Almost every year, I attempt to set off the summer with a pasta salad that aspires to be everything the underseasoned, swmming-in-mayo pasta salads many of us grew up dreading were not. That is, unsoggy pasta that still has a bite to it, dressings with crunch and acidity, and vegetables that are there for substance, not just flecks of color. But this is the first year I did it by public polling, and by public I mean, my husband keeps reminding me how much he likes roasted carrots, Sara, who helps out behind the scenes here, reminded me how much she likes the roasted carrots at the Dig Inn chain, and many of you have told me over the years about nut allergies and nut-free schools and workplaces, which means it’s high time to give sunflower seeds their time in the spotlight. (Besides, I’d choose sunflower seed butter over almond or cashew butter any day, wouldn’t you?)
Look, I don’t know anything about dating or making fashion choices by algorithm, but I think the results of this new-recipe-by-polling were exceptional. Carrots are out at the markets right now, but have also come a long way at the grocery store, where I bought these rainbow pretties, although monochrome carrots work too. While they’re in the oven for a quick, high-heat blast, you grind sunflowers (but not all the way, no powder here) with garlic, parmesan (if you wish), lemon zest, and some carrot greens, and if yours came without, a few kale leaves. The green is important here (and I should have used more) because the natural color of sunflower seeds is a bit gray/beige, not exactly the summery brightness one hopes “sunflower” would impart. You then stir in olive oil, lemon juice, more salt, and pepper, more than you think you’ll need because carrots are sweet, pasta is neutral, and you’re going to want the seasoning to stretch across all of it.
And that’s it, you just wrapped up lunch, or dinner, or picnic/potluck/whatever else the end of the school year requires of you fairly quickly and with a dish that is meant to be room temperature, perfect for people whose meals usually are anyway by the time we get to them, and who dream of leftovers for lunch the next day that don’t require a trip to the sketchy breakroom microwave. We should definitely do this more often.
Pasta Salads, previously:
Pasta Salad with Roasted Carrots and Sunflower Seed Dressing
- 2 bunches thin carrots with green tops (these weigh 24 ounces total without greens)
- 2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound (225 grams) dried pasta, here I use a small penne rigate, a gemelli, casarecce, or strozzapreti will be great here too)
- 2/3 cup (90 grams) roasted, shelled, sunflower seeds, unsalted
- A handful greens, washed, from carrot tops or a few leaves of kale, plus more for garnish
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled
- A few fine gratings of fresh lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
- Several grinds of black pepper
- 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more if needed
- Juice of half a lemon, plus more to taste
Carrots and assembly
Meanwhile, cook pasta: Bring a medium/large pot full of well-salted water to a boil and cook pasta for 1 to 2 minutes shy of package suggestion, until it is tender but still has a bite to it. Drain and cool in large bowl until needed.
Make dressing: In a food processor or strong blender, place sunflower seeds, greens, parmesan (if using), garlic, lemon zest, salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper in work bowl and pulse until chopped small but not finely ground. (You want this mixture to retain crunch.) Transfer to a bowl and stir in olive oil and lemon juice. You want this to be more aggressively seasoned than seems necessary; it has a lot of pasta and vegetables to wake up.
Assemble: Halve thinner carrots and quarter thicker carrots lengthwise, and then cut into 1 to 1.5″ segments, or whatever the length of the past you’re using is. Place in bowl with pasta. If dressing seems too thick, add a tablespoon of water (and up to 2) to loosen it and stir it into pasta and carrots. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with more salt, pepper or pepper flakes, or lemon. Chop some extra carrot greens or kale for garnish. Eat now or later.
Do ahead: Salad keeps for 3 to 4 days in fridge. You’ll probably find that the pasta has “drank” the dressing and will want to toss it with a bit more lemon juice, oil, salt, and or pepper when you eat it again to revive it.
176 comments on pasta salad with roasted carrots and sunflower seed dressing
I love pasta salad in all its many forms, including mayo laden (sometimes it just hits the spot. The nostalgia spot?) and this looks fantastic. If you’re up for another pasta salad, may I recommend Ina’s roast vegetable orzo? It’s perfection, although lately I’ve taken to flipping the ratios to make it more of a vegetable salad with orzo.
I make that regularly! I roast so many veggies and make such a huge amount that my husband and I call it “all day pasta salad” as it takes a while to do so many trays of veggies. The lemon, scallion, and strong cheese are such wonderful flavors!
I was thinking about making Ina’s this summer. When researching this, I basically made a list of pasta salad approaches I hadn’t gotten to yet and that was one. Also: I love sundried tomatoes, let’s make them cool again.
This was delicious. Thanks for the recipe ☺️!! I may try adding some green olives to it too next time. I love your blog. I’m more of a baker than a cook. The way you explain things if very confidence boosting.
Would’ve loved if I had this for lunch today at work :D
Carrot tops? Maybe not such a good idea to eat?
Kale is listed in the recipe as a substitution.
If you read down through the comments – carrot greens are fine to eat. Author didn’t fully research the topic…
*of the linked NY Times article*
I use them all the time in the summer and they’re delicious. Sort of like a sturdier parsley. You could make a carrot top pesto that would also be wonderful over the roasted carrots.
Oh gosh. Agreed that if you reach end of NYTimes article, carrots themselves are not notoriously toxic. But honestly, I’ll eat almost anything from my garden before carrot tops. Hosta shoots, violets, feral garlic, service berries, those coveted radish greens. I stole some morels this week from an abandoned lot in my neighborhood. My neighbors apologize if they apply pesticide to their lawns because then I won’t eat the dandelions. In short, I’m into the edible landscape, the third plate, whatever you want to call it. But carrot greens? Just not tasty. Good for you if you think otherwise.
Nope, one of local chers uses them to make pesto. I chopped up my beet greens and use them in things too! :)
We have unroasted sunflower seeds. Is it possible to roast them? If so, how would I do this before I use them in this salad? Thanks!
I roast mine in a dry iron skillet. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!
Hi, By this do you mean you use a cast-iron skillet without oil or butter? If so, …do you use high or medium heat?
I roast mine in the oven in a shallow tray whilst it’s coming to temperature for the carrots. You just need to keep an eye (and nose) out.
This looks great! Can’t wait to make it. In this sentence, you say “While they’re in the oven for a quick, high-heat blast, *you grind sunflowers* (but not all the way, no powder here) with garlic, parmesan (if you wish), lemon zest, and some carrot greens, and if yours came without, a few kale leaves”–we all know you mean *sunflower seeds* but I am into the idea of someone throwing a few whole flowers in the food processor :)
I liked, “or whatever the length of the past you’re using is.” My past is longer than I care to admit these days, so I think I won’t be using all of it here.
Heather, I had exactly the same thought!
Deb of Smitten Kitchen: I must try this lovely recipe! Thank you.
Heather, that is so funny (punny) of you. I forwarded your humor with others.
Last year my boyfriend and I dubbed it the Summer of Pasta Salad and made a different pasta salad every week. I think 2018 might have to be the Summer of Pasta Salad Strikes Back.
We live lame yet delicious lives.
I want a Summer of Pasta salads! Did you have a favorite?
Oh there so many great ones! Pipette pasta with kale pesto, farfalle with summer sausage, tomatoes, and a mustardy dressing, campanelle with an obscene amount of feta, oregano, and pine nuts, and of course plain mac salad purchased from the deli at our grocery store for when it was too hot to cook/breathe/think.
BLT pasta salad!
This is genius. My husband would hate it, but my kids and I could do it for lunch. They would love it… I think you have given me my first summer plans.
Thoughts on using sunflower butter in the dressing as I have no seeds at home?
I’m glad you asked! I have the same question since we have Sunbutter in the house for our preschooler who attends a nut-free daycare.
I’m not feeling good about sunflower butter here; it’s too blended, it would make a sauce that’s thick-ish. Sunflower seeds should be fine for nut-free schools and facilities. Another nut (almonds, pistachios, etc.) will work too. A few people have used pumpkin seeds/pepitas.
This is revolutionary.
Thoughts for substitutes for sunflower seeds as I am (ironically) allergic?
What about pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds were the bomb in this – I’m not allergic to sunflower seeds, just didn’t have any on hand.
I’m planning on pistachios, because my gall bladder and sunflower seeds have never learned how to play nice with each other. And a parsley/dill combo for the carrot greens, because my farmers markets aren’t open yet and I already have a giant bag of regular carrots in the fridge.
How did it go with pistachios?
This looks really fresh and flavorful.
what’s your reason for peeling carrots? I find a well-scrubbed carrot to be not only more flavorful but less wasteful.
I peel carrots unless they are grown organically.
I peeled mine because they were at the end of their grocery store life, not in great shape. I wrote in the recipe that you can do either, so it’s your choice.
While on the topic of toxic food…
Fun fact: rhubarb green are actually poisonous
fun fact #2: the seeds of many fruits such as apples or peaches have cyanide in them. That is why the pits of stone fruits smell faintly of almonds.
that was supposed to go with lauren’s comment. whoops
When I first looked at the last photo of the finished salad, I thought I saw fresh chopped dill in the salad, but it was carrot tops. I still think fresh dill (biased because it is growing in my garden now) might be tasty. Maybe a few roasted beets too (although I know you are beet averse!). Looks yummy and it certainly is time to move away from baked pasta to pasta salads! Hurrah for Spring time!
Wow.. perfect 👌
Sounds yummy! Have you had sunflower sprouts? Just got some in our CSA this week and they are DELICIOUS!
BTW, the hyperlink that I believe should link to Anna’s photo opens some random add/site.
Thank you once again for providing such creative recipes. I generally detest pasta salad, but the recipe you posted today sounds intriguing and worth a try.
Just wanted to say, as a lifelong sceptic of pasta salad, that I might actually give a go at this one as soon as new season carrots show up at my market! Thanks Deb!
Thanks, Lauren. The comments on the article you posted were hilarious!
Wow! This looks so delicious. I love pasta salads. And those colorful carrots are so pretty. I am going to have to try it!
Thank you :)
Exactly what I iwas looking for. Thanks! Do you think it could work with some spice in it?
Yes, I’d definitely use more pepper flakes had I no spice-averse kids.
I ran short of carrots, so added some LO roasted asparagus. No carrot tops or kale, so used parsley. Used half the olive oil for roasting carrots, in 425 oven, for 20 minutes. Despite all my modifications, this pasta salad tasted great!
Hi. I’m so happy to have found your website. We live in northern Australia so salads are always on our table but sometimes our favourites get a bit blah. I read the comments about using carrot tops and now I know they are OK to eat that is great. I like JP’s idea about using beetroot but think that the carrots look superb and I love the taste of them roasted. I purchased sunflower seeds for the first time yesterday so this recipe is meant to be! PS signed up for more inspiration.
I love the colourful photo of the different carrots. That looks like my kind of vegetarian lunch!
Yum, that sounds amazing and I think I have everything I need to make it! Bought some beautiful carrots today – with their greens – yay.
Lol…and I’m one of the rare people allergic to sunflower seeds! The recipe still looks great! I’ll try it without the seeds. Thanks Ded!
If you’re not allergic to pumpkin seeds, they worked beautifully in place of sunflower seeds.
This salad not only looks super healthy but also delicious. Might actually try to recreate this today… Will report back :D
Where is the list of former recipes? One year ago, etc. Always liked to look through it.
Okay,I guess it’s time to step up the pasta game and buy a food processor! LOL.. I’ve been using those boring ready to use dressings all my life.
This is excellent! I didn’t use a food processor, just chopped the sunflower seeds and carrot tops together, then stirred in the rest of the dressing ingredients. Great texture and delicious. Deb, you really have a knack for salads – another of our favorites is the Brussels Sprouts, Apple and Pomegranate salad. Thanks for another good one.
Used colorful veggie rotini and it’s a nice look. May have overlooked the pasta a tad so be sure to watch that. And yes, needs plenty of dressing as it soaks it right up. Kudos on a unique new flavor combo, Deb!
PS how can I send a photo of it to this section?!
I just finished preparing this recipe and it is incredibly delicious! So easy to pull together as well. Thanks!
Absolutely delicious! Because my carrots came without tops, I did what Deb suggested and used kale instead, and did a couple handfuls to make it more green. I also doubled the amount of carrots to up the veggie content. My sunflower seeds were raw, so I toasted them in a dry skillet for a few minutes on medium heat, stirring to keep them from burning. Highly recommend!
This is delicious!!! Made the recipe as written with carrot tops as the greens, but I didn’t have any sunflower seeds on hand. Substituted raw pumpkin seeds given a little toast before adding to the food processor. I love the crunchiness of the dressing. Thanks for a great, adaptable recipe!
I was making one of my favorites (charred eggplant and walnut pasta salad) for a barbecue today and this recipe came up at the top of the blog, so at the last minute I made this one, too, using baby carrots and a small amount of kale that needed to be used up. Easy to make, but with a complex and unique flavor that led me to have to pry it out of my husband’s hands so that there would be enough for our guests. (The guests liked it, too!) This is clearly the first of many times I will be making this salad this summer.
I was immediately intrigued by this recipe, but I didn’t have sunflower seeds on hand. I did however, have a giant Costco bag of pumpkin seeds which I do not know why I bought and have been sitting around forever, so I used those instead. They worked extremely well and the salad was very popular at a barbecue.
Not as popular, of course, as smitten kitchen‘s famous broccoli slaw, which disappeared in a second everyone freaked out about. :)
Pasta and salad is one of my favorite combinations :) Your instructions were easy to follow, thanks!
I’m making this today…I have a whole pkg of sunflower seeds that I would never have thought to turn into a dressing. Also have a pkg of curlicue pasta and some carrots and a parsnip that are going into the oven even as we speak. Hmmm…green…I don’t have anything fresh green in the crisper, but I’m going to send hubby to the grocery store. Or would frozen spinach work?
I think it would. I think just about any green would work here. It’s for color and also, you know, greens are good for you.
Made it…ate it….loved it….will do it again soon….next time I will make a bit less, cause hubby will not eat cold pasta (or usually warm pasta either) and I ate it all by myself over a couple days. Oh and I used fresh carrots with tops on, buzzed the tops in the food processor and seriously it was ahhhmazing.
Deb definitely has a knack for salads. This was great, and the recipe is a “keeper.” I made the salad according to the recipe, including the Parmesan cheese, and using the carrot tops as the “green.” I had a large lemon, and half was was good for the lemon flavor, along with a large pinch of zest. I added 2 tablespoons of water to loosen the dressing a little, as recommended. Because I am not a fan of raw garlic, I only used the equivalent of a pinch. And, we live to tell the tale (and bring leftovers to work for lunch)! Carrot tops are NOT poisonous, contrary to the NYT article that has started the rumor. They are sold as a salad green in Europe, and, in my opinion, taste like slightly bitter parsley— think fusion of parsley and broccoli rabe. With a bitter green, you need some fat to temper the bitterness, and the cheese and olive oil with the sunflower seeds do that nicely. If you dont like the carrot tops, I think spinach would probably work well and help to keep the salad moist, or kale or flat-leaf parsley. I also suspect that substituting cooked farro for the pasta would be a good gluten-free alternative.
I wish I had read your comment about the farro before I cooked the pasta. Next time! I love me some farro!
Farro is wheat, and is not gluten-free.
This was great. I added in some roasted kale and it gave the salad a crispy/charred texture. YUM!
Loved the Harrington piece. It’s a good thing May is pretty, because the end of the school year makes me nuts!
Looks so nice and healthy just what I was chasing for a diner party next weekend. Thanks for sharing.
A nubbly dressing!? That seems genius. My past complaint with pasta salads is just a lot of oil and no flavor.
This is insanely delicious! Thank you for another winner! I had to put it in our basement fridge so I don’t keep picking at it before dinner. I used radish tops for the greens and a bag of the multicolor Whole Foods carrots, because that’s what I had in the fridge. It is SO good. I’m going to try the dressing on roasted asparagus next.
Deb! You did it again. Thanks so much for another weeknight winner. I doubled the lemon and mixed whole baby kale into both the salad and the dressing.
Most delicious and unique pasta salad I’ve ever tasted. And fun to make! Can’t wait to make it again.
I love sunflower seeds, but never thought to put them in a pasta salsa! Yum! Our family is often trying to find dairy and meat free options for a lunch to go, and this sounds like it might be a perfect fit! (Without the parm of course)
How did you know I need a pasta salad recipe for a party in two days? You are the best! This dressing sounds wonderful, and I adore carrots in any form.
You nailed the part about the office microwave – I avoid that thing like the plague. Happily eating room temperature leftovers for lunch right now. This is delicious!
Even though I trust Deb implicitly I wasn’t sure I would love pasta and carrots together, so I made the dressing (with kale) and the roasted carrots, and combined them with cooked wheat berries and cannellini beans that I warmed together quickly in a pan, plus rocket (arugula), and avocado. I really like sunflower seeds but had never made them into a pesto style dressing like this before, and it’s very good. I will be making this again, it would be equally excellent for lunch al desco or for a picnic or potluck. I also want to put some pistachios and feta in and have it with grilled lamb chops. Thanks Deb. Oh and I nearly burned my sunflower seeds toasting them in the oven – set a timer and check them often!
Ah yum! It’s lunch time here and now I know exactly what I’m going to make. Thanks for sharing. Esp love the photos of the beautiful bright carrots!
YUM! We loved this!! We used carrot tops and kale in the dressing. Thanks Deb!
Oh my gosh the “Are you sure…?” link is absolutely hilarious and spot on! Thank you for making me laugh.
I made this last night and loved it!
But really I came to your site today to see if you secretly had a double life just became the new Revlon CEO but apparently there can be more than one Deb Perelman in the world :)
Lol. I knew exactly who you were talking about before I even Googled.
This was delicious! I tasted the pesto and immediately decided to make a second batch of it while I had the ingredients out.
This was awesome although I changed so many things that it was barely recognizable… but for someone who wants to make this kind of, I thought I would share what I did.
– We had been on a pasta bender so I used short grain brown rice instead, which was actually really nice
– I used pumpkin seeds rather than sunflower seeds as I had them on hand
– I added avocado – I didn’t mix it with the salad as I thought it would just turn into part of the dressing (not that it would be the worst thing if I did)… But I just diced avocado and put it on top after serving
I would absolutely make this again. I especially loved the dressing which to me was part dressing, part pesto.
I despise Roasted Carrot Night, and the rest of my crew loves to eat them! I thought I’d make this as a last ditch effort in hopes of becoming a convert…and it worked! Delicious! I followed another suggestion and subbed parsley as the greens and also roasted just simple bagged baby carrots – no chopping (WIN). Extra squeeze of lemon at the end but otherwise I made it exactly as directed. Thanks for bringing around even the carrot-averse… ;)
Yum! We are eating this now, in Autumn in Australia – just beautiful. I just added some halloumi to warm it up a bit but it’s perfect on its own. Hubby says thanks!
This looks yummy – can’t wait to try it.
Finally a summer salad with no mayonnaise or sugar . I think I am going to love this. Thanks
This sunflower seed pesto is a winner! I used it over an arugula salad with hard boiled egg and tomato and it was soooooooo good. Thanks! (…for another great, easy-peasey, nutritious and versatile recipe)
I love pasta salad. Planning to try this recipe this weekend.
Loved this. Doubled for a crowd and used juice of 2 whole lemons, also kale as the green.
Tried this out for dinner tonight — big fan! Thumbs up from my husband, my children did their usual weeping and wailing over required bites before being allowed to eat plain bread instead. (They have a terrible fear of the unknown food.) I made it as written and loved it. Fair warning, though — you will want to floss your teeth directly after eating. Just one of those stick-in-your-teeth meals.
I loved the pesto-ish texture of the dressing, and makes me think I may want to sub in sunflower seeds for pine nuts the next time I make regular pesto. After one bad incident with pine nuts gone rancid, I’m wary of pine nuts. But sunflower seeds will make a decent substitute AND I actually like snacking on them and having them around, too.
I use sunflower seeds for pesto all the time! Best to start with the raw unsalted sunflower seeds, toast just before using and wait until everything else has been added before tasting for more salt.
Bonus: sunflower seeds are waaay cheaper than pine nuts :)
I made this as written. I was skeptical of the carrots in a pasta salad but it was really lovely. It felt hearty and decadent but not heavy the way pasta salads can be. The dressing came out more like a thick pesto but was delicious and managed to coat everything.
Is there a reason why you leave the carrots large to roast and then cut them smaller after they come out of the oven? Seems more efficient to cut them the appropriate size in the first place? I would think that they would roast faster as well, with the added bonus of not having to cut something that is hot…
I suppose you could! I was trying to get them charred on the outside, but there’s no reason you couldn’t chop them first, just keep a very close eye on them.
I made this salad today! I sliced my carrots lengthwise to the thinness I wanted and roasted them (I even paired them up with another dish in the oven and roasted them first at 350, then at 450 when the other dish left the oven). Then I just chopped them into 1″ lengths when they were cool. Easy peasy. The salad was DELICIOUS and a big hit at the potluck today.
SUPER tasty and very easy to put together! Next time, I’d do a little less salt and more carrots. I put some parsley in with the carrot greens.
I used parsley too – didn’t have carrot greens and had even bought kale. But the parsley was SO GOOD.
this was okay, but i found it dry. I followed the recipe as written, but as many others have said, i think it needed more liquid- more lemon juice, more olive oil, or something. And i didn’t find it that flavorful. disappointed!
I love that you’ve used sunflower seeds and made something similar to pesto, but without actually being pesto — if that makes sense? My 6yo loves sunflower seeds but I never thought to grind them up a little to make a dressing like this – thanks so much for the inspiration!
This was delicious! Like another commenter, I added parsley to the dressing (which is like a pesto) and it added some additional flavor! Also used gluten-free rotini. Since the pasta is more a background to the other flavors, I didn’t notice a big flavor difference.
This would be so great for a potluck or as a side dish to some grilled main. Wonderful!
Also used pepitas instead of sunflower seeds!
My friend made this for a MDW dinner and it was- at the risk of being over-the-top- transcendent. Seriously, incredible. So, so, so delicious. You are a genius, Deb!J
I used a whole wheat fusilli pasta in this like you recommend in your 2010 recipe for zucchini pasta salad. It seemed like a harmless switch to make it slightly more healthy. The pesto was extremely easy to make. I used kale instead of carrot tops because that’s what I had in the fridge. I enjoyed the addition of the kale in the pesto so much more than I expected I would. To make it a meal, I threw in some leftover grilled chicken. It kept perfectly for 4-5 days in the fridge and I’d recommend it to anyone! My partner who isn’t a big fan of cold or healthy foods even loved it!
Just finished eating this and it was delicious. I doubled the recipe (because we’re gluttons, but also because we had a lot of carrots to use up), subbed a mix of parsley and kale for the carrot tops, and used a mix of 3/4 sunflower seeds and 1/4 almonds because that was what I had in. I also used spray oil for the carrots because I used all my regular olive oil in the dressing. Fantastic, both of us were big fans and this will definitely be added to our pasta salad rotation, thanks Deb!
The dressing was amazing! I packed cooked brown rice, roasted carrots, and the dressing in separate containers and had a great week of work lunches. Looking forward to trying this with other roasted root vegetables.
We made this for saturday lunch and really enjoyed it. The flavors were fantastic, and the crunch of the pesto against the al dente noodles was perfect. Thank you for another awesome recipe!
This is fabulous as it is, but I like it even better with half roasted carrots, half roasted beets.
I made this last night and it is FANTASTIC – a new summer favorite! I spaced buying a lemon and used balsamic vinegar instead – delicious! I also added baked cubed tofu to ours for protein. This is dinner guest worthy – thank you!
I made this for dinner tonight, and it was wonderful! Two of my husband’s favorite snacks are carrots and sunflower seeds, so he especially loved it, and is already wondering when we’ll have it again. Thanks for a great low dairy summer dish!
Absolutely delish! Went with parsley, as that’s my preference. Definitely a hit!
SO GOOD. Make this right now. It’s absolutely perfect, and the leftovers are not mushy at all.
Thanks for this recipe! I was able to pull it together in about 45 minutes for friends and everyone loved it :) I did use gluten-free rotini (TJ’s brown rice) and basil instead of normal greens, since that’s what I had on hand, but I will definitely be making this again with other greens!
I got some garlic scapes at the farmer’s market recently and didn’t know to do with them so I sauteed them and tossed them in this pasta salad and it is so so good (eating it right now)! Highly recommend. Thanks for another *chef kiss* perfect recipe ;)
Made this last night and this is super yum!! Kinda has a pesto vibe. I added a few shakes of salt to the final product but otherwise exactly followed recipe and find it perfectly balanced. The nuttiness of the seeds, the bit of the garlic, the hint of lemon, and sweetness of the carrots are just delicious!
A revelation. Loved it. THANK YOU.
We made this for dinner this week and loved it. Next time I may add some parsnips or other root veggies to see how that goes.
How many cups is 1/2 lb dry pasta?
Depends on the shape. Very hard to measure in cups.
This was fantastic–and much more than the sum of its parts. Simple to make. Loved the crunch and nuttiness of the sunflower seed dressing.
I made this with a half pasta/half chickpea mix, and used coriander leaves as the green, and I thought it was incredible.
Made this for a bbq lunch on Sunday. Yummy. And the leftovers have been just as good! Loved the toasty sunflower seed dressing. I’ll be making this again. Thank you!
I made this (yum!) but added a splash of balsamic vinegar instead of more EVOO the day after to moisten the salad up for lunch and it was an excellent addition. It added a bit of complexity I think the dressing needed to hold up to a couple of days in the fridge for lunches.
This was delicious! I’ll use grape seed oil to roast the carrots the next time I make this; the olive oil smoked like crazy and my smoke detector kept going off.
Writing this as a stuff my face- this is amazing! Well done and spot on with measurements!
I recently riffed on this recipe with amazing results. The dressing as it stands is delicious. I steamed carrots instead of roasting and added a whole bunch of kale sliced into ribbons. Then, I added some canned tuna fish to the leftovers for outstanding and filling lunch salads, perfect for this summer heat streak!
Delicious!!! I think this recipe will become a regular at our house, especially on busy weeknights. I made a couple of adjustments to our recipe — I added some fresh basil to the dressing and substituted a spinach/spring mix blend for the carrot tops since we used bulk, store-bought carrots.
I want to make this with farro instead of pasta. How much farro would you recommend!?
Not sure off the top of my head because I can’t remember the approximate volume of the cooked pasta. But I don’t think you could go wrong with starting with half a pound uncooked, just as we do with the pasta here.
Thanks for your reply Deb! I ended up doing 1.5 cups uncooked farro. It was delicious! I did have some extra dressing, which I am currently eating with some fresh mozzarella/tomato. So good! Thank you for your amazing recipes!
The sunflower seed pesto is such a revelation and makes me question what it is I love about pesto (does it really not need basil… or anything green?).
I’ve used this pesto for a variety of other things, too, including in place of the olive pesto in this recipe that I think you would love, Deb:
I normally love every single recipe Deb puts out there, but I really disliked this. I didn’t like the oily feel from the sunflowers, or the greyish colour, which despite the greens still came through. It felt like a good idea that went wrong and a waste of beautiful rainbow carrots.
I have made this twice in the past week! I made it last weekend (doubled it!) for a big family BBQ. I got multi-colored organic carrots from Meat Farms that still had their tops. I definitely underestimated the prep time for the carrots, but it was worth it. They were so beautiful on the roasting pan that I had to post a picture to Instagram! I roasted in two batches, separating the larger carrots from the smaller ones. My large carrots took about 20 minutes to roast. It was a big hit at the BBQ. I made it again this afternoon for a quick lunch and to pack for tomorrow’s lunch. I didn’t have any more penne, but I used rotini. I actually prefer the rotini to the penne because the crunchy dressing got all tied up in the twists–yum!
I am new to your site, and became interested after seeing you cited in a N.Y. Times article about up and coming Ina Garten successors. My question is general, but prompted by the pasta salad recipe. I am growing tired of meat (almost 80 now…ugh), and am interested in whether one gets enough protein in a vegetarian diet. I have Type II diabetes (gained 10 lbs since 20, hard to lose) and notice that I fare well eating small amount of meat protein, but as I mentioned I am developing an aversion and am willing to entertain a vegetarian diet for many reasons now.
Welcome! There are a lot of nutritionists — I’m definitely not — and doctors who can explain how vegetarians are able to get sufficient protein and balanced diets, so I don’t want to step in there. But I can say that I’m always surprised by the amount of protein in non-meat items when I look at labels: yogurts and even pastas and more.
This was great Deb. The carrot to pasta ratio was perfect. My carrots were bald so I used flat leaf parsley to add some color to the dressing.
Thoughts on using arugala in place of the kale? I have everything else to make this but carrots have no greens!
Should be fine!
I made this with regular carrots and roasted some broccoli along with them, this would be great with any roasted veggies you have. I’m thinking roasted cherry tomatoes next time because I’ll definitely be making this again. The dressing is amazing! I used a mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds. The dressing makes a lot, I held some back and used it to refresh the leftovers. Love this recipe!
Made this for dinner, the dressing is so so so so nice, looking forward to trying it on a pile of string beans for example. Swapped out half the pasta for roasted broccoli and some kale, still feels like a pasta salad! I see myself reaching for this recipe a lot in the future. Thanks Deb!
This was delicious! When first looking at the recipe, I thought ‘too much time for tonight’s late dinner.’ But I talked myself into it and it was worth it. It actually comes together very quickly with not that many steps. It looks beautiful and is so delicious! I used baby kale for the greens. I think I’ll be using this recipe at potlucks in the future to surprise people with how wonderful and bright a pasta salad can actually taste.
Since Deb first published this recipe, I’ve probably made it at least once a month… maybe twice. It’s perfect for work lunches, and incredibly adaptable. I’ve subbed out and added many roasted veggies, but always double (or triple) the volume of veggies to bulk up the serving sizes without adding more pasta. I also sub out the sunflower seeds for almonds or walnuts if I happen to run out of sunflower seeds. Don’t skimp on the lemon zest, salt, or pepper flakes. And get creative! This is a fantastic, easy recipe. Five stars!
This is the perfect family meal as it lends itself to deconstruction and its parts are all delish. Two thumbs up!
Love this! Next time I’ll use even more veggies. I think it is good enough to go to a potluck. (Tonight it was just me and my husband.) The sweetness of the carrots was excellent against the pasta. I will add more lemon juice to “amp up” the left-overs. Another SK winner!
Fantastic! My whole family loved this salad. Toasted the sunflower seeds in a frying pan.
I have made this twice now, just subbing limes for lemons. Don’t overdo on the citrus, though, like I did; it makes it too tart. Also my sunflower seeds could have used a bit more roasting. I subbed basil for the carrot tops/kale to give it a bit more flavor. I made it with the intent of having it for lunch the next day, but it barely lasted the hour.
This recipe is amazing! I didn’t have quite enough sunflower seeds and did not have any carrot greens or kale so I used half sunflower seeds and half pistachios, and added parsley & basil from the garden instead of the carrot tops/kale. I also added some roasted asparagus and extra parmesan. Such a great way to show off the beautiful produce I got from the farmers market! Very flavorful and satisfying.
So, you didn’t actually make the recipe. WTF?
I think this shows how adaptable the recipe is… she took the blueprint and made changes and it was still great!
Yum. So great for fast dinner tonight. Subtle, summery, light. We cranked up the red pepper flakes because we have no spice averse kiddos here. Served it warmish and can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!!!
Made this a couple days ago, its super yummy combo of fresh flavors that I love-the lemon, garlic and parsley combo! I used a corn/quinoa pasta and it worked great the day I made it. However by the next day the pasta was pretty dried out. Still delish though. I wonder if anyone has tried non wheat pasta and had the same results? Not a fault of the recipe obviously but just curious.
This recipe was inspiration for using leftover walnut pesto, that you also have on your site. It’s a delicious combo, as well.
Probably one of my favorite dishes! I always mix in some feta or cotija if I’ve got it. Just superb!
This pasta salad is so freaking good! Super easy and super tasty. We’ve made it several times now. I give it 5 billion stars.
I made this yesterday for about the umpteenth time since Deb posted it, and realized when I saw the Smitten newsletter today that I never came back here to post my thanks for it. It’s so great to have a pasta salad that has REAL flavor without adding a boatload of cheese (though I do add the parm option) and that’s just as doable in the dead of winter as high summer. I never change a single thing in the recipe, it’s perfect as is, and it’s a favorite across my entire spectrum of eaters — from 4-year-old to grandpa. Thanks, Deb!
I made this tonight, with pumpkin seeds (instead of sunflower seeds), and a mix of basil and lemon balm for the greens. Delicious, and very adaptable. I didn’t weigh the carrots left in the fridge, but would definitely like more. I remembered, while eating this, that I have some asparagus in the fridge. I might roast that and add to the leftovers tomorrow.
Absolutely perfect for this warm fall weather. I made this with no changes (rare for me) and it was gobbled up. Only thing I’ll do next time is increase the quantities!
Gave this a whirl using regular carrots sliced to (relatively) uniform thickness prior to cooking and used greens from rainbow chard, but otherwise as written. I chose an egg pasta for the protein punch. It is delicious! I usually don’t care for cooked carrots but the roasting + crunch in dressing = YUM. Very glad that I doubled it. THANKS!
As others have said, this is a wonderful, adaptable recipe! It was a great way to use up some random vegetables (carrots and purple broccoli) going south in my crisper drawer and a half a box of pasta. I chopped the veg to match the size of my pasta, which was smaller than penne. I didn’t have a lemon so substituted red wine vinegar, which seemed to work just fine. Because I am me, I added some Kalamata olives that were looking a little weary. I am so glad I did! They added a punch of briny-ness that I can’t get enough of. Thanks for the recipe, Deb!
I look forward to making this every year as soon as I start getting bunched carrots in my veg box – I love that it uses the carrot tops. The dressing is soooo flavoursome and well-balanced. Yesterday for the first time I did it without the pasta as a side for roast chicken and that worked out too. Thanks for the seasonal deliciousness.
Just made this. Using gluten free noodles. I had to mess around with the seasoning, it was pretty bland with the amounts given. I can’t taste any of the red pepper flakes but I’m afraid to add at this point. Its very good, especially when I have family members who are gluten free or dairy free or nut free.
Delicious salad made it withe kale.
Today I made it again to share with the family.
Thank you Deb for your amazing recipes.
This is fantastic! I’ve made it 4 times in the last 4 weeks and I’m still loving it. The dressing is fantastic and keeps super well. I’ve started making double and keeping some on hand which makes it easy to whip this up in 30 mins. Definitely heed the note about seasoning generously and a little feta is a great addition if you’re not vegan!
Oh this is so good! I had carrots, almonds (no sunflower seeds) and something called winter purslane to use up. No parmesan so I used cheddar. Wholemeal elbow macaroni for the pasta. I used half the carrots and pasta but made all of the dressing and it is absolutely stunning.
Just to add that tonight I realised I could toast the almonds by putting them into the oven on a sheet whilst it was warming up for the carrots!
Made this today; delish. I added some sun dried tomato’s in oil; mint & basil as well. Would definitely make it again. THANK YOU!
Be careful if you use the wilted lettuce you had in the bottom of the fridge though – more than a tiny bit and your dressing will have a very bitter aftertaste (mitigated by the carrots and olive oil)
Think we could use parsley in lieu of other greens? I don’t have anything else on hand.