This vegan white pasta sauce has it all: it is silky, creamy, garlicky, savory, delicious, and versatile. And it’s made with good-for-you beans. Serve it warm over a ribbon pasta like fettuccine, pappardelle or linguine.
When it comes to vegan white pasta sauces, I’ve tried them all. I love this creamy alfredo cashew sauce, and I’ve tried a version with cauliflower. The cashew sauce, although delicious, is not an everyday indulgence because it is higher in fat than most sauces I would cook (although it has nowhere near the amount of calories in an authentic cream-and-butter-and-cheese alfredo). The cauliflower version, well, isn’t bad, but honestly, I can never get past the cauliflower smell which doesn’t quite go away. And I sometimes make a healthy, protein-rich chickpea sauce, but delicious though it is, it seems to dry up on me rather quickly which means it is best consumed the day it’s made.
This version of a vegan white pasta sauce I have for you today is a clear winner on every front. It’s really healthy, for one, because it’s made with white beans: great northern beans, to be exact. All it needs, besides the beans, are six ingredients that I am willing to bet are already in your pantry.
The payoff is spectacular: this is a rich, luscious sauce, so there’s no deprivation here. Not an ounce of. The sauce coats the pasta silkily and wraps your tastebuds in the warmth of garlic and oregano. I can eat it by the bowlful, just as it is, and not feel a bit guilty: it’s just beans, guys, and food doesn’t get any more nutritious than beans.
I added some cashews to the sauce and they not only help add some richness, but they also do a magnificent job of keeping the sauce from drying out over time: something bean-puree sauces often tend to do. I brown-bagged the pasta to lunch the day after I made it, and the sauce was still velvety and smooth and quite perfect.
Great northern beans have a nutty, delicious flavor which makes them perfect for this sauce, but you can use another white bean, like cannellini, navy or lima. You can cook the beans from scratch, which I prefer to do, or you can use canned, but white beans do not usually take as long to cook as some other types of legumes, so start with the dry beans if you can for the purest flavor.
You can make this sauce cheesy, if you wish, by adding some nutritional yeast. I didn’t add any this time because it was already so good, I didn’t want to gild the lily. If you do add nutritional yeast, add no more than a couple of tablespoons because you don’t want to overwhelm the savory, garlicky flavor.
I was a little nervous serving this to Jay because, like every child, he has an inner radar that uncannily tells him when a food is healthy and therefore not edible. This time, I had that radar fooled. He ate it up, beans and all, and licked up every last bit of the sauce of his plate. 🙂
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- 1 cup dry great northern beans, soaked overnight and cooked until tender. If using canned, substitute with 2 15 oz cans, drained
- 6-8 cloves garlic, crushed and sliced
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 30 minutes
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and stir-fry until it begins to turn blonde.
Add the red pepper flakes and oregano and stir-fry for a minute.
Add the beans and salt to taste. Let the mixture come to a boil. Add a cup of water if too dry. Lower heat to a simmer and let the beans cook with the garlic and oregano for about 10 minutes.
Remove the beans to a blender, add the cashews, and blend into a very smooth, creamy sauce. You can add some water if needed, but add a little at a time to get just the consistency you want.
Add the sauce back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep stirring the sauce to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom -- don't use more than medium heat. When the sauce begins to boil, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and zest and stir in. Check salt and serve hot with pasta.
*Add some baby spinach to the sauce just before it's ready, and bring to a boil. Let the spinach cook about a minute until wilted. Serve.
*Stir in a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast after turning of the heat, for a cheesier flavor.
*I like to serve this on top of pasta with some minced parsley.