One of the beauties of vegan cuisine is that the omission of all animal based products has led to innovative ways to use plant based ingredients. One such innovation which I am particularly fond of is creamy cashew-based sauces. A few of my recipes have already included cashew sauces, but none have featured it as the marquee element of the dish until this recipe. The sauce in this dish is creamy and flavourful, thanks to a whole bunch of fresh herbs blended into it.
The one caveat with cashew based sauces is that they oftentimes require either a high-powered blender or pre-soaked cashews in order to be able to attain the desired levels of smoothness. However, to avoid the pre-soak and ease the strain on the blender, we pour the hot pasta water over the cashews. This not only softens the cashews but adds a depth of flavour to the sauce to really take it over the edge. This recipe is the perfect week-night meal. It only requires one pot and will make 4-5 portions. I hope it finds its way into your kitchen soon!
Active time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 300g dry fusilli pasta
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, pressed
- ⅓ cup lightly packed fresh oregano and thyme
- ½ dry white wine
- 1 bunch basil
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1lb portobello mushrooms, washed & sliced
- 5 oz baby spinach
- Salt & freshly cracked black pepper
- Fill a large dutch oven with water and salt it generously, place it on high heat until it begins to boil. Add in the fusilli pasta and cook according to package instructions. Once completed, strain pasta but reserve the pasta water by straining the pasta over a heat-safe bowl. Add a touch of olive oil to the pasta so it does not stick together.
- Add the raw cashews to a blender and pour over them 1 cup of hot pasta liquid. The easiest way to do this in my experience is putting the blender on a scale and adding 256g of the hot pasta water (note: do not discard the rest of the pasta water). Set aside until ready to blend.
- Return the dutch oven to the burner on medium low flame. Add in the olive oil, followed by the shallots, garlic and fresh herbs. Sauté, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes until the shallots begin to turn translucent. Pour over the wine and continue to sauté until the wine has evaporated off, about 3-4 minutes. Add the shallot and onion mixture to the blender.
- Finally, add the basil, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes and lots of black pepper to the blender as well. Blend it into a sauce on high speed for 2-3 minutes. Let it blend for a couple minutes to ensure it is silky smooth.
- Return the dutch oven to the burner, still on medium low heat. Add in another touch of olive oil and add in the portobello mushrooms. Cook for 4-6 minutes stirring occasionally, once they have softened, add in a generous pinch or two of salt and the mushrooms will release their water.
- Still on medium low heat, add in the spinach to the dutch oven as well with another pinch of salt and sauté until wilted. Add in the cashews sauce & pasta and stir to combine. Add in more pasta liquid until desired consistency is reached. Taste for salt levels and adjust. Serve while warm and enjoy!
Note: I like to save all additional pasta water as well, that way when the left overs are heated the consistency can once again be adjusted.