Penne pasta is drenched in creamy cashew sauce and tossed with juicy tomatoes and fresh basil to create this luscious vegan version of a summery Italian classic.
When I was growing up, after having gone vegetarian, my mom discovered a recipe for pasta Caprese, and it soon became the favorite of everyone in the house. It was a Cooking Light recipe, and I think a pretty popular one, so I'm sure you can find it if you're interested and do some poking around.
Anyhow, it was nice to have one of those rare meatless recipes that the omnivores (i.e. everyone else) enjoyed as much as the vegetarian (yours truly) and was totally suitable for serving company and was just about the easiest thing ever to make. Nobody ever complained about the lack of meat in that dish.
I think it's safe to say that my vegan version, even if it does go off track a bit, would totally please the palates of vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike. In fact, I'm kind of guessing most dairy eaters wouldn't even realize this dish was vegan.
The main difference between my version of the dish and the one I grew up with is the creamy sauce. The original used chunks of fresh mozzarella, and while there's a million ways I could've tried to replicate this that may or may not be tasty as the original, I figured creamy sauce is always kind of sure thing, so I just went there. It was a good decision. I plopped a plate of this in front of my husband, and after he took a bite I asked if he remembered what my mom's pasta Caprese tasted like. "Yeah, like this." Mission accomplished.
Creamy Vegan Tomato Basil Pasta
- 12 oz. dried penne pasta
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours, drained and rinsed
- ¾ to 1 ¼ cups unflavored soy or almond milk
- 3 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 ½ tbsp. white miso paste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 ½ cups diced fresh tomatoes, about 5-6 Roma tomatoes
- 1 ½ cups fresh torn basil leaves, about 1 bunch
- 1 ½ tbsp. capers, or more
- salt and pepper to taste
- red pepper flakes, optional
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain into a colander, then return pasta to the pot. Toss with olive oil.
While pasta cooks, place cashews, ¾ cups of milk, lemon juice, miso paste and garlic into a food processor or blender. Blend until completely smooth, thinning with up to an additional ½ cup of milk, and stopping to scrape down sides of bowl or pitcher as needed.
Pour cashew mixture over pasta. Add tomatoes, basil and capers, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss until ingredients are mixed and coated with sauce.
Divide onto plates, sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if using, and serve.
Prep time does not include soaking time for cashews.