Pasta is a weakness of mine. I remember I used to eat pasta every day when I lived in Italy. I learned there that pasta can have so much variety and be prepared in countless delicious ways! I still enjoy pasta on a regular basis. If you can cook a good pasta you’ve won me over. 😉 I used to be so bad at this, in fact I thought that I simply need to get a ready pasta sauce and boil some pasta and that was it (needless to say I always overcooked it). Until one day my Sicilian housemate threw away all the jars with pasta sauce I have bought and said “Enough!”. She thought me how to make a good pasta sauce, and I learned that it is actually quite easy, and yes, it tastes 100 times better than the store bought stuff. Not to mention it is also (at least) 100 times healthier.
I am forever grateful to her for teaching me how to cook pasta. It is one of those meals that can be so tricky because they are so simple. You can easily ruin a good pasta sauce, and you can also easily safe a bad one, if you know what you are doing. And so, I guess I can say that I have become a bit of a pasta snob. I like a rich, flavourful sauce, and a bland tomato sauce simply doesn’t cut it for me anymore. I never liked the white sauces to be honest. An original Alfredo sauce was not one of my favourites. This is until I started playing around with some new ingredients. It is incredible how you can achieve creaminess, and a buttery taste without cream or butter, using ingredients that are super nutritious and good for you. This recipe is the proof of what I’m saying. It is creamy, rich, full of flavour, and you simply won’t be able to stop yourself having a second serving. At least I know I can’t. 😛
If you are gluten intolerant go for brown rice pasta. But if you can, try to use orecchiette. I find they go best with this sauce. And before I share this recipe with you, let me give you a bit of information about the ingredients I am using, because this is a big part of my excitement – they offer real nourishment for your body!
Butternut squash is a great source of beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for your skin, sight and immune system. It also contains vitamin C, E, thiamin and folate. A cup of butternut squash contains 7 grams of fiber, helping you with digestion and promoting the healthy bacteria in your gut. The magnesium and manganese contained in the squash can help strengthen your bones, as these minerals can help calcium absorption and improve the mineral density of the bones.
Cashews are packed with vitamins, such as E, K and B6, and minerals like copper, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, and selenium. They contain less fat than other nuts, and can help boost your mood.
I love adding nutritional yeast to my food. Not only because it gives that cheesy flavour to my dish, but also because it is packed with nutrition. Most importantly it is packed with complex B-vitamins, is a complete protein source and contains some iron. Some nutritional yeast contains vitamin B12, an important mineral for vegans.
So these three ingredients are the main components of this super delicious sauce. But the other ingredients are just as important, as they give the unique smokey and slightly cheesy flavour we are after. Here is the recipe for this delicious comfort food.
Orecchiette with butternut sauce
- 500gr orecchiette
- 300gr fresh spinach
- 150gr cashews, soaked for about 2 hours
- 1/2 butternut squash
- 3-4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 3-4 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (not optional!)
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 3/4 cup of water or more if needed
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.
- Remove the skin of the butternut squash and cut into larger pieces. Place them in a baking sheet and bake them for about 25 minutes. Let them cool down once ready.
- Heat up some oil in a pan, add the garlic and spinach and mix well. Sauté the spinach until it relates some water and becomes soft, but is still juicy. Set aside.
- Boil some water in another pan. Once the water is boiling add some salt and the pasta, and boil according to the instructions on the package. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
- Place the roasted butternut squash, soaked cashes, nutritional yeast, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika and 1 tbsp olive oil in a food processor. Blend until you get a nice creamy texture. Slowly add some water while blending to dilute the texture, until you get a creamy but slightly runny sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix the pasta with the sauce and spinach. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top and serve immediately.