I have been seriously craving some comfort food this week! I’ve been under the weather (yes, I know summer officially starts in 1 week. please tell my body that) and I’ve had about a million and one things to get done at work. So while I haven’t been able to do any fun warm weather activities I also have been lacking in my fitness routine, self-care, blogging, you name it. But I have been craving something creamy and gooey and delicious. Since my activity has slowed down to a crawl and I don’t want to stay sick I also wanted something healthy and good for you for dinner that wouldn’t impede me getting over this thing.
Vegan comfort food tends to come frozen and in plastic packages which really isn’t my cup of tea. I’m also not very fond of vegan cheese substitutes and in general I avoid cooking with any oils. To concede with my body’s wants I made this creamy, delicious, tastes totally unhealthy but really isn’t pasta dinner. Creamy cashew spiced penne with chickpeas and wilted arugula. The sauce is cashew-based cream sauce which isn’t anything too new or exciting by itself but it is an oil-free vegan cream sauce that actually tastes good which is a miracle to me. I spiced it up with harissa and a little smoked paprika. Then of course the cooked penne pasta and some chickpeas for heft. After everything is combined you’ll want to add your arugula and give a quick toss before serving. Slightly warmed is my absolute favorite way to eat arugula! I love all greens that can be eaten cooked or raw for their versatility but arugula, or rocket if you aren’t American, is special. Arugula tastes so green and almost lemony and a little bitter and peppery too raw. It’s amazing as a salad all it’s own dressed with just a little lemon, pepper and almond slivers or tucked in a sandwich. Cooked though it all mellows out but still has much more flavor than run of the mill spinach without being too tough or chewy like chard or kale can be. You just want arugula to get the tiniest bit of heat so it’s softened but still holding up. In this stage it will provide good contrast for the softness of the pasta and cream sauce.
Before you do anything you’ll need to have your cashews soaking. Put your cashews into a bowl and add equal amounts hot water then let soak overnight or at least for 5 hours. Ideally use unsalted and raw cashews to avoid any oil or unwanted salt but I’ve used raw and roasted cashews and they both will work just fine. These guys were roasted but unsalted because I had some that needed to be used. I soaked mine overnight.
Aside from the soak time the rest of this dish is cake. Assemble your oil-free cashew cream sauce by adding you soaked cashews and any remaining liquid to a food processor along with additional plant milk, nutritional yeast, harissa pasta and smoked paprika and then process until smooth. Heat up a large pan and cook garlic until fragrant and then pour in your cashew mixture. Cook until your cashew sauce begins to thicken and add more plant milk to thin as need, a few spoonfuls at a time. Add your parsley and stir in your penne pasta and chickpeas and let it simmer together for a few minutes. Then squeeze in a touch of lemon juice, turn off the heat and stir in the arugula. All ready to go.
This really hit the spot! Perfect, creamy, pasta goodness without a huge fat bomb. And it was a huge hit! The harissa and smoked paprika added just enough flavor so it didn’t fall into the realm of bland. And of course the arugula add some much needed vegetable. It was exactly what I was looking for.
Creamy Cashew Spiced Penne with Chickpeas & Wilted Arugula [Vegan - WFPB]
- 8 oz penne pasta approx 1/2 box
- 1/3 can chickpeas
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley - chopped
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 cups arugula
For the sauce:
- 1/3 cup cashews
- 1/3 cup hot water
- 1/3 cup cashew milk plus more as needed
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp harissa paste
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add cashews to a small bowl and then add hot water and cover and let set on counter 5 minutes up to the night before. Boil and drain pasta. Add soaked cashews, remaining liquid, cashew milk, yeast, harissa, paprika and salt and pepper to a food processor and process until completely smooth, around 1 to 2 minutes. In a large pan over low medium heat begin to heat garlic with a tsp water until fragrant, add cashew mixture. Heat until mixture begins to thicken, adding more cashew milk a tbsp at a time until thinned to desired consistency. Add cooked pasta, chickpeas, parsley and lemon juice. Stir. Heat for another 2-3 minutes then remove from heat and add in arugula. Serve once throughly combined.