Springtime Pasta Alfredo with Peas – vegan & gluten free

I first read about making creamy, vegan things from cashews a few years ago in a gourmet vegan cookbook my mom checked out from the library. I don’t remember the title, nor the chef, but he was somewhat famous and vegan. So, not really famous, probably, but well known within a niche, perhaps? Anyway, at that time, gourmet+vegan was a much newer idea, and making whipped cream from cashews? Well, that was just crazy innovative.

Fast-forward to the present, and cashew cream sauces are a regular thing on blogs, and cashew whipped cream isn’t as crazy as it once sounded. The idea has been floating around in the back of my head for quite a while at this point, but most of the recipes I’ve seen for cashew alfredo sauce instruct the cook to soak the nuts overnight. Now, maybe you’re more on top of things than I am, but I rarely plan a weeknight dinner a day in advance. Or two, really, if you need to be sure you have the appropriate ingredients.

So when I saw this recipe and noticed the zero hours soak time, I was intrigued, to say the least. I really wanted to use asparagus like Shira did, but I’m beginning to think that it’s much more accessible on the east coast. I grew up with the notion that asparagus was the beginning of spring and the growing season, and that it should always be eaten in large quantities before it went out of season again. However, here in the SF Bay Area, I’ve found it less frequently and at greater cost. Am I making this up, does anyone know?

Anywho, peas work beautifully here. They add a pop of color, some sweetness, and because frozen work well, they make this a year-round dish. It passed Mr Official Taster’s test and got the nod to go into our regular rotation. High praise indeed.

Springtime Pasta Alfredo with Peas – vegan & gluten free

For a gluten free dish, simply use gluten free pasta. This served 3-4 people as a main course (dinner for two, plus two days worth of leftovers for lunch). Also important: this took less than 30 minutes to pull together, so it’s a perfect weeknight choice.

1/2 lb dry pasta of choice, cooked according to package directions
1 C or so fresh or frozen peas
1-2 C alfredo sauce, recipe below
chopped basil, parsley, chives or other fresh herbs
fresh ground black pepper as desired

Set a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta. When there are only a few minutes left of cooking time, add peas. Don’t add the peas at the beginning or you’ll end up with a soggy mess. Return to a boil. Pasta is finished when you can easily cut through pasta with the side of a fork. Reserve 1/2 – 1 cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain pasta+peas and set aside until the sauce is ready. I started making the sauce when I started the water boiling and the timing worked out pretty well.

Alfredo (i.e. Cashew Cream) Sauce
This can easily be made gluten free by picking a gluten free flour, like brown rice flour, oat flour, etc. Leftovers are tasty on a variety of vehicles, from rice to butternut squash ravioli. Don’t want leftovers? Halving the recipe should work just fine, though I didn’t try it.

1 C raw cashews, roughly chopped
2-2 1/2 C water
2 Tbsp white flour (or flour of choice. see note)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients except for the dried basil in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, letting the blender run a full minute or two to ensure the cashews are well blended. You will need to scrape down the sides of a food processor a couple times. If you’re using a food processor (I did), and you see your water level approaching the “Liquid Fill Line” marked on the bowl, please, please do not ignore it. That line is not a suggestion. In fact, should you ignore it and add liquid past that line, it will leak when you press “on.” Ask me how I know. Alternatively, you can start with 1/2 the water and add the remainder after the first 30 seconds or so of blending.

Pour the blended mixture (it will be quite liquidy at this point. press on) into a saucepan and bring to a slow boil, stirring as you go. Once the sauce is bubbling and thick, add the basil and remove from the heat.

To serve this dish, combine the cooked pasta, peas, and a cup or so of the prepared sauce in the (now drained) pasta pot. Add sauce as desired and taste for salt. Toss the hot sauce with freshly cooked pasta until desired sauce coating is reached and the mixture is hot. Thin with a little reserved pasta water if you think it’s too thick.

Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh herbs, more fresh ground pepper, or Romano/Parmesan if desired.

Store any leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. To reuse, add a tiny bit of water and the sauce to a small saucepan and heat. We finished ours off a few days later, but I would think it would last up to a week or so.
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