Vegan Creamy Tomato Spinach Pasta
on Jan 13, 2022, Updated Jul 08, 2022
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Pureed cashews make this lighter creamy tomato spinach pasta rich and silky. It will become your go-to vegan pasta sauce, and the recipe makes plenty of extra for leftovers that you can stash in the fridge or freezer.
There’s no shortage of pasta nights at my house especially Monday – Friday when we are all a bit crazy with work and school. Most of the time these meals involve canned tomatoes or lemon and always garlic and olive oil.
Cream sauces aren’t on my list unless they are a healthier version that skips the heavy cream. That’s why I turn to raw cashews, a vegan staple and incredibly versatile ingredient, for the sauce.
Soaking cashews in water and pureeing them into cream is a great way to thicken sauces while getting a boost of protein. You can use them to create a rich plant-based tomato sauce.
The best thing about this creamy tomato sauce recipe is that it incorporates spinach in a way that kids (or picky adults) won’t notice they are getting some greens. And you will end up with leftovers that you can stash in the fridge or freezer.
Cashew Cream – Healthier than Heavy Cream!
It is super simple to make cashew cream. You just need raw cashews and water. All you have to do is soak the nuts in a bowl of water for at least 4 hours or overnight. It’s the kind of thing you could set out during breakfast, and then you are ready to make it by dinner.
The cashews will plump up and soften once they have soaked. After that, drain the soaking water and put the nuts in a blender with an equal amount of water as you have nuts (the pre-soaked quantity). In this recipe, it’s 3/4 cup cashews and 3/4 cup water. Puree them and you will quickly end up with white, smooth cashew cream.
If you forget to soak the cashews in advance, you can combine the cashews with water in a small saucepan and bring them to a boil. Take them off the heat and let the nuts sit for 15 minutes, before draining.
This is what you need for the recipe:
- Cashews: It is important to use raw cashews and not roasted ones because they will be more neutral in flavor. You want the sauce to be about the tomatoes and spices.
- Tomatoes: For the tomatoes, it’s best to use a can of crushed tomatoes since the goal is to end up with a fully pureed sauce.
- Onions: The base of the sauce starts with sautéed onions like countless other tomato sauces and soups do.
- Garlic: You don’t have to bother to mince the garlic since the sauce ends up being pureed. I smash the garlic with the back of a chef’s knife to peel and break the cloves.
- Spices: No surprises here! I include dried oregano, red pepper flakes, kosher salt and black pepper. The oregano gives the sauce that classic Italian flavor.
- Tomato Paste: I add tomato paste with the spices to the sautéed onions to really amp up the tomato flavor.
- Spinach: When you stir the tomatoes and spinach into the onions in the skillet, the greens wilt pretty quickly. And after you puree everything together, the spinach really disappears. Again, this is a great way to sneak in greens if you need to do that for certain friends or family!
- Pasta: Wide fettuccine noodles are great for creamy sauces. You can also try penne or fusilli because ridges and corkscrews will hold on to the sauce nicely.
- Parsley: I like to garnish the pasta with chopped parsley before serving for something herby and fresh.
- Nutritional yeast: To keep the pasta vegan and get cheesy flavor to finish, sprinkle on nutritional yeast.
How To Make Vegan Creamy Tomato Spinach Pasta
- Soak the cashews in water. As mentioned, it is easiest to do the soak in advance at room temperature in a bowl on your kitchen counter. But if you forget, you can do it faster by combining the nuts and water in a saucepan and bringing them to a boil, removing them from the heat and letting the cashews sit for 15 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onions till they turn soft and translucent.
- Stir in the garlic cloves, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and tomato paste and continue cooking until fragrant.
- Pour in the tomatoes and fold in the spinach. Let the sauce simmer for just 10 minutes so the greens wilt and the sauce thickens a little.
- To make the cashew cream, puree the cashews with water in a blender.
- Add the tomato sauce to the cashew cream and puree until smooth and combined.
- Cook the pasta until al dente.
- Stir the sauce into the pasta. You won’t use all the sauce because the recipe makes more than you need.
Leftovers & Storing
The recipe makes about 5 cups of sauce, which is more than enough for a pound of fettuccine. Extra sauce can be kept in the fridge up to 5 days or in the freezer up to 1 month.
When freezing the sauce, I recommend doing it in serving-sized portions rather than all of it in a single container. It will be easier to thaw and you can use it for a single meal rather than eating the same thing on repeat.
The other night I spooned some leftover sauce from the fridge into a bowl. I warmed it with a few blasts of heat in the microwave. This happened while I simmered chickpea pasta on the stove. Finally, I stirred the pasta into the sauce. It could not have been easier
Not A Vegan? You Will Still Love This Sauce!
The flavor and silky consistency of the sauce are so good that I guarantee you won’t miss the dairy from heavy cream.
However, I do give you permission to top the pasta with shredded Parmesan if that’s more your speed than nutritional yeast. I get it. No judgment here.
More Tomato Pasta Recipes
Vegan Creamy Tomato Spinach Pasta
- 3/4 cup raw cashews
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 white onion roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves smashed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup packed spinach leaves
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 pound fettuccine
- Chopped parsley for serving
- Nutritional yeast for serving
- Soak the cashews in a bowl of water at room temperature for at least 4 hours to overnight, and then drain them. To soften the nuts faster, bring the cashews to boil in a small saucepan of water, remove them from the heat and let them sit for 15 minutes before draining.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions until they start to soften and turn translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes until very fragrant.
- Stir in the tomatoes followed by the spinach. Simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat.
- Put the cashews and 3/4 cup water in a blender. Puree until creamy and smooth. Add the sauce from the skillet and puree into a smooth sauce.
- Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Stir in desired amount of sauce and reheat in the skillet as needed.
- Top with chopped parsley and nutritional yeast before serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.