Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cashew Creole Pasta with Too Many Veggies

Cashew Pasta, side view

If you followed my old blog, The Columbus Vegan, then you know that one of my favorite recipes, that I frequently revisited, was "Creamy Creole Pasta". I generally would make a roux, using soy milk, flour, and earth balance, and it was pretty good. But it always had the slight hue of sweet that comes when you use lots of soy milk, even unsweetened soy. But in a lot of ways, we made that sweetness work to our advantage in a creole dish. As Andrew always likes to say, "You gotta have the sweet and the heat!".

Truly, though, I haven't made my creole pasta like this in quite some time. I use cashews as the base and olive oil to cook the onions, and I wind up with a deliciously not-too-sweet, soy-free version. But for a long time, I took issue with cashew-based sauces.  Every recipe I had seen, from blog to blog, cookbook to cookbook, touted that you MUST soak cashews overnight before making cashew cream. And yet, I could not find a reason why I had to take on this extra labor!

Seriously, I can't believe I used to waste my time doing that nonsense.

Creamy Creole Pasta of yesteryear 
I remember like it was yesterday. One cool, winter evening, craving pasta but not having any presoaked cashews on-hand, I did the unthinkable. I blended those little devils raw, unsoaked in my amazing ninja blender. I made that damn cashew sauce on the fly and never looked back. And I still lived to tell the delicious tale.

So, if you have some fancy, chef-y reason for soaking them, tell me. Because I don't taste a damn difference. Like, seriously. It doesn't make a difference.

Anyway, I'm sure we've read enough cashew cream sauce recipes to make our damn eyes bleed, but this is mine. So it's better. In an attempt for a lower calorie cashew cream dish, I've decreased the oil, vegan butter, and pasta, and jacked up the number of veggies. If you're in the mood for the full-calorie version, check out my delicious additions at the end of the recipe. To keep it soy free, be sure to use the soy free earth balance!

Cashew Creole Pasta with Too Many Veggies
Serves 2-4 people, pending appetite assessment

1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
cold water, about 2 cups
3/4 cup quartered brussels sprouts
3/4 cup broccoli florets 
Cooking Spray
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped very finely
3 tbsp creole seasoning (watch your salt!)
1 tsp cayenne (for extra heat)
1 tsp garlic powder
2-4 tbsp nutritional yeast, to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt & Peper to taste
1-2 handfuls of spinach or arugula
Exactly 2 servings of prepared whole wheat rotini (or penne, or whatever)

* Preheat your oven to 430
* Take all those nice chopped up brussels sprouts and broccoli, put it in a baking dish. Spray and toss with cooking spray & salt/pepper to taste. Bake for about 20 minutes, until tender and bright green.
* Prepare your pasta to package instructions, about 9-11 minutes of boiling usually. You can chop your onions while you wait. Drain cooked pasta and set aside. 
* In the same pot, heat your pot with a dash of salt and your olive oil on medium/low heat. Cook your onions REALLY well. Until their golden and soft. You don't want a raw onion bite.
* While those onions are cooking and you're making sure they don't burn, take your blender and add 1/2 cup raw cashews. Then fill with water 'til you hit the 2 1/2 to 3 cups line. Blend those devils for about 5-10 minutes. 
* When those are done, pass them through a fine mesh sieve, pouring directly into the pan with the onions. If you don't have a sieve, that's no big deal. It might be a little thick.
* Add all your nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice. Mix, allowing to bubble and thicken for about 5-10 minutes.
* Add in your pasta, spinach and roasted veggies and mix that ish up! 
* Alterations: 
- Add prepared Gardein crispy tenders, chopped up and mixed in
- Add 3-5 tbsp vegan buttery spread once the sauce has thickened, before you add the veggies and/or chicken (I use earth balance). This makes it very smooth, rich, and delicious. 
- Use more pasta and less veggies. :)


  1. You're right! Soaking is so overrated.

  2. Also - this veggie packed version is sooo good and you don't feel like a fatty for filling up on veggies. I wish I had some right now.