By Michael McMurtrey | Graphic Designer & Food Stylist
After seeing other plant-based chefs use pureed cashews as a replacement for real dairy cream, I started playing around with ingredients. This recipe provides the flavors of some of my favorite things: pesto and cream with pasta. At first, when I decided to give up dairy, I thought that combination was no longer possible. But I love a challenge, and so I created a plant-based version that would satisfy my cravings. The addition of sauteed mushrooms adds a “meatiness” and the tomatoes add an acidic touch that makes this dish one of my go-to meals for guests.
2 cups raw cashews
1⁄2 cup nutritional yeast
6–10 roasted garlic cloves
1 cup fresh basil, firmly packed
1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon red peppers flakes, optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound rigatoni pasta (or other), prepared
8–12 ounces mushrooms, whatever type you like
1–2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved 1⁄3 cup toasted pine nuts
Place cashews in a bowl, pour in enough water to cover them, and let them soak overnight.
Add the soaked cashews, and soaking water, to a blender. Add nutritional yeast, garlic, basil, nutmeg, and red peppers flakes. Blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, you can add more water or vegetable stock to thin it out. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, sauté mushrooms and cherry tomatoes for about 5 minutes. Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining. Drain pasta, return to pot, add the sauce, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Toss to coat. Add reserved pasta water to get the sauce consistency you like. Plate and garnish with fresh basil and pine nuts.