This is a creamy vegan pasta recipe topped with grilled garlic balsamic tomatoes that is sure to impress even the most skeptical non vegans. Best of all? It’s ready in under 20 minutes and easy to make.
This recipe is:
- Vegan / Plant-based
- Ready in under 20 minutes
- Easy to make
- Can be made gluten-free (see notes below)
Ingredients and substitutions:
egg-free fettuccine: most pasta you’ll find on supermarket shelves is actually vegan, but it’s still important to double check as some types of pasta do contain eggs. Most of them will either be in the refrigerated section and/or include an image of eggs on the packaging. Double check the ingredient list to be sure. I used fettuccine, but penne and spaghetti would work great in this recipe as well. For a gluten-free alternative, opt for rice or lentil pasta.
cashews: cashews are what makes this recipe extra creamy. If you don’t have a high speed blender, it’s important to either soak nuts overnight or quick soak them with boiling water (more on that in the instructions below). Pine nuts would also work here. For a nut-free alternative, use sunflower seeds or coconut cream.
vegetable broth: veggie broth adds a little extra flavor, but you could also use water or non-dairy milk (in which case you might need to add more seasonings). You can make your own broth or buy it in stores (I like to use vegetable broth paste like “Better than Bouillon” or umami seasoning sauce like “Yondu”).
nutritional yeast: one of the most important ingredients when it comes to vegan cooking, so don’t skip this if you can! It makes everything taste like cheese (without actually containing cheese). It’s also super healthy as it’s high in protein and some brands (like Bragg’s) fortify theirs with vitamin B12. If you can’t find this, you can either omit or use a little grated vegan mozzarella instead.
cornstarch (gluten-free) or all-purpose flour: this thickens the sauce and a little goes a long way.
garlic cloves: I’m obsessed with garlic and rarely ever make savory recipes without it. You can use fresh garlic (my preference) or garlic powder.
yellow onion: this adds both flavor and texture. You can also use shallots or green onions. If you don’t like onions, feel free to sub with thinly sliced zucchini or to omit.
mushrooms of choice: I like using baby bella or shiitake mushrooms, but oyster mushrooms would work here too!
olive oil: extra virgin olive oil is best, but avocado oil or even vegan butter would work too.
cherry tomatoes: the trick to turning these into flavor bombs is to leave them whole. Trust me, there’s nothing quite like a grilled whole cherry tomato melting in your mouth! Alternatively, you can use grape tomatoes. I wouldn’t recommend using large chopped tomatoes as it would change the whole flavor profile of this dish. Fire-roasted red bell peppers would be a suitable alternative.
balsamic reduction or balsamic vinegar: balsamic reduction is much thicker and creamier than balsamic vinegar, which is why I personally prefer it. No balsamic at hand? Feel free to omit.
fresh basil leaves: basil is one of my favorite herbs and works great in this creamy pasta recipe. Tip if you’re growing your own: water it from underneath rather than from above.
sea salt: I try to avoid table salt and always opt for either sea salt, Himalayan pink salt or salt flakes, but that’s just a personal preference!
freshly ground pepper: a classic. You could also add a little nutmeg if you wanted to!
baby spinach: try not to use frozen spinach as it would make this dish too watery. Alternatives: fresh chopped kale, collard greens or Swiss chard.
soy or tamari sauce: if you need this recipe to be gluten-free, use tamari rather than soy sauce.
liquid smoke: this is optional. Many people have never heard of liquid smoke, but it’s such a great way to add a little bacon-y flavor to vegan dishes. You can find it near the oils and condiments at most supermarkets (it’s usually $2-4) and will last you a long time.
How to make this recipe in 3 easy steps:
Step one: Cook the Pasta
I used egg-free fettuccine, but you can use any type of pasta you like. For the best result, cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water, then drain but do not rinse! To avoid the fettuccine sticking together, mix in a tablespoon of olive oil and a little freshly ground pepper and basil leaves for extra flavor. Then cover with a lid to make sure the pasta says warm until you’re ready to eat.
Step two: Make the creamy mushroom sauce
For the creamy mushroom and spinach sauce, I sautéed a chopped onion, minced garlic and sliced mushrooms in a little oil in a frypan for about 10 minutes.
While the vegetables are sautéing, blend the soaked cashews with vegetable broth, cornstarch, a little sea salt and nutritional yeast. If you have a tree-nut allergy, you can use oat, soy or coconut cream instead. The nutritional yeast is what gives this dish a cheese-like flavor, a secret weapon that belongs in every vegan kitchen. The cornstarch will help make the consistency a little thicker, but you can definitely omit it if you don’t have it at hand. The amount of salt you’ll need will depend on how naturally salty your vegetable broth is, so I recommend starting with a small amount and then adding more after taste testing if need be.
Tip: soaking the cashews beforehand will make it much easier to get a smooth and creamy consistency. If you don’t have the time to soak them for at least a few hours, quick soak them in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Once the sauce is blended, add it to the frypan with some liquid smoke, soy sauce and baby spinach and mix well, adding a little more broth as you go and let it simmer for a few more minutes.
Step three: Make the grilled balsamic tomatoes
The grilled balsamic tomatoes are without a doubt the secret star of this recipe. Cooking tomatoes even just a little bit really brings out their flavor. Paired with balsamic reduction or vinegar and garlic, this flavor combo is incredible. For this part of the recipe, I used a grillpan, but you can use any kind of pan! Start by adding a little oil and cherry tomatoes to the pan and cook them over medium heat for about 3 minutes before adding minced garlic and balsamic reduction or vinegar. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Serve immediately with the pasta and sauce and enjoy.
Recipe FAQ (frequently asked questions)
Is most pasta vegan?
It depends. Most of the ones you find on shelves tend to be egg-free, but there are many that aren’t, so be sure to read the label and double check the ingredient list.
How do you make something creamy without dairy?
There are many ways! You can blend soaked nuts and seeds (like in this recipe) with water and nutritional yeast, or you can use nut or seed butter (that way you can skip the blending). My favorites are cashew butter and tahini. Other alternatives include full-fat coconut milk, coconut cream and vegan cooking creams that are soy, oat, coconut or almond based. In soups, white beans can add creaminess too.
Can this recipe be made gluten-free?
Yes! Simply use lentil or rice pasta, tamari instead of soy sauce and cornstarch instead of all-purpose flour.
Can this recipe be made soy-free?
Yes, by using coconut aminos instead of soy sauce/tamari.
Aren’t too many carbs bad for you?
Noooo. That’s a myth. Carbs are great. If you’re worried about grains (in bread, pasta etc) on a vegan diet, I’d recommend reading vegan registered dietitian Ginny Messina’s blog post “Grains in Vegan Diets: No, They Won’t Make You Fat or Sick”.
Want more vegan pasta recipes?
If you like this recipe, you might also enjoy these 55+ Incredible Pasta Recipes You Won’t Believe Are Vegan on Best of Vegan’s website. I also have plenty of delicious vegan pasta recipes in my cookbook, Vegan Reset: The 28-Day Plan To Kickstart Your Healthy Lifestyle.
Here’s the printable version of the recipe. If you try it, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a rating and comment below.Print
This creamy vegan pasta recipe is ideal for the whole family and ready in just 20 minutes!
- 10 oz egg-free fettuccine (dry weight)
- 1 1/4 cup cashews, soaked
- 2 cups vegetable broth (a little more if need be)
- 2 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp cornstarch or all-purpose flour
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 yellow onion, medium to large, chopped
- 12–14oz mushrooms of choice, sliced
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
- 8oz cherry tomatoes
- 1 tsp balsamic reduction or balsamic vinegar
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves
- sea salt to taste
- 1 pinch freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 2 tsp soy or tamari sauce
- 2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
- In a large pot, bring lightly salted water to a boil, then add the pasta and cook al dente, which should take about 12-13 minutes depending on the brand you’re using. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and return it to the pot, mixing in 1 tbsp olive oil, fresh basil and ground pepper. Add the lid to keep the pasta warm until you’re ready to serve.
- While the pasta is cooking, start sautéeing the chopped onion and 2 garlic cloves in 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frypan. Add the mushrooms about a minute later and then sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, then add the soy sauce and liquid smoke and mix well.
- Reduce heat to low and start making the cashew sauce. For the sauce, blend the soaked and drained cashews with the cornstarch, 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth, sea salt and nutritional yeast on high until you get a smooth consistency.
- Add the sauce and spinach to the pan, mix well and let simmer for 5 more minutes mixing in the rest of the vegetable broth little by little. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more broth or water.
- For the balsamic tomatoes, add 2 tsp olive oil and the cherry tomatoes to a grill pan and grill over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the balsamic reduction or vinegar and 1 minced garlic clove and grill for 3 additional minutes over low-medium heat.
- Serve the pasta with the sauce and tomatoes and enjoy.
- If you have leftovers, be sure to add a little more liquid to the sauce when you reheat it as it will thicken in the fridge.
- t’s best to soak the cashews for at least 4 hours or overnight, but if you forgot to prep this step, you can quick-soak them in boiling water for a few minutes (don’t cook them, just let them sit in the hot water).
Keywords: pasta, vegan, vegan pasta, quick meals