Have you ever found a recipe so tasty and interesting that you want to make it all the time, and when you can’t make that exact recipe, you want to make recipes inspired by it? I had that experience some time back with By the Bay’s potato knish using Chebe crust as the pastry for knish. I liked it so much I started using Chebe for pastry for everything- spinach pie tartlets, samosas, cranberry apple turnovers. I took it so far that I got a reputation as “that Chebe girl” and the company approached me to develop some recipes and do a photo for their cinnamon mix packaging. True story!
I styled and photographed the photo on their last soft package mix for cinnamon Chebe. Of course, just recently they got entirely new packaging in fancy new boxes. I guess I’ll have to frame the remaining package in my pantry! But I digress.
So, about those recipes. I think you all know my friend Ali Segersten with the blog at Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, and a new cookbook coming out soon. I adopted her some time ago for Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger. Way back in July she had this amazing recipe for Dairy-free Creamed Kale that I could eat like candy, I swear. Instead of using those tasteless packaged dairy-free milks, Ali used all fresh, real ingredients and make the creamy sauce with cashews. I just loved this recipe, and started thinking about other ways to use cashews as a creamy sauce in recipes.* I tried a creamed broccoli/cauliflower recipe, and it was good but not spectacular. But then the other night I was staring at my pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner, and I was trying to think of how to make pasta interesting but not so interesting that Toddler Yum would snub it. We also had this huge container of mushrooms from Costco staring glossily back at me in the refrigerator, and it occurred to me that a cashew, dairy-free cream sauce would make a great mushroom alfredo. I seared some mushrooms and chard from our garden and added grated zucchini for bulk and sneaky mama veggie quotient and reduced the heck out of that cashew cream sauce. I also popped some white sweet potato “fries” in the oven to roast as a side dish.
At first I was going to make some plain pasta for the dear toddler, who can be relied on to ask for “plain, mama, plain pasta”. But then I thought that since she has never met a cashew dish she didn’t like, I’d try serving her the alfredo. The mushrooms were picked out immediately, and she eyed the chard very suspiciously, but she slurped down the pasta in sauce like a starving puppy and asked for more. My girl had four helpings before the night was out! And before you get worried, she had skipped the (disgusting) lunch at her daycare and had recently recovered from a tummy bug, so I think she was ready for a serious calorie infusion. The picky DH, who can be very skeptical of dairy-free sauces, dove in with gusto, and it goes without saying that I ate more than my fair share. Success!
I would definitely make this recipe again, and might just have to try this cashew sauce in some other classic creamy recipes. If you have a vitamix, I think the creamy sauce will be even more creamy, but the texture with my (pathetically weak) blender reminded me of the texture of melted parmesan regianno bits, so it worked well for us. These photos were taken the following day when the greedy pasta had drank up a lot of the sauce. It tasted good reheated but was most spectacular freshly made. Also, I used the new Trader Joe’s gluten-free corn spaghetti, and thought it worked well. A brown rice (Tinkyada) or my all time my favorite gluten-free pasta by Le Veneziane might make it even better!
*This recipe posting is Ali-approved… I love my fellow bloggers and always like to ask them when I use a blogged recipe as serious inspiration when developing a new recipe.
Dairy-free Soy-fre Mushroom Alfredo Pasta Sauce Recipe
2 tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 cups water
1 teaspoon raw cider vinegar
1 teaspoon herbamare or your favorite herbed salt
Heat oil on medium-high in a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet. Saute your onion until translucent. Then combine translucent onion, soaked and drained cashews, nutritional yeast, water, vinegar and herbamare in a blender. Blend until you have a creamy sauce. Reserve.
Boil pasta until al dente.
Heat additional oil (if needed) in your pan on medium-high and add your sliced mushrooms in a single layer on the pan. Season with freshly grated black pepper and herbamare. You may have to do several batches. Brown one side and then turn over to brown the other side. Remove from pan and reserve while you brown the remaining mushrooms. Add your slivered chard to the last batch of mushrooms and sautee them until they wilt and start to brown. Sprinkle on your grated zucchini and let it soften slightly. Pour on your sauce and let it thicken.
Mix pasta into the sauce and serve topped with fresh basil if desired.
Best the first night it is made, but can be reheated too. I think I might save any uneaten pasta separate from the sauce for the next day and combine them right before heating so that the pasta doesn’t absorb too much of the sauce and you get more creamy liquid for leftovers.