Experimenting with Cashew Cream – Tomato and Basil Pasta

I feel like blogging is a habit I need to form again – or maybe all my crazy work travel to San Diego is putting a damper on my “free” time. Whatever the case may be, I feel as if I just haven’t had a chance until this weekend to sit back and come up with something new to try out.

Making a cream sauce using a cashew base has been on my to-do list for months – I’m not a fan of any of the fake cheese products on the market, so in general, I’d rather do without. That being said, making my own creamy or cheesy sauce using cashews seemed like a healthy way to incorporate another variety of nuts in our diet – and help us avoid eating foods made in a science lab.

I had a fresh bunch of basil from my CSA delivery last week – I decided to make a tomato basil sauce to serve with whole wheat spaghetti. I used onion, lots of garlic, homemade tomato paste (from my freezer) and fresh basil as the main ingredients in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • large bowl of salted warm water
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 serrano chili (or more or less – depends on how brave you are)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • non-dairy milk of choice – I didn’t use any, but good to keep on hand in case you need to thin the sauce – another option would be to save the pasta water
  • 4 servings of whole-wheat spaghetti
  1. Soak the cashews in the salted warm water for about 3 hours – I used mineral salt as my salt of choice
  2. I didn’t have any vegetable broth already made, so I just simmered the stalks from some broccoli (which I never use otherwise) and a celery stalk with some salt for about an hour while the cashews soaked. If your broth is already made, warm it up to just before boiling./li>
  3. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  4. While the pasta cooks, drain the cashews, and blend them with the warmed vegetable broth – you may need to scrape down the sides to make sure all of the pieces are pureed fully. Add the serrano chili and a few basil leaves into the blender and blend completely.
  5. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it into a colander (I always reserve some of the pasta water just in case). In the same pan, add some olive oil and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic into the mix until it also softens.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook until it mixed into the onions completely – then add a ladle of the cashew mixture into the pan and stir until it all comes together.
  7. Add the rest of the cashew mixture into the pan and stir thoroughly – if the sauce is too thick, use some non-dairy milk or the pasta water to thin it out. Add the fresh basil and mix in the spaghetti.

My conclusions? I think this recipe was a success! The huz said that if he hadn’t seen me using the cashews, he probably wouldn’t have known that I hadn’t used real cream.  I rarely have heavy cream in the refrigerator – soaking some cashews for a couple of hours is so easy to do as a quick substitute if necessary.

I served the pasta with some grilled asparagus we picked up at the new San Jose Farmer’s Market at San Pedro Square – it’s nice to know that we have another option if we can’t make it to our regular farmers market on Sunday.

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