Mushroom Pesto Pasta with Panko “Parmesan” and Arugula

Do you need a delicious vegan Valentine’s dinner that’s sure to impress your date? This Mushroom Pesto Pasta with Panko “Breadcrumbs” and Arugula has your back.

My husband loves anything and everything with mushrooms, so I created this dish in his honor.  Mushroom pesto seemed like a surefire way to his heart.  This dish would be a wonderful Valentine’s or date night entrée if you are total homebodies like us.  (Or you can just share it with your dog! I mean, that’s how the first test batch of this was consumed.)

The mushroom pesto sauce here provides an earthy and nutty base, while sautéed mushrooms, onions and arugula add some substance and additional texture.  The “panko parmesan” I created as a topper is the real winner though!  Years ago, I was one of Giada de Laurentis’ cookbooks years ago in which she comments that many pasta dishes in Italy are topped with breadcrumbs.  I’m all for some carb on carb action, so I filed that fact away under “curious and curiouser.”

It then dwelled somewhere in my subconscious until this past weekend, when I somehow got the idea to toast some breadcrumbs with vegan butter and nutritional yeast as a sub for parmesan. Viola! SO good you guys.  Just be careful not to burn your mouth trying to eat it fresh out of the pan as I did (“no ragrets”… not even one).  I guarantee I will be using this panko parmesan in future recipes.

You should note that the mushroom pesto sauce tends to get absorbed by the noodles the longer this dish sits, so I’d consider this a dish best eaten fresh when the flavors are at their peak.  I also like to reserve some of the pasta cooking water to add a bit more moisture when combining the sauce and pasta (another Giada trick).

This mushroom pesto pasta would pair quite nicely with a simple tomato and basil salad or my Basil Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons.  Add some candles, music, and something chocolatey for dessert and you’re all set!

What is everyone doing for Valentine’s day?  Do you guys get into it and go for dinner, exchange gifts, etc.?  It’s sort of a non-event for me (especially falling on a Wednesday this year) so I’d love to hear from you and live vicariously!

Mushroom Pesto Pasta with Panko "Parmesan"

Mushroom Pesto Pasta with Panko “Parmesan” and Arugula
Recipe Type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Ashley from Lifted Dish
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 servings
A date-night worthy mushroom pesto pasta with panko breadcrumbs.
  • 14 oz. quality pasta (I used a vegan handmade brand I found at Home Goods)
  • 3.5 oz shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 16 oz. baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsely
  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Panko breadcrumbs:
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (read package to ensure vegan- I had to check a few brands)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Earth Balance (or other vegan butter)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2-3 cups arugula
  1. Heat a large skillet on the stove over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add shitakes, half of the baby portobellos, and chopped shallot. Sauce until softened and mostly cooked, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute.
  2. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a blender or food processor. Add vegetable broth and walnuts, and pulse until a pesto consistency has formed. Add herbs, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil. Pulse again until thoroughly combined. Add salt to taste (I salted generously with Himalayan pink salt to bring out the “cheesy” flavor). Set pesto aside.
  3. In the same large skillet you used previously, sauté the remaining mushrooms and onion over medium heat until cooked through, about 8 minutes or so. Add balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper and cook for a minute more. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.
  4. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the panko breadcrumbs. In your same large skillet, heat the Earth Balance over medium heat until melted. Stir in the breadcrumbs and toast them, stirring frequently until browned. Remove from heat and season with salt and nutritional yeast.
  6. Once pasta is cooked, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water in a small dish. Drain the pasta and transfer back to the pan. Add the reserved pesto stir through, slowly adding the reserved cooking liquid to thin the sauce out.
  7. Transfer the pasta to bowls. Top with the cooked mushrooms and arugula. Add a generous sprinkling of the panko parmesan and serve immediately.


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