Easy and delicious, this casarecce pasta with Mediterranean vegetables will transport you to Europe. As yummy as it is healthy, this veggie pasta recipe is plant-based, vegan and oil-free.
🧄 Ingredient notes
To make this vegetable pasta recipe, you'll need the following ingredients.
- casarecce pasta (also known as "casareccia pasta" - substitute with other small/medium pasta like fusilli, farfalle, penne, orecchiette, ziti, rigatoni, rotini or shells)
- sweet bell pepper
- zucchini or yellow summer squash
- canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- canned diced tomatoes
- sliced black olives
- capers (optional, but recommended)
- dried basil
- dried oregano
- brown sugar (or other sweetener, optional)
- sea salt and black pepper
Looking for the measurements? Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post for the ingredient quantities.
You'll need the following equipment to make this vegan pasta recipe:
- Stock pot (to boil your pasta)
- Large skillet or enameled dutch oven (to cook your vegetables and add the cooked pasta to)
- Cutting board (to chop up your vegetables)
- Santoku knife (my favorite knife to use in the kitchen) or chef's knife
- Can opener
- Colander or strainer
How do you make a plant-based casarecce pasta with Mediterranean veggies?
First, sauté the onion and garlic. Then, add your bell peppers and zucchini. Then, the remaining sauce ingredients. Cook until very tender and the vegetables are breaking down. This is now your pasta sauce!
Cook a pound of casarecce pasta (or other small/medium sized pasta) according to your package instructions. Make sure to reserve some of the pasta water.
Then, drain your pasta and add it to your sauce, stirring everything together. Add some of the pasta water, as needed, to get the right consistency in your sauce. Serve right away and enjoy!
Looking for the temps and times? Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post for all the step by step details on ingredients and instructions. There's also a print recipe button down there!
👨👩👦👦 Serving suggestions
This Mediterranean vegetable pasta dish is a complete meal, in itself. But, you could certainly serve it with Vegan Eggplant Meatballs. This Crispy Tofu with Balsamic Tomatoes would be perfect to increase the protein of the overall meal. For oil-free crispy tofu, omit the oil and use parchment paper when baking them.
Some other suitable sides and garnishes for this dish:
- green salad
- 5-Minute Lemon Pepper Asparagus
- protein of your choice
- garnished with:
Store leftover pasta in covered container (preferably glass) in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave for 2 minutes per serving.
Meat-free vegetable pasta will last up to 5 days stored in the refrigerator, according to food safety guidelines.
Casarecce or casareccia pasta originated in Sicily and is very popular in Southern Italy. It is traditionally served with Mediterranean ingredients like eggplant, basil, tomatoes and seafood.
Like other dry pastas, casarecce pasta is made of durum wheat, water or eggs. Dry pastas in the grocery store are typically made of just durum wheat and water (no eggs), so they are egg-free and vegan.
Casarecce is from the Italian casarecci which means homemade.
No. Strozzapretti are a longer form of cavatelli pasta. They somewhat resemble casarecce, but have a different shape.
Their shape makes them excellent for holding sauce, like Sicilian pesto or tomato ragu pasta sauce. Thick, chunky sauces won't get trapped inside the casarecce grooves as well as thinner sauces.
Most dry pasta you'll find in the supermarket is indeed vegan, since it's only ingredients are durum wheat and water. But, always check the ingredients, as some contains egg. Fresh pasta is typically made with eggs (an animal product), so that would not be considered vegan.
Traditional casarecce is made with wheat, so is not gluten-free. However, you may be able to find pasta in the S shape of casarecce made with gluten-free ingredients like chickpea flour, lentil flour or rice flour.
I buy the Priano brand of casarecce pasta from Aldi. But, I have also seen casarecce sold at HEB, Whole Foods and Central Market. Barilla brand makes a chickpea flour casarecce pasta, which would be gluten-free.
There are many vegetables grown and eaten in the Mediterranean region. Too many to list here! But, some popular ones are: tomatoes, olives, onions, garlic, asparagus, sweet peppers, eggplant, spicy peppers, carrots, lettuce, spinach, celery and artichokes.
Yes! Pasta is consumed on a regular, if not daily basis by many in the Mediterranean region. Whole grain pasta will offer more nutrients and fiber than white pasta. And, be sure to include other whole grains, along with lots of vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds in your diet, which is key to the Mediterranean diet.
Any kind of pasta is acceptable on the Mediterranean diet. Regular pasta, made with white wheat flour, whole grain pasta, pasta made with chickpea flour, rice flour, lentil flour. Be sure to serve the pasta with lots of vegetables!
Heavy pastas prepared with lots of oil, cheese or meat is not advisable for heart health. The good news is that pasta itself is healthy and good for your heart. It's what you prepare it with that really matters! Try making a heart-healthy pasta without oil and instead using marinara sauce or primavera vegetables to flavor your angel hair. For a creamy pasta, make cauliflower alfredo sauce! There are many options so you can still enjoy a plate of spaghetti.
For more information, read Is Oil Healthy? by renowned cardiologist Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
You can change up this summer vegetable pasta in lots of ways! Here are some options:
- Skip the pasta - serve over couscous or rice instead, like my recipe for Mediterranean Chickpea Stew with Vegetables
- Spinach - stir in a few handfuls of baby spinach right before serving
- Eggplant - add chopped eggplant (or substitute one of the vegetables for eggplant/aubergine). Eggplant will add to the richness of the pasta once it cooks down. Or, serve these vegetarian eggplant meatballs in the sauce!
- Make it creamy - stir in 2 tablespoons of vegan sour cream (like this cashew sour cream or tofu sour cream) to the sauce when you add the pasta, for a creamy vegetable pasta dish
- Herbs - stir in fresh herbs, like parsley, basil or oregano
- White beans - use white canellini beans, great northern beans or giant white beans instead of the garbanzo beans/chickpeas
- Make it gluten-free - use protein rich chickpea flour pasta, like Banza, instead of a wheat based pasta. Or, use another gluten-free pasta.
- Make pasta puttanesca - Use linguini to make vegan one pot pasta puttanesca!
- Kale or Swiss Chard - stir in some chopped kale while the vegetables are cooking
- Baked casarecce pasta - Once it's all done, combine everything in a baking dish, top with dairy-free shredded cheese and breadcrumbs and bake in a 375 degree oven until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
- Make it spicy - add red chili flakes to make it spicy pasta
- Spring vegetables - Use your spring veggies to make pasta primavera with angel hair
- Make spaghetti with hearty mushroom marinara sauce instead.
🗺 Cultural influences
Casarecce pasta is one of hundreds of pasta shapes Italy is famous for. It may be less well-known in some areas, but it is beautiful and holds pasta sauce so well!
Paired with Mediterranean vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, yellow summer squash, sweet bell peppers, olives, capers and chickpeas, it is heart-healthy, delicious and easy pasta recipe for dinner.
Make it for National Pasta Day on October 17th each year, according to List of National Food Holidays.
💜 More recipes you'll love
If you love this vegetarian casarecce pasta recipe, check out my other Mediterranean and Italian-inspired recipes, including more yummy pasta dishes!
Casarecce Pasta with Mediterranean Vegetables
- Dutch oven or skillet large enough to hold all the pasta and sauce
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 sweet bell pepper deseeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 medium-large zucchini or yellow summer squash trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- ½ cup cooked chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 15 ounces diced tomatoes with juice canned
- ½ cup sliced black olives drained
- ½ tablespoon capers drained (optional)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar optional
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound casarecce pasta see notes for substitutions
- Heat a large stockpot of well salted water over high heat (this is for your pasta to cook in). When it comes to a rolling boil, add pasta and set timer for shortest cook time on the box. We want it al dente - it will finish cooking in the sauce.
- Heat a large skillet or enameled dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent.
- Stir in bell pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in zucchini, season with dried herbs, brown sugar, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas, sliced olives and capers. Cook on medium-low for about 15-20 minutes, until everything is heated through, and the vegetables are tender and breaking down. The sauce should be forming and thickening.
- When pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of pasta water. Drain pasta and add the pasta and ¼ cup of pasta water to vegetable mixture and stir. If you need to, add remaining pasta water (you may not need it all).
- Taste and adjust salt and pepper, as needed. Enjoy!
- Casarecce pasta: sub with fusilli, farfalle, penne, orecchiette, ziti, rigatoni, bowtie pasta, rotini (spirals) or medium shells. For gluten-free, use a gluten-free pasta like chickpea flour pasta, lentil pasta or rice pasta.
- Chickpeas: sub with white cannellini beans, great northern beans or giant white beans
- Onions: sub with leeks
- Black olives: sub with kalamata olives for a stronger flavor or with green olives for a more tart flavor
- Capers: omit or sub with more olives