesto (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan)

Hey, and happy Monday! Can you believe it's July already? What fun adventures are you up to this summer? I want to share a few photos from a hike I went on this weekend to Matthiessen State Park with my friend Hannah. I've been to Starved Rock quite a few times since I was a kid, but this was my first trip to Matthiessen. If you live in Illinois and haven't been it's a must see! Check out the beautiful water fall and lush scenery. The fresh air and exercise was just what I needed to feel refreshed and relaxed.

Now, on to the recipe I'm sharing today! I wasn’t going to share this recipe here - it seemed too “basic” but then realized simplicity is what makes it so appealing. Red Lentil Pasta with Lemony Sunflower Seed Pesto will be a mainstay in my kitchen this summer. I’ve got a small balcony garden (perhaps you’ve been seeing it on my Instagram story) and my basil plant is really starting to grow.

I couldn’t think of anything creative to do with all the basil so my instinct is to go with what I know: pesto. Growing up my parents had a garden in the backyard and it was always full of tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash and of course, herbs. There was an abundance of fresh basil so we’d often eat pesto pasta as a light, flavorful summer meal. To this day I can’t say no to a big bowl of pasta tossed with creamy pesto. Plus it really does take only 20 minutes or less to come together and I love how quickly I can whip it up.

It's really this simple:

Boil the pasta

Blend the pesto

Toss together with leafy greens


Have you been hearing about the health benefits of pulses, like lentils? Lentil pasta has quickly become one of my favorite kitchen staples and I’m loving Trader Joe’s Red Lentil Sedanini. With so much protein and fiber right in the noodles it makes for the easiest vegetarian dish to throw together. I've blogged about red lentil pasta before, too! You might like my Veggie Loaded Red Lentil Pasta with Chicken Sausage. : )

Pesto only takes a handful of ingredients and is made in minutes in the food processor. Classic pesto is made with pinenuts, but you can find pesto recipes with walnuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds. I like to use a mixture of nuts and seeds in my pesto. The combo of toasted pinenuts and sunflower seeds in this recipe is delicious. Seeds are a great option to swap for anyone with a nut allergy. The addition of both lemon juice and zest brighten up the pesto and give the pasta a bust of flavor.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful summer dish!

Red Lentil Pasta with Lemony Sunflower Seed Pesto

Red Lentil Pasta with Lemony Sunflower Seed Pesto

Active Time: 20 minutes

Total Time:

Serves: 3-4


  • 12 ounces red lentil pasta (I use Trader’s Joes Sedanini)

  • 2 cups baby spinach/arugula mix

  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds

  • ¼ cup pinenuts

  • 1 cup fresh basil, packed

  • 1 lemon, juice and zest

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste if needed

  • ½ teaspoon pepper


  1. Start by getting a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Cook pasta according to package instructions.

  2. Heat a small skillet over low-medium. Add the pinenuts and sunflower seeds to the pan. Lightly toast for a few minutes, keeping an eye so they don't burn. Remove from heat.

  3. Next, make the pesto. Add pinenuts and sunflower seeds with remaining ingredients (except the baby greens) to a food processor, and process until combined. There should be no large chunks.

  4. Drain pasta and add it back to the same pot, with the heat on low. Add pesto and toss to coat. Add greens and stir until lightly wilted. Remove from heat.

  5. I prefer this served warm or room temperature.

Did you try this recipe? Comment below and let me know if you liked it! You can also tag your creations on Instagram @wellfednutrition.


About the Blog

Welcome to the Well Fed Nutrition Blog. I'm Jessica, a dietitian nutritionist sharing recipes, kitchen tips and advice for life well-fed. 

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