I have a passion for creamy pasta. It is one of the things that makes avoiding dairy the hardest for me! Therefore, it follows that one of my passions in recipe development is creating delicious creamy vegan pasta dishes that live up to their dairy-filled counterparts. One of my favorite things about starting this blog is that it is making me come up with new and creative ways of doing this. This one was an absolute home run. As Reid says, "I could eat five pounds of this."
I slowly caramelized a hefty amount of leeks to impart a deep, sweet flavor which creates a rich and satisfying sauce. Blended with cashews for creaminess, truffle oil, lemon, and a bit of salt, the sauce is good enough to eat with a spoon. But it's even better on pasta.
This sauce requires no "weird vegan" ingredients and no vegan cheeses. Delicious vegetables and nuts come together to make something that is more than the sum of its parts. Feel free to leave out the truffle oil if you don't like the taste or don't have it on hand: the sauce is almost as delicious without it. I just love truffle.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 tbsp vegan butter
2 very large or 4 small leeks, sliced in half lengthwise and chopped into half moons(about 3-4 cups of leeks)
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours and drained
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup vegetable broth, or water + vegetable bouillon
1/2 cup water
2 tsp white truffle oil (optional), plus more for garnish (my favorite brand is Urbani)
1 pound of dry pasta
Freshly cracked black pepper and/or chives to garnish
Melt your vegan butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and 1/4 tsp of salt to the pot and cover. After 3 minutes, remove the cover, stir the leeks, turn heat down to medium-low, and return the cover.
Cook the leeks covered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes total. It is important to slowly caramelize the leeks over low heat to bring out the sweet flavor and avoid crisping them up. After 20 minutes, remove the lid and cook for an additional 10 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
When the leeks have become almost paste-like (see above photo), you know they are ready. Add the drained cashews, lemon juice, remaining 1/4 tsp of salt, 1 cup of vegetable broth, and 1/2 cup of water to a high power blender. Blend, starting on low and slowly increasing the speed to high, until very smooth and creamy.
Taste the sauce at this point and add any salt if necessary. Add the truffle oil and blend for a few seconds to incorporate.
Cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving about a cup of pasta water. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir very well. The sauce has a fair amount of liquid, and you may not need to add any pasta water - I did not. But in case your pasta looks dry, you can always add a splash of pasta water to help the sauce become creamy.
Plate the pasta and garnish with chives, black pepper, and/or additional truffle oil.
Enjoy! This is one of my favorite dishes that I've made in a while.