This simple and versatile dish using pantry ingredients is on repeat at my house
I’ve been making creamy vegan pasta quite a bit these days. It’s inexpensive comfort food made with pantry ingredients, and you can throw in anything you have in the fridge. There are three essential components to this dish: pasta, the sauce (made with non-dairy milk of your choice), and add-ins (cooked vegetables, roasted peppers, frozen veggies, pickles,etc.). I do give ratios, but this dish can easily be doubled or tripled.
Let’s start with the pasta; any kind will work. I like penne, orecchiette, and fusilli, but use whatever you have in your pantry. I typically cook half a pound (8 oz) of pasta for my family of three. Cook the pasta off first, drain (reserving 1 cup of pasta water), and set it aside while you prepare the sauce in the same pan.
The sauce is the most important component of the dish, and there is one ingredient that I think is key to making a savory vegan cream sauce: nutritional yeast. It’s possible to make a nice sauce without it, but nooch* adds an extra layer of flavor.
- Start by melting 2 TBS of vegan butter* in your saucepan over medium heat.
- When the butter starts to bubble and sizzle, stir in 2 TBS of flour. Cook your butter/flour paste (aka roux) for 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Whisk in 1 cup of (room-temp) non-dairy milk (almond, oat, or soy will work best). Raise heat and bring milk mixture to a light boil; lower temperature back to medium and cook until thick, about 3 minutes (stirring constantly). Remove from heat. Whisk in pasta water 1 TBS at a time if the sauce is too thick.
- Season to taste with nutritional yeast (I use a few tablespoons), salt, and fresh ground black pepper. You can also add a pinch of paprika or cayenne or dried herbs like thyme, garlic, and oregano. A squeeze of lemon juice or splash of rice wine vinegar is also lovely.
And finally, the add-ins: this is where you can get creative using ingredients you already have. The possibilities are endless.
Some ideas for add-ins are roasted vegetables (peppers, zucchini, asparagus, anything you like), chopped preserved lemons, pickled vegetables, frozen peas or corn (steamed or microwaved first), caramelized onions, roasted garlic, artichoke hearts, mashed butternut squash, cooked beans, or fresh herbs. Add anything that sounds delicious to you, or whatever needs to be used first in the fridge or pantry.
Bring it together. Fold pasta and add-ins into the cream sauce. Warm over low heat for a few minutes, if necessary. You can also bake this mixture at 375 degrees for 15 minutes with seasoned breadcrumbs or maybe a little almond ricotta on top. Top your bowl of creamy vegan pasta with more delicious-ness like crushed red pepper, fresh herbs, or scallions. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or serve with hot sauce. Eat it however you like, with whatever you want, and revel in the glory of a creamy, comforting bowl of pasta.
*The best vegan butter is Miyoko’s European-style cultured butter. It’s far, far better than any of the margarine-like plant-based butter available. _______________________________________________________________
Add-in Combination Ideas:
- Black beans, leftover grilled corn (cut off the cob), roasted peppers, cilantro or scallions
- Roasted squash like kabocha, butternut or acorn (cubed or mashed), pickled mushrooms, steamed peas
- Tomatoes (fresh, roasted, sundried, leftover canned), sliced red chilies, fresh basil, extra nooch or vegan parmesan
- Preserved lemon, garlic (sauteed or roasted), red pepper flakes (Aleppo is nice)