This Pasta Is Creamy, Cheesy, Savory . . . and 100 Percent Vegan

With an umami-packed ingredient list and a creamy, cashew-based sauce, this recipe was designed to impress.

Published Feb. 24, 2021.

I have recipe FOMO. If my friends or a group of strangers on the internet are all talking about a dish, I want to join in on the conversation. So when ATK cookbooks editor Steph Pixley mentioned how much everyone was loving the Cashew e Pepe e Funghi recipe from The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook, my ears perked up.

After that initial mention from Steph, I started to hear about this recipe everywhere. Colleagues mentioned it in Zoom meetings. Test cook Joe Gitter made a video of himself cooking it at home. I knew I had to try it myself.

The verdict? Worthy of all the praise. 

During recipe development for The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook, this recipe had made the test cooks change course. They’d planned to develop a vegan version of either pasta carbonara or cacio e pepe, but when their tasters tried this recipe—which is more of a combo of the two—the response was so overwhelming that they knew they’d landed on a winner.

After making the recipe, I can see why. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic here, but I liked this creamy, cheesy, warm-flavored pasta dish more with every bite. Here’s what makes it such a genius recipe:

  • The ingredient list is packed with umami bombs. With nutritional yeast, white miso, and mushrooms, this recipe has savoriness to spare.
  • The oyster mushrooms feel a lot like bacon bits. Because they have less moisture than other types of mushrooms, they cook up into crunchy, chewy nuggets that add great textural contrast.
  • It makes just the right amount of sauce. The sauce looks watery when you add it to the pasta, but fear not! The starch in the cashews expands when heated, so by the time you finish stirring, each strand of pasta is perfectly coated with the rich, creamy sauce.
  • It’s a pantry recipe. I’m not vegan, but I already had almost every ingredient in my kitchen. (I had to run to the store for the mushrooms.)
  • You can prepare the sauce ahead of time. The sauce can be made and stored in the fridge for up to a week. So it's not only a pantry recipe but also a weeknight pantry recipe.

Cashew e Pepe e Funghi

From The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook

Serves 4 to 6

½ cup roasted cashews
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons white miso
½ teaspoon table salt, plus salt for cooking pasta
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces oyster mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
5 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Process cashews in blender on low speed until consistency of fine gravel mixed with sand, 10 to 15 seconds. Add 1½ cups water, nutritional yeast, miso, and salt and process on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. Scrape down sides of blender jar and let mixture sit for 15 minutes.

2. Process on low speed until all ingredients are well blended, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of blender jar, then process on high speed until sauce is completely smooth, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook until deep golden brown and crispy, 7 to 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in garlic and pepper and cook using residual heat of skillet until fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.

5. Add sauce, mushroom mixture, parsley, and lemon juice to pasta and toss until sauce is thickened slightly and pasta is well coated, about 1 minute. Before serving, adjust consistency with reserved cooking water as needed and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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