This Instant Pot Vegan Tomato Basil Pasta Is Inspired by Some of the Longest-Living People on the Planet—And It Takes Less Than 5 Minutes To Prep

Photo: Stocksy/Dobránska Renáta
ICYMI, pasta can absolutely be included in a healthy, well-rounded diet. All too often, most carbs—including but certainly not limited to pasta and bread—get villainized, and many of us are trained to think that they’re inherently “bad,” will sabotage our health goals, and so on and so forth. But as long as you don’t have a specific food intolerance or sensitivity that makes pasta incompatible with your system, rest assured that it’s A-okay to keep it in your meal rotation.

“The truth is, carbohydrates are our body’s way of gaining energy,” Suzanne Pirkle, MA, RDN, CED-S, previously told Well+Good. “Pasta is one food source that provides the body with usable energy to enjoy the life we have.” And what’s the use of not enjoying life and denying yourself the foods you love most?

Experts In This Article
  • Suzanne Pirkle, RDN, founder of NutriFocus, an online dietitian collective, and registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in eating disorders, PCOS, and sports nutrition

Consider this the green light to go ahead and whip up a pasta entree to your heart’s content. If you’re in the mood to try out a new, oh-so-simple dish, we suggest trying out this vegan-friendly Instant Pot pasta recipe from the Blue Zones kitchen with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil—it's inspired by the world’s top longevity hotspots, after all.

Why we love this vegan Instant Pot pasta recipe

Aside from the fact that yummy pasta is the star of the show, this recipe also features a smattering of other good-for-you ingredients. To start, EVOO is revered for being one of the top sources of healthy fats and is also a great source of polyphenols, with its key benefits including to aid prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Moreover, per a 2022 Harvard study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, participants who enjoyed a half-tablespoon or more of this Mediterranean diet staple on a daily basis had a 19 percent lower risk of death from any cause over a 28-year period, compared to those who lacked this oil in their diet and/or preferred the likes of butter, margarine, or mayonnaise in its place. Simply put, a drizzle a day could very well help keep the doctor away.

Next up, cherry tomatoes rev up the flavor and nutritional profile in spades. Tomatoes are rich in tons of essential nutrients and antioxidant-rich phytochemicals, including a powerful longevity-promoting carotenoid called lycopene. According to a 2021 review in the journal Foods, lycopene consumption can help protect against cancer, cardiovascular diseases, cognitive dysfunction, and osteoporosis. Meanwhile, basil doesn’t only pack a tasty herbaceous punch, but can also help suppress chronic inflammation (and reduce the risk of developing associated diseases). All the while, onions and garlic might take a toll on your breath but not on your health, as these allium veggies also complement a cancer-prevention protocol; the latter also boasts noteworthy benefits for promoting healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Tips to maximize the pasta recipe’s nutritional value

  • To easily get more greens on your plate, throw in some arugula or spinach to wilt at the end.
  • To boost protein intake, the recipe developer recommends stirring in a cup of cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans, or serving the pasta with grilled vegan Italian sausage. (Of course, you can also add your animal protein source of choice on top of the pasta or on the side if you don’t follow a vegan or plant-based diet.)
  • To go gluten-free and max out the meal’s nutrient density even further, you can pack in more protein, fiber, and minerals by opting for a plant-based pasta. My vote goes to Tolerant Organic, which offers one-ingredient pasta varieties derived from chickpeas, green lentils, and red lentils.

Blue Zones–inspired Instant Pot pasta recipe with cherry tomatoes and basil

Yields 6 servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional), plus more to serve
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lb (450g) uncooked short pasta (such as penne, fusilli, or bowtie)
1 teaspoon sea salt
4–5 cups water
1 pint (551ml) cherry tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil, torn or sliced
1/4 cup drained capers
1 cup shredded vegan Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper

1. On the Instant Pot, select Sauté (Medium), and heat the oil, if using, in the inner pot until hot. (Otherwise, you can dry sauté in the hot pot or add a bit of water in the bottom of the pot.) Add the onion and sauté until softened and golden, three to five minutes.

2. Add the garlic and pepper and sauté one minute longer. Press Cancel.

3. Add the pasta to the inner pot of the Instant Pot. Add the salt and water until just covered, no more than 1/4 inch (0.5cm) above the pasta. Add the tomatoes on top without stirring.

4. Lock the lid of the Instant Pot and ensure the steam release valve is set to the sealing position. Select Pressure Cook (Low), and set the cook time for half of the cook time on the pasta package, rounding down. For example, if the pasta package calls for 10 to 12 minutes on the stove, set the cook time for five minutes.

5. Once the cook time is complete, immediately quick release the pressure and carefully remove the lid. Add the fresh basil and capers, and stir to combine. Drizzle with a little olive oil, if desired. Serve immediately with Parmesan and salt and pepper, to taste.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. De Santis, Stefania et al. “Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Lesson from Nutrigenomics.” Nutrients vol. 11,9 2085. 4 Sep. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11092085
  2. Takeuchi, Haruka et al. “Anti-inflammatory Effects of Extracts of Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) on a Co-culture of 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and RAW264.7 Macrophages.” Journal of oleo science vol. 69,5 (2020): 487-493. doi:10.5650/jos.ess19321
  3. Ali, Md Yousuf et al. “Nutritional Composition and Bioactive Compounds in Tomatoes and Their Impact on Human Health and Disease: A Review.” Foods (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 10,1 45. 26 Dec. 2020, doi:10.3390/foods10010045
  4. Wan, Qianyi et al. “Allium vegetable consumption and health: An umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes.” Food science & nutrition vol. 7,8 2451-2470. 10 Jul. 2019, doi:10.1002/fsn3.1117

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