It doesn't take much effort to work plant-based meals into your weekly rotation. Farmers markets make it easy to let the seasons be your guide. But a well stocked pantry — pasta, beans, lentils — will also go a long way in making mealtime a snap. Need a starting point? Try these recipes from Robin Asbell, a longtime Twin Cities chef, cookbook author and Star Tribune contributor. "Eating more plant-based will add so much color, flavor and texture to your meals," Asbell said. "Spring and summer are a great time to start, with all the gorgeous fresh produce to choose from."

Cavatappi With Pesto and White Beans

Serves 4.

Note: Stock your pantry with pasta, canned beans and a few essentials, and all you will need is fresh basil and parsley to make this dish on a busy weeknight. Canned white beans give the pasta some heft, making a fine main course for a plant-based meal. If your diet includes dairy, adding crumbled goat cheese is an option. From Robin Asbell.

• 5 c. (12 oz.) uncooked cavatappi pasta

• 1 large carrot, quartered and sliced

• 1 (15-oz.) can white beans, drained

• 1 c. fresh basil, lightly packed

• 1/2 c. fresh parsley, lightly packed

• 1 clove garlic

• 1/4 c. walnuts

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 medium tomatoes, cubed

• Crumbled goat cheese, optional


In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt.

Cook the pasta and carrots together according to package directions, about 9 to 10 minutes. Drain the beans in the colander you will use to drain the pasta and leave them there.

In a food processor, place the basil, parsley, garlic, walnuts and salt and process to mince to a paste. Scrape down and repeat until smooth. Add olive oil and process until well mixed and smooth.

When the pasta and carrots are cooked, pour on top of the beans in the colander, then drain well. Shake the colander to remove excess water, then return to the pot.

Scrape the pesto over the pasta in the pot and toss to mix. Gently mix in tomatoes. If desired, toss in 2 ounces of crumbled goat cheese. Serve warm.

Red Lentil Soup With Spring Vegetables

Serves 4.

Note: When the first radishes and snap peas are at their best, make this soup to show them off. A simple red lentil soup with rosemary and a touch of red wine is both comforting and satisfying, and the crisp vegetables add a pop of color and texture to the bowl. From Robin Asbell.

• 1 medium onion, chopped

• 1 medium carrot, chopped

• 1 c. red lentils, rinsed

• 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped

• 4 c. water

• 1/4 c. white wine

• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 5 c. (5 oz.) packed fresh spinach

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper

• 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 c. snap peas, stems removed

• 6 radishes, chopped


In a soup pot, combine onion, carrot, red lentils, rosemary and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover tightly. Simmer for 30 minutes, checking and stirring halfway. When lentils are falling apart, stir in white wine and return to a simmer, then stir in the spinach, salt and pepper. Simmer just until the spinach is wilted, then take off the heat.

Just before serving, place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the olive oil, then add the peas and radishes and sauté, stirring until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.

Serve 1 1/2 cup of soup in each bowl, and top with about half a cup of the sautéed vegetables.

Carrot Hummus Tartine With Pickled Beets

Serves 5.

Note: A tartine is a lovely French term for an open-faced sandwich. Skip the top slice of bread and show off your pretty carrot hummus, topped with brilliant red pickled beets and lemon zest. Baguettes come in all sizes; look for a wide one so it will hold a nice spread of toppings. From Robin Asbell.

• 1 c. chopped carrots, about 2 large

• 3 cloves garlic, peeled

• 1 (15-oz.) can cooked chickpeas, drained

• 1/2 c. tahini

• 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice

• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1/2 tsp. paprika

• 1 long baguette or 2 smaller ones

• 1/2 c. pickled beets, drained and sliced

• 1 tbsp. lemon zest, for garnish

• 1 tsp. chopped parsley, optional


Steam the carrots for 10 minutes or until tender; drain. In food processor, mince the garlic, then add carrots and chickpeas to the food processor bowl and process. When creamy, scrape down and add tahini, process again. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and paprika to food processor and process until smooth.

Slice the baguette into 5 even pieces and cut each in half. Toast. Spread about 1/4 cup hummus on each piece of baguette. (Or, for a more elaborate presentation, transfer the hummus to a zip-top bag, then cut the corner off and use it to pipe the hummus back and forth across the tops of the baguette halves.) Arrange beet pieces on the hummus and sprinkle with lemon zest and parsley, if using. Serve immediately.