Wednesday, November 04, 2009

November 2, 2009: Creamy spring pasta bake

Diets probably don't come much more different than those of siblings Bec and James. While Bec is vegan, James has a salicylate intolerance. This natural preservative pervades the plant kingdom, meaning that the meat, dairy and eggs that Bec eschews are some of the least risky foods for James to eat.

Catering to both Bec and James is just the kind of challenge our potluckin' crew loves. Cooking vegan for a crowd has boosted our confidence and creativity in the kitchen, and we gobble up a good theme. Salicylate-free Vegan looked like being our most extreme theme yet. Bec and James helpfully supplied a spreadsheet of do's and don'ts - while vegetables are a fifty-fifty mix, the permissable fruit list had only two items, and most herbs, spices and condiments are out. James also hinted at some foods he's like to rediscover - mayonnaise, jam, and pasta sauce (the poor guy lives in a tomato-free world).

Pasta sauce! That was something I thought I could do. Thinking of the great cashew cream sauces we've discovered this year, I started my shopping list and moved on to flavourings. Garlic and onion? Done. Then some other veges - fennel, celery and asparagus suit the season. While I would have dearly loved to add some lemon juice or mustard to the mix, such acidic accents are very clearly on James' blacklist.

So I set about roasting and sauteeing veges, blending up a sauce and cooking some pasta. While all the elements tasted good, the final mix was pretty ugly and a bit gluggy. It looked a bit more enticing when at the last minute I decided to transfer it to a baking dish, sprinkle it with rice crumbs (our bread had some suspicious 3-digit additives), and bake it 'til the top was a little golden and crispy.

Creamy spring pasta bake

1. Saute and/or bake some veges with sunflower oil and salt. I:
  • slow cooked 2 onions (sliced into rings) until caramelised, about 45 minutes;
  • sauteed 4 chopped sticks of celery and one very large sliced fennel bulb until tender, about 20 minutes;
  • baked two chopped bunches of asparagus and 4 cloves of garlic until tender, about 15 and 25 minutes respectively.
2. Blend up a creamy sauce in a food processor.
  • Start by grinding 2 1/2 cups cashews to powder.
  • Add a 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
  • Add 1/2 cup of Nuttelex, and salt to taste.
  • Finish with the baked garlic cloves and 1/4 cup water. (Maybe up to 1/2 cup water to reduce glugginess.)
3. Cook 500g of pasta.

4. Stir it all together in a big pot, adding the chopped leaves of the celery (or some parsley - it's allowed!). If you're happy and hungry, go ahead and eat! Otherwise, transfer it all to a baking dish, sprinkle over some rice crumbs, and bake until the top goes crispy and golden, about 20 minutes.


Pip has a run-down of all the contributed dishes over at The Fairest Feed.
Steph has posted D's recipes from the night at Vegan About Town.


  1. D raved about this, so since I missed out I'm going to have to give it a go!

  2. Great how an extreme theme can generate such creativity - this pasta sauce looks really interesting - would love to try it as a bake when the weather cools a bit - the photo looks tres appealing!

  3. Hey Steph! Glad D enjoyed it so much; her pesto-ish sauce was tasty and looks like excellent speedy weeknight food. :-)

    Thanks, Johanna! The sauce is easy if you have a food processor. Nice to know it looks appetising to you, 'cause it certainly didn't before I baked it. :-D