When the weather turns colder, I crave cozy, warming recipes. And of all the comfort foods out there, nothing hits the spot quite like a full bowl of pasta smothered in a creamy sauce. When it comes to pasta recipes, the options are truly endless. From the type of noodles to the plethora of sauces to all the many toppings you can try—pasta is the best. It’s also quick, affordable, and feeds the whole crew. What’s not to love? (Answer: nothing.)
The real question is, why aren’t we making pasta every night? Seriously—I’ve thrown all care and concern for the previously-vilified carbohydrates out the window and am turning to comfort with zero regrets. But of course, piles of rich, heavy pasta can start to not feel so great when you’re on your third serving. (Or enjoying it for the third night in a row.) That’s why I’ve been tinkering away in the kitchen, concocting healthier versions of some of my favorite, classic indulgences. And this creamy vegan butternut squash pasta might be my favorite healthy comfort food this fall and winter. Prepare yourself for major deliciousness ahead.
The Inspiration Behind This Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta
This vegan butternut squash pasta sauce recipe is inspired by my favorite pasta that I used to order at our neighborhood Italian joint. It was pretty much grown-up mac ‘n cheese. Picture a decadently cheesy sauce over soft, angel hair noodles. This version is a healthier take and earns bonus points for being both gluten and dairy-free. (Bonus: it’s so easy to prep.) It’s healthy enough to eat as often as you’d like without feeling weighed down from your pasta bender.
The Best Gluten-Free Pasta
For this recipe, I chose Banza angel hair chickpea noodles as the base. Out of all the grain-free pasta I’ve tried, this one wins in terms of texture and nutrition. These noodles are loaded with protein and fiber from chickpeas and are unbelievably satisfying. I’ve also found the brand’s penne noodles to be a win for this recipe. It’s safe to say that whatever type of noodle you have on hand should work just fine.
How to Create a Creamy Plant-Based Pasta Sauce
When I embarked on a mission to uncover the perfect dairy-free pasta sauce, I immediately turned to cashews. They have the ability to make anything creamy and rich without overpowering the flavor. When combined with the butternut squash sauce and dairy-free creamer, you get a delicious, rich base that’s smooth and buttery.
The “cheesiness” of the sauce is enhanced by the nutritional yeast and chickpea miso. Garlic adds an extra punch, and the vegetable broth helps it all blend into a smooth, velvety mixture that’s perfectly primed for coating the pasta. Make sure to save about a cup of pasta water before draining your pasta. This helps to help coat the noodles when you begin stirring in the sauce.
Choosing Your Pasta Toppings
So now let’s talk about the unsung heroes of pasta: the edible accessories we call toppings. While I’m all about garnishes, it’s possible to go overboard and take away from the actual dish. In this recipe, we have a combination of crispy bacon bits, fried sage leaves, shaved vegan parmesan, and red pepper flakes to round it all out.
This recipe makes a little bit of extra sauce which is great to store in the fridge as a go-to melted cheese substitute. It’s a little bit sweeter but is perfect with tacos, nachos, and more. The pasta is best served immediately and enjoyed warm. Time to dig in!
This post was originally published on December 6, 2020, and has since been updated.