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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Vegan roasted red pepper and cashew cream orecchiette

Anay Mridul
Anay is the managing editor of The Vegan Review. A journalism graduate from City, University of London, he was a barista for three years, and never shuts up about coffee. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford Comma. Originally from India, he went vegan in 2020, after attempting (and failing) Veganuary. He believes being environmentally conscious is a basic responsibility, and veganism is the best thing you can do to battle climate change. He gets lost at Whole Foods sometimes.

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The sweetness of red bell peppers meets the creaminess of cashews to make a silky, cheesy and downright delicious vegan complement to pasta.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves 2

Ingredients

75g cashews (soaked overnight)
1 roasted red bell pepper (from a jar is fine)
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp white miso
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
200g fresh orecchiette by Pastan
1 slice of bread (or 2 heaped tbsp breadcrumbs)
1 bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped
1½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
Salt to taste

Method

  1. Start off with the breadcrumb topping. Pulse the bread in a food processor until it breaks down into crumbs. (Skip this step if using shopbought breadcrumbs.)
  2. Add ½ tbsp of olive oil to a large pan and bring it to medium-high heat. Finely chop one of the garlic cloves and add it to the pan along with the chilli. After 30 seconds, add the breadcrumbs, give it a stir and let everything toast for one minute.
  3. While the breadcrumbs are cooking, add the cashews, red pepper, remaining garlic cloves, tomato paste, basil, chilli flakes, miso, nutritional yeast and black pepper to a blender with 50ml of water and blitz until it turns into a paste-like consistency. Pour in an additional 200ml of water and blend until the sauce resembles the consistency of coconut milk. (Don’t worry if it’s a little thin, the cashews will thicken it when cooking the sauce.)
  4. Toss the breadcrumbs and toast for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  5. Add a tbsp of olive oil to the same pan and throw in the cherry tomatoes. Cook them on each side for two minutes, until slightly charred.
  6. Start cooking the pasta. Bring a pot of generously salted water to boil and add in the fresh Pastan orecchiette. Cook for four minutes, until the pasta starts floating or is al dente.
  7. While the pasta cooks, add the sauce to the tomatoes on a medium heat and cook for a few minutes, until it starts to thicken. Add a little water from the pot of pasta, and toss in the cooked orecchiette. Taste and season.
  8. Once the sauce has thickened enough and coated the pasta, remove from the heat. Plate it up and top with the breadcrumbs.

This is a quick and ridiculously easy pasta recipe that is perfect for lunch on a busy workday. It uses Pastan’s incredible fresh orecchiette, which is perfect for thick, silky sauces that coat the pasta well.

This orange-ish sauce gets its cheesy flavour from the nutritional yeast and white miso, while the cashews lend a wonderful creamy texture. Silken tofu can work in a pinch, but beware: it’ll make for a denser, heavier final dish.

The star of the sauce, really, is the red bell pepper. Fire-roasting is fun but not everyone has a gas stove, and roasting it in the oven takes a long time. Jarred bell peppers are brilliant — look for the ones in water and not oil, as they tend to be longer in size and better for such sauces.

A word about the orecchiette. Pastan has paid a great tribute to Apulia’s ear-shaped pasta, with its vegan version holding up beautifully in boiling water. Fresh vegan orecchiette is nearly impossible to find in the UK, so this one’s an absolute gem.

Get creative with it. Add some vegan parmesan to the breadcrumbs. Experiment with different herbs. Swap the tomatoes for another vegetable — or even some protein. Just don’t skimp on the miso and nooch: they make the dish.

Check out more recipes like this vegan red pepper pasta.

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