During the time I lived in South Florida, I worked for a few years in an office on Palmetto Park Road near the Intracoastal Waterway. The area offered an incredible choice of really good restaurants, but my lunch go-to was a little Italian place called Lilly’s New Cuisine. Their signature salad was my favorite, a bed of greens topped with marinated chicken, penne, toasted walnuts and light pesto dressing. Once I became vegan, I made some adjustments, and the recipe you’ll see below came into being. I like it even more than the original!
The nutritional value of this salad is off the charts! You can read about many of the benefits of romaine in my Quick & Crispy Chickpea Salad post. Basil offers a number of nutrients, including those contributing to bone health, oxygenation of the cells, cancer prevention, and inflammation regulation. Walnuts are also rich in the good stuff, including a load of omega-3 fatty acids which reduce risk of stroke & coronary artery disease, as well as an abundance of vitamin E which contributes to the health of cell membranes and the skin. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), you may have heard, is one of the mainstays of the Mediterranean Diet, which for over half a century has been considered by many one of the healthiest ways to eat. According to an article from the National Institute of Health, EVOO contributes to health by assisting in prevention and treatment of chronic diseases thanks to anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, neuroprotective, and immunomodulatory components. An impressive line-up of benefits for a salad, wouldn’t you say?
The ingredient list & directions here are a little longer than my other recipes, but each step is straight-forward and doesn’t take much time, so I hope you won’t avoid trying it due to its length. The bold flavors and varying textures in this delicious, filling salad make it one you’ll find well worth the effort for a special dinner with family and friends.
As always, I’d love to hear in the comments if you give it a go!
Yield: 6 Servings
Ingredients (use organic and/or non-GMO when possible)
For the vegan parmesan
heaping 1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/8 tsp Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp lemon zest
For the pesto
2 cups basil leaves
1 – 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped & lightly toasted
vegan parmesan (use all made from recipe above)
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the salad dressing
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp dried oregano
For the salad
12 oz penne, cooked, drained and mostly cooled, spritzed with a bit of EVOO & gently stirred if needed to keep it from sticking as it cools
pesto (use all made from recipe above)
1 large head romaine, torn into bite-size pieces
1 1/2 cups broccoli, broken into small florets
4 medium carrots, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 cup whole walnuts, lightly toasted
Make the vegan parmesan by placing all ingredients in a small jar and shaking vigorously until well combined. Taste for salt & zest.
Make the pesto by placing all ingredients except for olive oil in a medium food processor bowl. Pulse until broken into small pieces. Add oil through feeder tube to form a smooth paste. Taste for salt.
Make the dressing by whisking the 3 ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.
Gently combine the pesto with the penne, using a wooden spoon or your hands, until the ziti is well coated.
Make beds of romaine on up to 6 plates. Add pestoed penne, broccoli, carrots, and a good sprinkling of walnuts to each. Add dressing as desired. Serve with crusty bread and a nice Merlot.
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.