Creamy Umami Baked Penne

This dish is like a warm hot chocolate after an afternoon sledding, like an open fire and your favorite childhood movie playing — it’s a warm bowl of comfort. The most prominent flavor note is umami. It packs such a delicious creamy punch which is perfect for a cold winter day. I set out to write this recipe to try and make a creamy dish with the sauce made primarily out of silken tofu. I wanted to create that rich flavor, without the heavy creamy that typically comes with it.

As with many of my recipes, we have dried shiitake in the sauce which is what brings it the depth of flavor permitting us to omit the cream. We also layer in some yellow onion sautéed with white wine to add sweetness and acidity to round off the sauce. We take this wonderful sauce and pour it over pasta and bake it with the vegetable trio of broccoli, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. 

This dish only requires one large dutch oven and  a blender, keeping the clean up quick. I like to make it with whole wheat pasta, however, I know that is not a popular opinion, so go with whatever you prefer! It makes a great weeknight dinner or the perfect dish to savor a relaxed weekend night on the couch under many blankets. I hope this dish finds its way into your home soon!

Active Time 30 minutes

Cook Time 25 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 30g dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated in advance, broth reserved)
  • 300g Penne or Ziti
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 225g Crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 100g parmesan
  • 300g silken tofu
  • 2 tbsp panko bread crumbs
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • Salt & freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. A few hours before beginning to cook, rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms by soaking them in room temperature water.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F and begin by cooking the pasta by package instructions in a large dutch oven. 
  3. While the pasta cooks. Strain the mushrooms and keep the mushroom broth. To remove the sediment from the broth, strain the liquid through a coffee filter. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and half them. 
  4. Once the pasta is complete, strain and set aside. Return the dutch oven to the stove on medium low heat and add in a dash of olive oil and sauté the shiitake mushrooms, diced onion, garlic and Italian seasoning with a generous amount of salt and black pepper. Sauté for 5-6 minutes and then add in the white wine. Sauté off for another 2-3 minutes allowing the alcohol to evaporate off and transfer to a blender and set aside. 
  5. Return the dutch oven to the heat, add another dash of olive oil and add in the crimini mushrooms, broccoli and tomatoes. Add a half tsp of salt and sauté for 8-9 minutes until the cherry tomatoes are bursting. 
  6. While the vegetables cook, make the sauce. Add the cashews, nutritional yeast, parmesan, silken tofu, ½ tsp of salt and a ½ cup of the mushroom broth to the blender. Blend on high for a few minutes until very smooth. Don’t be afraid to let it run for a while as it may take a few minutes for the cashews and parmesan to fully break down. 
  7. When the vegetables are complete, add the cooked pasta and completed sauce into the dutch oven. Stir to combine thoroughly. At this point, check for salt, typically a bit more is required at this stage. Cover the top with a dusting of panko bread crumbs. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Serve while warm and enjoy! 

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